Saturday, March 30, 2013

Living in the Middle East changes you

There are many courtesies that Americans --especially those of us raised in the South-- pride ourselves on practicing daily. We hold doors, we give a friendly smile to strangers, and we throw up a quick thank you wave to anyone who lets us merge safely in traffic. But since moving to this region, I've picked up some habits that I never thought I would do.

It shouldn't come as a surprise. Moving to a foreign country means that you have to adjust to a new culture. But there are somethings that, when we first arrived on the scene, I said to myself, "I would NEVER do that!"

I lied.

Here are a few of the heinous habits I'm sad to say I preform regularly while I'm away from home.

1. Leaving the grocery cart in the middle of the parking lot.

None of these are my car. Nor my carts.

I HATE this with a fiery passion when I'm at home! How inconsiderate can you get, right?! Why is it so hard to wheel your cart to the corral and NOT leave it in a parking space? That just serves to piss everyone off when they try to pull into what looks like an empty space but in fact it is occupied by your rudeness. UGH!

But here... well...It's different. There are no corrals. Usually you have one of the bag boys (who are full grown immigrant men as opposed to high schoolers saving up to buy their first cars) help you to your car and he takes your cart back to the store for you. But sometimes you bag your own groceries, or the bag boy doesn't offer to help you to your car. And the parking lot is really far from the front door of the's's just really far...and...ok, I feel really lame trying to explain this. But EVERYBODY DOES IT, OK!? It's not just me.

This is where I left my cart.
Does it help that I always feel a little guilty as I walk away from my abandoned cart? And I always try to leave it with a group of other carts so it's easy for the poor guy who has to round them all up and wheel them back to the store...

Ok yes, I'm an awful person.

2. I tidy up on the day the cleaning lady comes.

I have a distinct memory from middle school of a lunchroom conversation with a classmate, Sara D., who was complaining about how her mom made her clean up her room before the maid came. "I mean, she's a maid. It's her JOB to clean up after me! Why should I clean up my room before she comes?!"

This memory stuck with me because my family never ever had a cleaning lady. We couldn't afford it. And this was the first time I realized I was probably in the minority of kids at my middle school who didn't have a maid. I also remember thinking it was odd that she, a middle school student, had someone clean her room for her. What else did she have to do with her time? Was her room so big that she couldn't handle the task on her own? I didn't want to be like that. How demeaning to make someone clean your room when you could just do it yourself.

Welp. I have become that person. Being a teacher, I never ever thought I would be able to afford a cleaning lady. When we lived in Saudi, my colleagues were horrified to hear that I didn't have a houseboy who would come and clean our 3 bedroom apartment. I was horrified that people DID that! It was just the two of us! We didn't even use two of the rooms!

Now we're in Kuwait and I don't think I'll ever be able to live without a cleaning lady again! Our apartment is even smaller than where we lived in Saudi, and our paycheck took a hit when we moved here, but LAWD having someone come by and clean up the kitchen and throw a load of laundry in the machine from time to time makes ALL the difference!

And you better believe that I do a quick run-through before work on the mornings the our cleaning lady comes! haha! My apologies to 13-year-old Sara D. for judging her all those years ago.

3. Honk.

In the South, we honk our horns all the time. There's the "Hello" honk and the "Oh God! Look out you're going to hit me/someone!" honk. Those are the only two acceptable reasons to use your car horn at home. The Mister and I adhere to those guidelines strictly. I'd go so far as to say that I've only used my car horn maybe a total of 5 times in my life.

...until I moved to Kuwait. Honking your car horn is like a sport here. I've already analyzed the intricacies of the honking in Saudi Arabia, but I think it's safe to say the car horn is abused even more here in Kuwait. And I'm among the abusers.

To be fair, I only honk when someone cuts me off (which is always), when I'm almost involved in a horrific collision (which happens more often than our mothers would like me to admit), or when a stray cat/pigeon/feral child is meandering slowly across the road (seriously, why wouldn't they put a little more pep in their step?!). In such instances, I lay on the horn heavier than an angry New Yorker during rush hour.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I get a teeny tiny bit of pleasure from it.

Thankfully, the Mister and I are able to switch these behaviors off when we are home during the summer. The rudeness and the road rage go into their little cerebral compartments until we return again to the land of sand.

Vicariously yours,

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