9 January 2019

Sheli Msall - Expat in Kuwait

Sheli Msall - Expat in Kuwait

We’ve had the chance to talk to Sheli Msall, 29, an American expat who has moved to Kuwait with her husband. Mrs Msall, who has been living there for almost a year is a registered dietitian. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: We moved to Kuwait from Washington, DC in the United States.


Q: What made you move out of the US?

A: My husband received a job offer in Kuwait after completing his PhD.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: We’re living in Kuwait. My husband had a couple of job offers in the Middle East which were appealing because they would allow him to continue the research he began with his dissertation. We chose to come to Kuwait because of it’s a very safe country within the Middle East and the location also allows us to travel more easily than we could have in the US.


Q: How long have you been living in Kuwait?

A: We’ve been here almost exactly one year.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I’m living with my husband and our dog. Everyone is adjusting well but our dog is probably having the hardest time. The heat during mid-day walks, lack of squirrels to chase, and frequent kennel stays while we’re travelling are definitely new for her.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Missing family and friends back home is definitely the hardest part of being an expat. Email/Skype/Google Hangouts go a long way to help bridge the gap though. I can’t imagine what it would be like without all of that technology.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The culture in Kuwait is definitely different than anything I experienced in the States. The driving here is a bit intense but for the most part Kuwaitis are friendly and most are fluent in English.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Kuwait? How did you manage to find a social circle there?

A: Between work and joining groups such as the American Women’s League I’ve met lots of other expats as well as locals. We tend to socialize most with other expats though.


Q: How does the cost of living in Kuwait compare to your home?



Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 1.5-2 KWD ($5-6 USD)


Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 2-3 KWD ($6-10 USD)


Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 20-30 KWD/person ($66-100 USD)


Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: There is no wine in Kuwait! Along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait is a completely dry country. Alcohol cannot be bought, sold, or brought into the country. I don’t smoke so I’m not sure how much cigarettes are here.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Kuwait?

A: Joint bank accounts, like my husband and I have in the States, are not allowed here due to the high divorce rate. My husband opened an account with the assistance of his employer but I am still using our US bank account and credit card.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: The good thing about being an American coming into Kuwait is that you don’t have to have a resident visa issued prior to coming over. This allowed me to come with my husband instead of me having to wait several months after he moved. Obtaining a visa as a spouse was quite a process and required a trip to Bahrain for medical testing and issuance of a temporary visa. Then, the same medical tests were repeated in Kuwait before a one year visa was issued. My husband obtained a 2 year visa through his employer with much less fuss.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Kuwait is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Healthcare is reliable in Kuwait but it is set up a little differently. I prefer to go to the Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute (FSRI) for all of my medical needs. Outside of the US Embassy they are the only clinic in Kuwait with primary care physicians like Americans are typically used to. Most other physicians in the country are specialized so it’s difficult to find someone to see for a run of the mill bacterial infection.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or Kuwait? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: My husband's employer provides health insurance and coverage within all of the GCC countries. It covers everything we need outside of travel insurance. I’ve experienced medical practices here that try to force you to pay cash up front even if you do have insurance - don’t do this! I will say that this has never happened at FSRI though.


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Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Kuwait? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Moving was definitely a stressful process as I’m sure anyone can imagine. We chose not to use a shipping company and instead packed everything into excess baggage on our flight over. We probably won’t do that again! Getting through the airport with all of our bags was a bit of a hassle. However, customs in Kuwait can be a lengthy process so it’s very possible that shipping our things over would have taken quite a long time.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: The biggest challenge for me has been not having a driver’s license. Although women are allowed to drive here, because my visa is under my husband and we don’t have children, I cannot get a license for two years.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Kuwait?

A: The positive aspects are definitely that we get to experience a culture so different from our own and that we are able to travel so much by living here. The negative aspects definitely have to include no alcohol! It’s also extremely hot during the summer and Kuwait has very strict rules during Ramadan - no eating or drinking in public at all during the day.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: You can take day trips to several islands where you can sometimes spot whales and dolphins. There are also a few museums and The Grand Mosque is beautiful. Shopping malls are definitely a favorite pastime for the locals.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Right now we don’t have any plans to move. My husband is currently one year into a three year renewable contract but the benefits of living here are far outweighing the negatives at this point.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Definitely keep an open mind. Women should be prepared to dress modestly. Patience goes a long way here - everything tends to happen on the slower side.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Kuwait?

A: 248AM.com is a great website. And, of course, I write about being an expat in Kuwait on my blog, www.nutritionistaabroad.com