FAQ - DEALING WITH THE BUREAUCRACY A sub-page of Teaching ESL At Kuwait University
- Will it be a
hassle to get my passport, exit visas, etc., when I wish to travel outside
- Depends. If you travel at the regular times of year (Feb and
summer), no problem. They are usually set up to handle the flow. Any other time,
you have to keep on them to get what you want. The means of dealing with the
office people here is to make a friend in the office where you do business. Then
whenever you need something they are there to help you.
- Care to comment on
anything I should know about the administration? For example, whose toes I should
avoid stepping on? Or who should I make a point to get to know?
- In terms
of the administration, there is one man you should cozy up to because he can make
life easier for you. His name is M, and you will have the chance to meet him
almost immediately upon arrival. He is the person you will consult about getting
all your paperwork done. As you may know, once you get here, the first thing
you'll have to do is spend several days over the first month or two visiting
various ministries and university offices to have all your paperwork processed:
separate visits to several clinics to have x-rays, blood test, and a physical; a
visit to the police to be fingerprinted; a visit to the university's
administration offices to present your credentials and have your university ID
made; a visit to immigration to get your passport stamped with a work visa; a
visit to ministry x to have your Civil ID made. It's horrendously boring and time
consuming, but once it's finished you don't have to do anything like it again
until you leave. Now, M, if he likes you, will take care of some of the drudgery
for you by sending out his Indian minions to collect signatures and papers at
ministries that do not require you there in order to process your paperwork. As I
understand it, he is not obliged to do this. But he is a very sweet fellow,
though he has what at first appears to be a gruff exterior. I just finished all
my paperwork to leave here this week and because M likes me, he took care of
ninety percent of the work for me, which involved running around to various
ministries and university offices collecting signatures that verified I did not
owe them anything or still have in my possession any of their belongings, such as
library books or computers. In appreciation for his help, I'm going to slip him
15kd (about $50) in an envelope. It is, I believe, money well spent.
Otherwise I would have had to have done all the legwork myself, spent a good deal more than 15kd
on taxis, and been frustrated at nearly every turn. When I checked in, as you
will be doing soon, I gave him and his office mate a couple of cartons of
cigarettes. I think that sealed my relationship with them.
- So in general
people don't get pissed off at "tips" in Kuwait? Important question, actually.
- I guess not, though I haven't tipped that many people since coming here.
Hardly anyone is averse to accepting money, though.
- Once I get there,
where will I encounter bureaucracy?
- Everywhere. To give you an idea of how
the bureaucracy works (or doesn't work) around here, this morning I tried calling
the finance office to inquire about my check. You see, the university withheld my
last month's salary until I finished all my paperwork, which I handed in this
past Tuesday to the Finance Department. On the same day in the same building one
floor below, I also turned over my passport in order to have my work visa
canceled and to receive a one month temporary visa. Also on Tuesday, at a
different office on the same campus, I applied for a ticket voucher, which I can
hand over to Kuwait Airlines in exchange for a ticket out of here. So anyway,
this morning I spent 30 minutes on the telephone trying to find someone in the
finance department who can help me. Everyone I talk to there says, "Oh, call
extension xxxx." Always it's a different number. After half an hour I was ready
to throw the phone through my terminal! In desperation, I hit upon the idea of
asking the people in our faculty's finance department if they have any
connections at the main campus finance office. Good idea. The fellow here gives
me a number and a name of a friend of his in the budget section and I give him a
call. He said he would get back to me - he used to work in the salary section -
but I haven't heard back from him yet. While having a coffee break, I was
thinking that the only method I hadn't yet tried was the equivalent of throwing
darts in the dark, so a few minutes later I began randomly dialing extension
numbers at the main campus. The first call got me through to a woman to whom I
explained the nature of my inquiry. She put me on hold, and a moment later
another woman came on, who actually had my papers in front of her! That was
incredible luck, but it brought with it bad news. She needed a copy of my
temporary visa in order to complete the paperwork and issue me my check. I
explained that the people in the passport section downstairs had the visa and my
passport. She said it was not her job to fetch copies of passports from the visa
section and that I would have to bring it to her! I couldn't believe it! I asked
her if she was serious, that I had to make a trip out there to make a copy in a
first floor office and then take it to her on the second floor. She was serious.
What could I do? Someone said I could have asked the people in the visa section
to make a copy and deliver it to finance. I knew that I could sooner find someone
to do that than I could find a thousand dollars on the street. I also knew that
even if I found someone who SAID they would do me the favor of making a copy and
walking it up to the second floor, that they might not actually get around to
doing it for a few days, thereby delaying receipt of my check by that many days.
Better to do it myself for my own peace of mind, I thought, so I spent $12 on cab
fare to go over to the office, get my passport, make a copy of the temporary visa
and run it up to the second floor. THAT is how things work around here.