Who are you?
I’m Mari; but most people know me as Amirah Mari; I’m originally from Venezuela, and I’m currently located in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I was originally living in Miami and I moved to Kuwait in Oct 2015.One of the main reasons I moved to Kuwait was for the change of lifestyle and opportunities. I was really bored with my normal routine in Miami and wanted to challenge myself in new ways.
What challenges did you face during the move?
First I had to find a way to fit my life into 2 bags. I’m a pretty flexible girly girl when it comes to my stuff but, 2 bags!? I managed to fit most of the things I wanted into 3 bags and 1 carry on! Other challenges were deciding what products or things I could easily find or replace, so I started asking friends, looked online and sourced as much information as possible.
Another big challenge was accepting the fact that I had to leave my family, my friends, my dog! and everything I was used to behind. How would I survive!?
Prior to getting on the flight, I was really worried about what life would be like for me. I come from a really open culture and lifestyle, so I was a little nervous about life in Kuwait. I kept going back and forth about what type of clothes I should bring, because I kept reading about “conservative” countries, yet when I saw on Instagram anything about Kuwait the girls for the most part were pretty relaxed in their attires.
The first few weeks were a bit rough, but I signed up for the challenge so I was ready to fight.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yeah! There are SO MANY expats all around Kuwait. It’s actually really cool, because I’m literally meeting people from places I don’t know anything about. It’s incredible.
What do you like about life where you are?
I first became an expat when I moved from Venezuela to the USA and that experience has been one of a kind. I did most of my growing up in the States and having the opportunity to have lived in different countries has really opened up my eyes on what’s really important or what I want out of this life. Taking this opportunity to move to Kuwait has again brought some exciting opportunities.
So, I can only speak on my personal experience in Kuwait, but life for me is really relaxed. It’s exactly what I was looking for when I left Miami. My experience has been really unique in many ways and I’m really grateful for everyone who’s been a part of it.
I’d never been this far East, and there are so many opportunities for work, traveling, or exploring and getting to know new people and cultures. It’s up to me to make the experience work. I truly believe that if you want to live the best moment yet, you have to apply yourself, you have to want it enough and work for it.
Kuwait has its challenges and you have to make an effort to figure out your way around it, but once you do, things just kind of cruise by. It’s a pretty laid back place with everything, so you have to get used to that.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I miss my family and my friends. I miss my dog; and from time to time I miss the structure and discipline from my “American-way-of-life.” Days abroad go by so fast, sometimes it feels like I’m missing out from so much back home.
Also, obviously Kuwait is quite different in the cultural and social aspects of what I’m used to, so that’s been a bit of challenge, and it’s a small sacrifice I’ve had to make in order to be here and benefit from all the other things that contribute to my overall experience.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Way before moving to Kuwait, I knew about the religion and culture having studied with many Arabs in University, so I kind of knew what to expect.
But; I come from a Catholic, super bubbly and open Latin culture. We like our fun, we like hugging, kissing, partying and all of that extra friendliness. I also come from a disciplined, well organized All-American lifestyle, so I’ve had to find a way to semi-tone-down my natural spirit and adapt to a bit more conservative type of way. However, I haven’t “lost” myself or changed, it’s just adapting, by now I understand things much better, so I’ve loosened up and just continue on with my bubbly self.
I would say one of the biggest difference for me, is the social aspect. I’m so used to being around men and women together, whether at dinner or coffee, or on a date. I’m used to the happy hours, or the crazy weddings or dinner parties. And if you’re engaging with the locals and building friendships or relationships, you’re going to need to accept and adapt to there being a separation from time to time. This is something that takes time and will develop on its own. It’s not to say you don’t see the mixture, it’s just getting used to how each group has their own time and place sometimes and as an outsider you should respect it. However, if you’re just mixing with other expats, you can live a normal day-to-day life similar to back home. You just have to keep in mind the local culture and respect it.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Kuwait is close to being the food capital of the world!! I’m not kidding! You can find EVERYTHING related to food here. Everyone says that you put on weight when you arrive in Kuwait and it’s 100% true!! It’s so hard to maintain healthy habits because there are so many delicious places to eat. I have no complaints about the food, there is literally an option for EVERYONE.
Dislikes? Well, Kuwait is a dry country, meaning there’s no alcohol, anywhere. (Unlike Dubai, or Bahrain or other neighboring countries, which you can find in hotels or local restaurants). One could say it’s a good thing, but seriously, a glass of Champagne for breakfast on a Saturday morning (hey! Stop judging) is definitely something I enjoy.
Luckily though, I can hop on a 50 minute plane ride to a nearby country for a weekend and refuel my champagne tank quite easily.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
For anyone thinking of moving abroad I would say: do your research, and then lower your expectations just so you aren’t in total shock or feel disappointed because you expected something different.
Lay out the pros and cons of the journey you want and promise yourself you’ll give it 110% for at least 6 months, and then give it another 6 months. Before you know it, 3 years will go by and you’ll be fully immersed into the culture and the lifestyle.
Life as an expat isn’t easy, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s going to bring new things out of you! Just be patient.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now I’m focusing on my plans for 2018 which include traveling further East and visiting places I’ve always dreamed of.
Looking at the bigger picture though, I paln to continue to grow personally and professionally and to continue to enjoy this experience the best I can. I would also like to explore the opportunity of moving to Dubai for a couple of years and then settle down in Barcelona, which is one of my favorite European cities.
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