Book Review: The Bro Code of Saudi Culture

The Bro Code of Saudi Culture is a book written by Abdul Al Lily and is available on Amazon.

Living in the GCC for about 12 years and being married to a man from Kuwait for the past 6 years has allowed me a very intimate insight into the bedoin culture still embraced by many. It was my belief I had a firm grasp of the ‘ins and outs’ of the culture and was even well versed enough to answer the numerous questions I get about being married to a man from that region. Therefore, when I was asked to read and review ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’ by the Author I was flattered but didn’t expect I would learn anything new. I was wrong.

The first thing I noticed about the book was the way it’s written. Abdul Al Lily has taken incredibly interesting information and put it out to the reader in ‘tweet like’ format. In today’s society, social media demands that we read, and read often. We’ve all learned to read for specific content, seeking out the most important keywords. We skim over material subconsciously avoiding every conjunction and adjective as if they’re inconsequential. And, for the most part, that’s true.

In ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’, Abdul Al Lily has managed to turn an expansive topic into an ‘in your face’ type of book while maintaining organization. It answers questions everyone in the region (especially expats) might have, but without unnecessary backstories and explanations. It’s an easy read filled with great information and lots of laughs along the way.

As for me, the woman who thought she knew it all, I found myself educated and entertained. I would read a few sentences and suddenly have questions for my husband. His response was often a smile or laugh and sometimes even a look of, “Yes! I remember that”.

With all the division our country (and the world) is currently facing, ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’ is a good start to bridging gaps. With all the misconceptions and misunderstandings, this book offers answers to questions everyone has, but very few would ask. And, due to cultural etiquette, couldn’t ask. So, if you’re living in the region or plan to visit there for work or vacation, definitely grab a copy of this book and spend some time reading it on your flight. You won’t regret it.

Finally, I would like to personally thank Abdul Al Lily for giving me the honor of reading and offering my honest opinions of his work. I have a great deal of respect for him as a professional in his field and admire him as someone who truly makes a difference.

 

Dr. Al Lily is a Saudi international consultant on Saudi culture, a bestseller, an Oxford graduate and an assistant professor of education, technology, and sociology at King Faisal University. He has worked with impact-factor journals and the largest academic publishers: Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Wiley, Sage and Oxford University Press. He has written in different languages, for academic magazines (Australasian Science, Italian Journal of Geopolitics and openDemocracy) and non-academic magazines (Your Middle East, Green Prophet, and Vocativ). He has pioneered an innovative approach in academic research, called crowd-authoring. He is the initiator and first author of an article by 99 authors; the first article in the social sciences to be written by such a large number. He was a top-0.5% researcher on Academia.edu in 2016. Whatsapp: +447946674377. Twitter: @abdulallily. Email: allili55@hotmail.com. Website: https://abdulallily.wordpress.com

 

U.S. Citizen being held in Kuwait prison; Jermaine Rogers

A dear friend contacted me yesterday and asked if I would be willing to post a petition for a friend of hers who was arrested and jailed in Kuwait. Like other cases previously, my friend is certain Jermaine is innocent and being held unjustly. Furthermore, his court dates are set well in advance but no action seems to be taken on these dates and they often reschedule for a month or more away. Leaving Jermaine sitting in a jail cell with zero answers.

AIK

Yes, there are people who have opinions about such things and for the most part I agree; follow the law of the land you’re in. But, until there’s evidence that a real law was broken it’s terribly unfair to endlessly violate one’s human rights. Not to mention, it’s just nasty to point fingers and judge without knowing the entire story.

In the past there have been a number of Americans arrested in Kuwait and given harsh sentences for manufacturing and distributing drugs. I was intimately familiar with a few of those cases and saw the evidence firsthand. I believe their sentences were fair and just. But there is that random case from time to time that just doesn’t quite offer the type of evidence one would like to see before holding a person in a foreign prison without the right to a timely hearing. Especially when their own Attorney is telling them the Police in Kuwait planted the evidence and falsified drug test lab reports.

That being said, my friend asks that you take a moment and sign the petition in hopes of getting justice for her friend. In a time when America is feeling terribly divided, let’s do something nice to bring forth a little unity.

Petition can be found here.

Kuwait; racists who can’t hide

More often than not, when mentioning to people from the Middle East that my husband is from Kuwait, I’m told that GCC Arabs are seen as arrogant, prejudice, and pretty much viewed as the armpit of the region. I’m aware of this reputation and I can even understand it to a degree. However, regardless of how they’re viewed, it’s a form of racism. And, well, that’s just nasty.

Even worse than ‘local racism’ are the Westerners who move to places such as Kuwait and take on that mentality. For the most part I like to believe Westerners are raised in a world where racism is only practiced by the less intelligent, not formally educated, culture lacking cretins. Anyone with a sense of self respect is above and beyond disrespecting someone based upon the color of their skin or their nationality.

So what changes? Why do some of the white faced expats move to Kuwait and adopt their entitlement attitude? Well, for the most part they become obsessed with a lifestyle some locals pretend to be living; large villas, expensive cars, and meals at the finest restaurants every day. For the Westerners who grew up thinking Toyotas were luxury cars and Dairy Queen was a quality meal, you can see how the less fortunate could get starry eyed.

But does this also include becoming a shallow racist? It doesn’t have to.

Insecure people have a tendency to treat others in a disrespectful manner as a way of making themselves feel better. It doesn’t make them better people and it really highlights their own flaws. So, when the less fortunate Americans move to places such as Kuwait and realize they too can be racist assholes, it makes them feel better about their real existence.

Recently, in a facebook group I was asked a question about my husband. The other member was incorrect in their assumption but their question was incredibly racist and reminded me of why my husband and I have distanced ourselves from that lifestyle for so many years. We focus on offering support to the less fortunate, rescuing animals in need, and respecting people just because they’re people. We don’t judge people on the color of their skin, where they’re from, or how much money they make. We live a life that we find to be emotionally fulfilling. We don’t compare ourselves to others or attempt to compete. We want to see others be the best they can be and if we can play a role in that then we’re all for it. (sidenote: the woman in the facebook group is divorced, has a number of children, stuck in Kuwait, and is bitter towards others — not just us).

So while Kuwait is viewed as a country full of arrogant jerks, it’s really a misconception. While living there I surrounded myself with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life. Many of who are still my best friends. My husband is from Kuwait and he’s generous, kind, compassionate, and hard working. He’s not dishonest or disloyal, nor would he divorce me with a half dozen kids and offer no financial support. So while it’s always easy to point fingers and make assumptions, rarely are they accurate, and often they only reveal who you really are.

Long weekends, home improvements, and rainy weather

Though I’m fortunate enough to work from home and set my own schedule I still look forward to the long weekends. It’s a time my husband and I can actually plan to take care of a few things we’ve been putting off due to lack of time. Vacations? Not a chance. Our long weekends are often filled with family time and home improvement projects. Sure, it might be nice to get away for a few days from time to time but with the number of pets we have, we’ve decided our time with them is more valuable than travel and the boarding them.

This Memorial Day weekend was rather rainy so there was little opportunity for outdoor time which worked out rather well considering the work we’re doing indoors. My husband, who is starting to embrace being a hands on home improvement guy, spent the weekend replacing all the flooring in our family room and my office. I spent the weekend choosing new paint colors and making numerous trips to and from Lowe’s as he remembered items he had forgotten on trip number one.

My hope is that we build a new house on our land in a couple of years. Right now it’s just the 2 of us and I feel our current house is perhaps a little large for our needs. I long for something a bit smaller with a cozy feel. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of spending the money. His theory is ‘our current home meets all of our needs, why bother with another’? Could be why he’s embracing his home improvement side. He figures if he does everything to our current home I won’t be asking for yet another one. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most generous man in the world until I ask for something he deems unnecessary.

Mexico has their El Chapo, Kuwait has its El Cheapo — and apparently I married him.

 

US Contractors – Your legal rights and the Kuwait Labour Law

I’m posting this for a good friend of Desert Girl who is very well versed in the legal rights of US Contractors in regard to the Kuwait Labor law. There are a lot of contract changes taking place, a lot of new employees arriving in Kuwait, and a lot of old ones leaving. It’s best to know your rights upon accepting a new position as well as upon ending your contract whether it be through termination or resignation.

Please feel free to reach out to her should you have any questions.


 

I am hearing more and more each day about the break time gossiping and moaning that surrounds the work contracts here in Kuwait.  Most of the gossiping is done by Denny Crane’s thinking they are Legal Eagles and just cherry picking what they hear from one person and another then combining a mish mash of complete inaccurate information.  So, on that note I would like to just explain a few simple terms to you guys:

  • If you have a Visa 18 you fall under the Kuwait Labour Law of February 2010 – A copy is here for you to read.
  • The Kuwait Labour Law supersedes any work contracts that you have with your employer
  • If you decide to take Legal Action against your employer to recoup any overtime, indemnity or holiday pay outstanding you can sue your employer through the legal system in Kuwait without any retribution from them – once a case is filed you are protected . You must realise that your employer can not sack you because you are taking them to court – if they try, this works in your favour and substantiates your claim even more.
  • You can file a case up to 1 year from leaving your employment – but this takes more time to process.
  • As an American citizen even signing a contract outside of Kuwait in advance to your arrival here – you are still bound by Kuwait laws.
  • You might want to check out the following site – this is the big buzz word in the US at the moment – Human Trafficking – yes guys – you come under Human Trafficking by your own employer – quote: (5)(i) Using misleading or fraudulent practices during the recruitment of employees or offering of employment, such as failing to disclose, in a format and language accessible to the worker, basic information or making material misrepresentations during the recruitment of employees regarding the key terms and conditions of employment, including wages and fringe benefits, the location of work, the living conditions, housing and associated costs (if employer or agent provided or arranged), any significant costs to be charged to the employee, and, if applicable, the hazardous nature of the work;

(ii) Using recruiters that do not comply with local labor laws of the country in which the recruiting takes place;  https://www.acquisition.gov/sites/default/files/current/far/html/Subpart%2022_17.html

 

  • The Legal procedure here is simple and painless:
    • You find a good bi-lingual lawyer – please understand only Kuwaiti Lawyers can stand before the judge in Kuwait
    • You Sign Power of Attorney ‘Tawkeel’ – this enables your lawyer to act on your behalf – this can be done in about 30 minutes
    • You discus your issues – take all forms of paperwork including proof of any overtime sheets or payslips that you have
    • The lawyer will look over all the documentation and work out how much money is owed to you what you can claim back through the courts
    • You agree on a fee – this is usually around KWD 1,500 dependant also on complexity of the case and if you are leaving you must appreciate contact through international means (this might push the fee up to KWD 2,000) also, they will charge a recovery fee of around 7% – but, the monies collected on your behalf will be sent directly to you once received. Expensive ? Yes and No – once your case is filed you need do nothing – the Lawyers will take over everything – and monitor every aspect of the case for the duration – considering most Lawyers have a normal flat rate of KWD 50 to open a file – and charge anywhere between KWD 150 – 300 per hour consultation – looking at this you will realise it’s a justifiable cost. Some may charge you less than this – but you have to question is the firm experienced enough and do they have native speaking English staff? But, on the other hand if they try to charge you over KWD 2,000 you are paying waaaay too much.
    • Once in agreement to everything a contract is signed.
  • The legal process once you decide to peruse your case through the courts in Kuwait is quite simple:
    • Your file is presented to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour ( MOSAL – Sha’oon this is the local name given) where it is registered and a case number is given.
    • Your file will be given to a Sha’oon Manager – he will be the one looking at all the evidence and collating the information from both sides to give his recommendations to court.
    • Your employer will have 3 chances to attend an informal hearing with him in the Sha’oon offices.
    • If your employer does not attend 3 times then the case gets automatically sent to the Civil Court.  In all honesty,  it’s a case of sit back and wait – usually takes about 6 months for it to get a hearing date – Kuwait Judicial system is paper driven and as we all know every man has his stamp !
    • If your employer does decide to turn up at either of the 3 appointments given to them by the Sha’oon they have a right to present any documentation that they have – this can also give opportunity to settle out of court – they will be asked would they like to settle out of court – if this happens and they agree then terms and conditions will be set and an agreed amount will be negotiated and a payment date set out.  This will be legally binding !!!
    • Even if you decide you want to leave Kuwait during this process – your lawyer will fight on your behalf for your rights. Just make sure you have a good lawyer that holds your back !!!

Contact number is 1810011 / 9872 8900  if you want to discuss it further.  The initial consultation is free.
Just to let y’alls know:  You can’t go back to the US and fight it there.  There is no jurisdiction for the first round.  You have to file a case in Kuwait and based on that outcome, use the Kuwaiti case as evidence in your subsequent case filed in the US (if you choose to do that).  There was a recent class action case against an American contracting firm working in Kuwait where the plaintiffs filed in the US.  The US judge threw it out as the Kuwait Labor Law does not apply in the US.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Birthday to me

It’s been so long since I’ve posted that 4 major holidays (yes, my birthday is a major holiday… just ask my husband) have passed. These past several months have been much busier for me than usual but in a super positive way. I’ve been spending a lot more time at the gym, focusing on my physical presence as much as my mental well-being, volunteering for a great cause, actively working at our nonprofit, and over the holidays… events!

One of my favorite things about being involved with a group of positive, like-minded people is the number of events we get to attend. Or are at least invited to attend. It’s not always we opt to leave our pets at home alone, especially if it’s going to be a late evening. However, over the holidays we did attend some well put together events that got us out of the house for a bit. While I do enjoy creating the perfect look for myself, I’m finding it’s also just as fun to put something together for my husband. He’s one of those geeky kinda guys who’s perfectly happy wearing beach casual attire to meetings with other CEOs. I admire his style (or lack thereof) but it’s also nice to see him well tailored.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking a variety of ‘newbie’ questions about Kuwait and most of them are from Americans who mention their new job on Arifjan. It seems like a major contract change has taken place and I’m just totally out of the loop. For those of you who do have questions about Kuwait, I’ll gladly do what I can to answer. But I have to admit, my travel to Kuwait has been minimal recently and there are so many changes taking place there that my advice could be totally outdated. And, well, useless. I do suggest you check out DesertGirl’s blog as she always has a lot of advice and guidance for those who are new to the region.

For those of you who have emailed with questions about relationships, dating, etc. I am not ignoring you. I promise. I will get to those emails today.

Though I haven’t been keeping up with my own blog, I have found a number of unofficial newsworthy blogs here in the US. Most flow in the direction I would like to move towards. But of course there’s the desire to appeal to current readers. And, as I’ve mentioned before, starting a new blog is just such a daunting task and I’m not that invested.

On a more positive, less whiny note, I’m happy. Our life has become what some might consider ‘mundane’ — same thing day in and day out. And perhaps, every now and then, I wonder if we’re just incredibly boring people. But as my husband reminds me, we’ve found our happy place. And not only have we truly found it, but we live in it. We embrace it. And we don’t question it. So yeah, I’m happy. Yeah, I’ve been happy for several years now, but I believe I’ve failed to recognize it as ‘happiness’. It was more like, “new relationship butterflies’ or ‘relocation excitement’ or ‘home remodeling thrills’ or ‘yay, new furry family member’. I didn’t recognize the steady stream of happy events as genuine happiness. I suppose, as I’ve said before, I was just waiting for that tragic moment when it all came to a screeching halt. Now I’m just enjoying the ride.

Kuwait <--> Washington, DC on United Airlines = Nope

Less than a week ago the determination was made that United Airlines would no longer operate their direct flight from Washington, DC to Kuwait (or Bahrain). At this time, and since 2006, they’re the only American carrier offering a direct flight out of Kuwait into the US and for many of us it was quite convenient even if not as luxurious as the Middle Eastern carriers.

United_Airlines_1181356

Rumors are swirling as to the reason for the ending of this relationship; Kuwait being found guilty of discrimination on their flight from JFK to London by refusing Israeli travelers service is the most talked about possibility. The other is that United is stating the flight just isn’t meeting the financial expectations. Of course this too is a possibility considering the decreased number of US Contractors in Kuwait and the fact this was once a daily flight which has been scaled back to just a couple of times a week over the past years.

Either way the service is ending January 2016.

On a personal note, and the only reason we even remotely care about this… we have a number of tickets booked on this flight between March and September of 2016. Us going there, family coming here, summer vacations, holidays, etc. Tens of thousands of dollars and just as many MileagePlus miles. I’ve spent my morning cancelling flights and seeking out alternatives. However, United has a very strict cancellation/refund policy which obviously we’re requesting an exception to. They’ve explained it will take at least 7 days to process. Let’s just hope they don’t make this difficult.

Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.

The year of me; getting healthy, getting strong, feeling great

At some point last year it dawned on me my entire adult life has been dedicated to others in some manner. This hadn’t been an issue or even a topic of conversation while living abroad because I still found time to travel, spend days at the salon, and submerge myself in luxurious comforts anytime I saw fit. Since getting married, starting a business, adopting 20 additional legs, moving to America, and acquiring a variety of livestock that must be fed on a daily basis, ‘me time’ seems to have gotten lost. Don’t get me wrong, I look around at my current life and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m genuinely happy beyond measure and fully realize how fortunate I am to be afforded this life. But it doesn’t mean the selfish little girl who has always resided within has moved away. She’s still here and she sometimes screams, “Hey, isn’t it pedicure day?”

Several months ago, before the end of 2014, I made the announcement to my husband; the ‘year of me’ announcement. I simply explained I felt it would be a good idea if all of 2015 was dedicated to me, my well being, and the simple pleasures I truly enjoy in life. Of course my plan was to do this without requiring anyone else to sacrifice and without neglecting my responsibilities. I mean, I am still an adult after all. Perhaps not by choice… but, well. My husband, being the kind understanding guy he is, welcomed the idea with open arms which really translated to, “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about but yeah, sure, OK.” Fortunately I had a pretty strong grasp on my plan and felt comfortable with the idea of investing an entire year to me.

Since January I’ve made a number of positive (in my opinion) changes in my life which not only help to boost my self esteem but also play a role in my overall health. I’ve gone on a very healthy diet, lost a significant amount of weight, incorporated regular exercise into my days, and pay very close attention to what goes into my body, ie. vitamins, proteins, etc. I’ve cut out all sodas (including diet drinks) and only drink water with lemon or green tea with lemon and mint when I’m not downing a protein shake. My energy level has increased so much I find that I don’t even miss coffee/espresso. I’ve also decided since I’m working on the inside I also deserve to work on the outside; self esteem purposes. I accept that I’m aging, it’s part of life. But it doesn’t mean I have to look worn out or diminished in any way. So, I’ve opted for monthly IPL laser treatments, chemical peels, micro-needling, and after the summer I’ll possibly do a bit of fillers and Botox. My goal is simply to be a healthier version of myself, not to alter my current appearance.

More recently I’ve also been viewing a few travel options and contemplating some places I haven’t been yet. But, planning travel always leaves us with the question of pet care — a stressful topic — so for now I’ll postpone lengthy vacations and embrace my mini-staycations.

I’ve also decided this is the year I’ll invest more time into my friends. We often assume our long time (or new) friends will always be there when we need them. But if we’re not doing our part as a friend, then perhaps they won’t be. I like to believe I’m a good friend but there’s always more I could do to maintain those truly important friendships.

Then there’s blogging; a hobby I’ve enjoyed for more than a decade. Sadly, it just doesn’t seem I have the time I once had though sometimes the desire is certainly still there. But, as much as blogging has been a part of my life, it’s changed. The format has changed, the ideas behind it, and even the audience. Blogging was once a form of expression and a way to vent for many of us. Sadly most of those blogs are long since gone and we’re left with pages of paid advertisements or dishonest reviews where the effort invested is directly aligned with the money they were paid to write it. Most bloggers have moved on to Instagram, Snap Chat, and other forms of social media. For me… even those became tedious.

I digress…

I’m so fortunate to have a life which allows me to embrace this ‘year of me’ and a husband who supports it… even if he really has no idea what he’s supporting. But one thing I’ve learned these past few months is that regardless of my adult responsibilities genuinely taking some time to invest in my personal well-being is priceless, and well deserved. Sometimes, in everyone’s life, we tend to focus on the here and now and kinda forget that being a little selfish from time to time isn’t a crime. If anything, it’s often that extra oomph we need to get through some of those hectic days. So yeah, I guess we could say my inner child is the healing power my outer adult has always needed.