Ailyn: Pinay Diaspora
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuwait, etc.
I’m Ailyn Acman from San Jose Del Monte City, Philippines. I moved to Kuwait last April of 2011 with my Mom in hopes of finding better opportunities for my career as a Microbiologist and reuniting with my Dad who has lived here since 2002.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I have always loved writing, taking photographs and I have kept a journal since grade school. But after a month of being away with my friends and family back home, I thought the best way to share what I have been experiencing in Kuwait is through creating a blog. Through it, I could put down my thoughts, share stories and let them see the sights of what I have been experiencing ever since I came here. Besides, this is the first time that I lived abroad so everything is new to me.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have so many favorite blog entries but I think what stands out to me the most are the entries Food Tasting in Kuwait and Essence of Christmas. The Food Tasting in Kuwait blog entry was my first experience in tasting a Middle Eastern cuisine and how I had been delighted by its simplicity and exquisite taste. The latter blog entry was also my first experience in spending Christmas in the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait while sharing my talents and giving joy to my fellow expats in need.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Kuwait differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Kuwait is an Islamic country following a conservative way of life. Although Western influence is very much evident in the lifestyle of the locals due to the number of expats living in the country and by allowing other religious denominations to build their churches, Islamic culture and tradition is still strictly enforced. Unlike where I came from, seeing people dressed in traditional attire like dishdasha (men), abaya (women) and women wearing hijab on their heads walking the street casually is a new experience for me. Hearing daily prayers in Arabic all around the place is also something new and some local customs that I’m not used to back home is a bit of a shock at first. But since I have my Dad and some of my relatives who have lived here for years to guide me, thankfully I didn’t find it that difficult to adjust myself here.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Kuwait? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I can’t say I was fully prepared but thankfully though, my transition had been really smooth. One thing I’m still working on is learning the language. Before coming here, I thought I really don’t need to learn much about the language since I already know English but unfortunately, there are still some instances where I would encounter people who can’t communicate in English. So learning Arabic is a must.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
It was my first time going to the public market with my cousin when I had the urge to go to the bathroom. I then went to ask the first janitor I saw about the direction of the bathroom since my cousin also doesn’t know where the bathroom is located. The man was struggling to speak in English and he kept on shaking his head while I was trying to respond back to what he was trying to say. From where I came from, shaking one’s head would mean that the person is in disagreement so I got confused. Then, my cousin who only knew little Arabic talked to the man and we found out that his head-shaking gestures meant to say “yes” in response to my questions. Since then every time I encounter other expats, Indians specifically, shaking their head, this would remind me that what they mean would be saying “yes”.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuwait?
- Being well-equipped with knowledge about the country’s Islamic customs and traditions and the local’s way of life is a must especially for those coming from Christian countries like mine.
- Learning Arabic is advisable in order to communicate with the locals and other Middle-Eastern expats who live here who cannot speak the English language.
- Keeping an open mind and respecting each other’s way of life is also necessary.
How is the expat community in Kuwait? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Kuwait is really big. Expats of different nationalities are everywhere. It actually amazed me that there are a lot of groups for expats to interact with depending on nationality, lifestyle, religion, sports etc. Thankfully, I didn’t find it hard to get myself involved in an expat group since the Catholic community and the Filipino Community in Kuwait are very active.
How would you summarize your expat life in Kuwait in a single, catchy sentence?
It’s a one-of-a-kind-experience!