Below is a post from Desert Girl which I felt compelled to share. She’s very knowledgeable about the laws, traditions, and customs here in Kuwait and was kind enough to write a brilliant post to educate others on an important topic. I’ve pasted her post below but it can also be found on her awesome blog here.
“I’ve had a lot of inquiries from foreign ladies recently married to Kuwaitis – or about to be married. Sometimes it isn’t an inquiry even, but when we get down to discussing things, it comes out that they are missing a few things; or that perhaps hubby has “forgotten” to mention a few things of importance that perhaps he should have. Girlfraynd, get edumacated! (and Kuwaiti girlfriends – if anything I am saying below is incorrect, please feel free to jump in.)
“… but I looooooove him….” Okey dokey. What about your future? We foreign chicks are not the blue-light special and shouldn’t come at a discount, but unfortunately, that’s the way it works a lot of times: Know your rights; culturally and legally. So, a weee bit of Desert Girl condescending advice….
In the States, for example, when you get married, customarily dude buys you an engagement rock and a wedding band; and your daddy pays for the wedding. Not here. Women in Kuwait (and you don’t have to be Kuwaiti) get “chabka” when they get married. Chabka is a gold set (necklace, bracelet, ring, earrings). Although you are foreign, the family should give you gold otherwise they look cheap in front of their friends/neighbors. It is considered “ayeb”. Women keep gold as a safety net and often sell it/trade it. (Chabka is not one piece of gold either. If you want to know what chabka looks like – go down to any gold souq in Kuwait and ask them to see a set. Shock and awe, baybeee.) And it is the Kuwaiti man’s responsibility to pay for the wedding. Bam.
Have a Kuwaiti wedding reception, even if it’s a small one. Think bigtime gifts for your new home! Doooo IT. Its payback for all the time your guy and his family have given bigtime gifts to their relatives and close friends at their weddings.
Marriage contract: What you put into your Kuwaiti marriage contract as an end-of-marriage amount is all that you get for alimony. You can’t sue him for alimony – only child support. So, if they talked you into signing something that you didn’t understand when you signed your marriage contract, you may have just cheated yourself out of a nest egg. Don’t sign anything that you don’t understand.
Dowry is written into the marriage contract. Many women choose not to put a lot down at the front end of the marriage contract, but write in a large amount at end-of-marriage so that 1) dude can’t just divorce you on a whim and then not have to pay out (making it “cheaper to keep her”) and 2) the woman will be financially secure if he does divorce you. [I have one Kuwaiti friend who wrote in a million dinars for end-of-marriage to prove to his new bride how strong his love (lust, methinks) was. He can never leave her. He’s soooo screwed.]
If you are getting married here in Kuwait, do NOT kiss when it is announced you are married at the courthouse. Public display of affection is illegal and the judge will have no other choice than to have you both arrested (especially since there are appointed witnesses). Witnesses: You can bring your own if you want.
Know your rights before you have children. There is a difference between Shiite and Sunni courts in terms of child custody. Who gets the kids? What happens? Learn about family law here and what could potentially happen.
Kuwaiti men get more money monthly when they get married from the government (usually something like 150kd) and 50kd/mo for each child up to 5 children.
If your husband works in a private (non-government) company, his salary is partially matched by the government.
By law, a husband must provide food for the house, rent, and be able to support his wife and children. Any money the wife makes during the marriage is HERS and he can’t touch it.
Apply early for Kuwaiti nationality. Your husband should start this when you get married. Why do you want it? Because if you get it, the government will give you (as a couple) a house (you’ve got to be on a waiting list). 1/2 of it becomes yours. You get benefits and money from the government. If you ever get divorced as a Kuwaiti woman, the government pays for (part of?) your housing. You also get medical care. Major benefits. You want it – trust me.
Don’t ever let your husband or his family make you think that you HAVE to wear hejab. It is your choice. It is ONLY your choice; between you and God.
When a woman has a serious fight with her husband here, she returns to her family and usually the families sort it out. As a foreign woman in Kuwait, you don’t have that resource, so your circle of women friends is REALLY important as a support system. You will get no assistance from the embassy. It isn’t their mission. They’ll only refer you to a lawyer on their list. There are no women’s shelters in Kuwait. Who ya gonna call?
Call me a cynic, but these are the things that you have to know. In the mothahland, you know what happens. Do you know what might happen here? I believe in love and all that, but I’m a realist and girls should know the skinny. Have a back-up plan. Love is great, but so is food and shelter.
Disclaimer: Guys: please don’t get mad at me. Marriage is a beginning of a life together. Do you really want to begin it with dishonesty? “