Sitting in an American brand coffee shop in the Salmiya district of Kuwait, I can’t help but feel a sense of dislocation with the sense of dislocation promised me when I first arrived. While arabic is quite prevalent, with most signage in both Arabic and English, I can go days without a real miscommunication. In fact, most of the common interactions that I have with people are with non-natives who probably speak english better than they speak arabic. English/American culture, with a heavy skew towards American, is pervasive. Obviously, up to this point, I’ve spent most of my time in expat areas. But even places like the “Friday Market” and the “Souk Al-Mubarakiya” are relatively easy to manage with an embarrassingly small grasp of the language or culture. Negotiation in broken English and hand signs often suffice. Cabs can find most landmarks with even my shameful pronunciations.

The very basics, like shopping for food, can even be taken for granted. At a Chicago like distance from our apartment, the closest grocery store carries familiar brands and English labels on nearly everything. Many of our comfort foods are here and at prices that are similar to Chicago, expensive but not outlandish. While our favorite stores offer the polish of our western expectations, cheaper fare can be found in the local co-ops and markets. Though you may have to brave a slightly grungier appearance, they are really no worse than many of the inner-city stores that I’ve seen in in America.

A sunset view of Al Khansa Street in Salmiya Kuwait. This is a single exposure a little bit of cleanup in Photoshop.


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