Kuwait is a civilized country and everything essential to modern comfortable living is available. Healthy food in plenty of variety, clothing of latest design and fashion, house hold items from furniture to electric accessories, cars, motor boats, toys, sports goods, in short practically anything and everything from all over the world is imported into Kuwait. The prices are also reasonable because the import duties are very low.
Setting up a home in Kuwait is quite easy. Practically everything that you may need for the home is available and shopping is quite convenient. English is spoken in all the larger shops and communicating is not a problem.
Food & Water
Most food is imported and subject to stringent testing by the Ministry of Public Health. Shops are inspected regularly by the Ministry and, provided normal domestic precautions are taken, the food in Kuwait is quite safe to eat.
Kuwait’s water supply consists of distilled sea-water and is ‘soft’. Water filters, which require regular cleaning or changing, are standard fittings in most homes because, though the water is clean when it leaves the pumping stations, impurities are sometimes picked up in the distribution pipes. Water filters are commonly used to remove these impurities, which makes the water perfectly safe for drinking and does not need to be boiled. For the overcautious, mineral drinking water is commonly available in 1.5 litre plastic bottles at a cost of 150fils or so a bottle.
Furniture & Consumer Durables
The range of furniture available is vast and caters for all tastes and price ambitions. New furniture, either fully-built or self-assembly, is available in Shuwaikh and in the other main shopping areas. Credit terms can be arranged. Furniture can also be rented.
With a constant turnover of expatriates there is plenty of second-hand furniture around for sale. This is usually advertised by word-of-mouth or in the daily newspapers and free weekly advertising tabloids. Used furniture can also be bought at the Friday open air markets, and during the week at the second-hand market near the nurseries at Al-Rai on the 4th Ring Road.
A wide range of TV’s, videos, stereos, refrigerators, micro-waves and other consumer durables are available from all the main Japanese, Korean, American and European manufacturers at reasonable prices.
Kuwait’s TV system is on the PAL standard but most of the TVs sold in the country are ‘multi system’.
Clothing & Decorum
There is a wide variety of cloth and dress material available. Readymade clothing in Kuwait ranges form cheap quality items to very expensive designer couture. Styles reflect the multinational nature of Kuwait’s population.
Tailors and dressmakers abound. Materials are plentiful and reasonably priced.
Laundry and dry-cleaning services are fairly plentiful.
Though Kuwaitis are by and large liberal and broad-minded, Islamic traditions dictate clothing decorum. Beachwear, worn by either sex, is strictly for the beach or home and will cause offence in the suqs and on the street. Even without the traditional black aba (cloak), the fashionable clothes worn by Kuwaiti ladies will not reveal shoulders and upper arms and usually stretch down to mid-calf at least. Formality of dress at work varies among different companies and occupations in Kuwait, but styles are always modest.
There are over 800 mosques in Kuwait. Members of other faiths have freedom of worship and there are quite a few Christian churches in the country. Kuwait’s Catholic cathedral is in Watya (near the Sheraton Hotel), and next to it there is a Coptic church, and about a block away a Presbyterian church. There is an Orthodox Church in Co-operative Street in Salwa (opposite the Universal American School), and in Ahmadi, a Catholic church and an Anglican church.
Where a marriage involves a Muslim male, the couple are required to go to the Marriage Section, in the Ministry of Justice (Courts Complex – Al Rigaii Area) to legalize their marriage contract. Each of the couple must produce proof of their capacity to marry. Other documents required are copy of passports and civil ID cards. Two male witnesses are required. The marriage contract is signed and the exchange professed in front of a qadi (judge). The Marriage Section (tel:882200) is open 8:30am to 1:30pm Sunday to Thursday. Stamp charges are KD1.
Christians must get married in church and then have their marriage certificate attested at the Notary Public Department at the Ministry of Justice in the Ministry Complex on Soor Street. A form of civil marriage is also available in the Notary Public Department, on Sundays and Wednesdays only. Expatriates need to bring along two witnesses plus a certificate from their embassy showing their capacity to marry, or other evidence such as validated divorce certificates, as well as their passports and civil IDs. Stamp charges are KD1.
The attested marriage contract is in Arabic. Couples wishing to register the marriage in their own country usually need to take the contract to a government licensed office for translation and then to the Ministry of Justice for authentication before taking it to their embassy for registration. Couples married outside Kuwait must have their marriage certificates attested by their embassy in order to use the certificate for legal purposes.
School attendance in Kuwait is compulsory for all children between the ages of six and fourteen, but public education is provided free to Kuwaiti children only.
All Schools, whether public or private, are regulated by the Ministry of Education (ME). The Kuwaiti educational system, after kindergarten, consists of elementary, intermediate and secondary levels, each of four years duration.
Nursery & Kindergarten
The ME provides free kindergartens for Kuwaiti children between the ages of four and six.
For expatriate children between two and four years there are a large number of private nursery schools. The better (and more expensive) ones are registered with the Private Education Department of the ME (see KPG Business Directory under Playgroups). Fees for those with a good size and range of facilities are about KD85 a month per child.
Expatriates often organize their own informal playgroups. These are publicised mainly by word-of-mouth and tend to be transitory. Many schools for foreign children have kindergartens for children aged four to six.
Elementary, Intermediate & Secondary
Admission at state schools is restricted to Kuwaiti children, the children of teachers working for the ME and the children of expatriates who obtained residence prior to 1960. All other expatriate children must be educated privately.
Before the Iraqi invasion there were only 15 non-Arabic foreign schools in the country. Demand for a Western education has increased more than threefold since liberation.
All foreign schools in Kuwait must be accredited to the Private Education Department (PED) of the ME. The PED supervises the schools by overseeing staff qualifications and school facilities, and ensures compliance by regular inspections. The ME also regulates school fees.
Private schools for non-Arabic children follow their home country curricula, such as American, British, French, German, Indian, Pakistani, etc, though all schools are also obliged to incorporate local cultural and language studies into their curricula. Standards achieved compare favorably with those in the pupils’ home countries.
Costs and the Academic Year
Private Arabic schools receive some government support, such as land to build schools and free text books but very little assistance is provided for non-Arabic schools.
Fees for non-Arabic private schools vary widely (see box above). Transport by bus to and from school is extra. Normally the costs of text books and writing materials are not included in the fees, and additional fees are charged for sports and other extracurricular activities.
The academic year runs from late August or early September to mid-June. Expatriate schools usually have three days off in October, breaks twice a year of a fortnight each, and official holidays. The school week is Sunday through Thursday. The school day usually begins at 7:45am and finishes at 2pm, though these timings vary a bit between schools.
Education beyond school level is regulated by the Ministry of Higher Education (MHE). The country has one university and several technical schools.
As regards degree courses, Kuwait University (KU – tel: 481 1188) practises a restricted entry policy for expatriates. Twenty places are reserved for students whose parents teach at KU. A further 50 places are available to students who obtain scholarships through the MHE.
There are six private universities and colleges in Kuwait, namely – Gulf University for Science and Technology, The Australian University, American University of Kuwait, Maastriht for Higher Education, Gulf American College, and the Arab Open University.
Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), situated in Hawalli, (Tel: 2645806/1 Fax: 2645795) offers courses leading to bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Computer Science, Business Administration, Accounting and Management Information Systems. GUST is accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education in Kuwait and cooperates with the University of Saint Louis, USA.
The Arab Open University (AOU), is based on the philosophy of open learning systems of tutored independent distance learning. The programs of study offers bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature, Business Administration, Computer Science, Teacher Training and Higher Graduate Diploma in Education. (Tel: 5329013 Fax: 5329019)
The American University offering four-year courses in engineering and business administration, Dutch Maastricht School for Business Administration and Higher Studies offering Master’s degree in Business Administration, Australian College offering a three-year diploma related to naval administration and American Gulf College associated with Indiana University in USA offering a two-year diploma in computer systems and electronic trade, are also established in Kuwait.
Adult & Vocational Schooling
KU’s Centre for Community Service and Continuing Education (CCSCE) offers non-degree courses for students over 16 years in various subjects such as languages (including Arabic as a foreign language), arts, administration, education, engineering, computers, law, secretarial studies, etc, which are open to expatriates. These courses are administered from building 3KH (tel: 483 0804, fax: 483 6323), Khaldiyah campus. Fees are fairly nominal.
State-funded adult education and vocational training is provided by the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET), which is also the central authority charged with carrying out the government’s vocational education policies. PAAET has several full-time colleges as well as field and industrial training centres, where students may learn technical and professional subjects including teaching, commercial studies, nursing, and mechanical and electrical trades. Some courses are open to expatriates.
There are several private institutions in the country offering a variety of full and part-time courses in business studies, secretarial skills, computing and languages. See KPG Business Directory, under Educational Services, Schools – Specialist Training, and Training Institutes.
New education plan launched by the Ministry of Education, emphasizes on restricting the number of students per classroom to 20 for primary level and 32 at the secondary level.
While the private schools are growing, the Education Ministry has been constructing on an average 40 schools every yearand is planning to rebuild the old schools according to new designs.