Country Profile: Kuwait at a glance
Location: Slightly smaller than New Jersey, Kuwait is a country in the Middle East, located between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, bordering the Persian Gulf.
Language: Arabic; English is also widely spoken
Total Population: 2.83 million. (Kuwait’s Public Authority for Civil Information, meanwhile, estimates a total population closer to 4 million, with immigrants
accounting for nearly 70 percent.)
Based on the Arab Revolt flag of WWI, the flag has three horizontal bands of color. Green represents fertile fields, white stands for purity, and red denotes blood on Kuwaiti swords. The black signifies the defeat of the enemy.
Capital: Kuwait City
Literacy rate: 96.3 percent
Government: Constitutional monarchy. Kuwait is considered one of the freest nations in the Persian Gulf, though cultural and religious conservatism are strong.
Economy: With its large crude oil reserves and relatively open economy, Kuwait is a wealthy nation. The price of oil has fallen, however, leading to Kuwait’s first budget deficit in 15 years as the country has failed to diversify its economy—petroleum accounts for over half of GDP, 94 percent of export revenues, and 90 percent of government income. A large public sector crowds out private employment, though the government has begun to limit subsidies.
Cultural adaptations: Kuwait prohibits importing pork and alcoholic beverages.
Note as well that Friday is the Muslim holy day and no business is conducted. Don’t attempt meetings on Friday or Saturday (these days are the official weekend in Kuwait), unless your Kuwaiti host suggests or insists on it. During the holy month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar), business is very slow and decisions and appointments are often delayed until after the month.
Etiquette: As a foreign businessperson, considered a supplicant in Kuwait, expect to be kept waiting, as punctuality is not traditionally a virtue. Eat only with your right hand and avoid gesturing with the left hand, as the left hand is considered unclean in this part of the world.
Challenges: Kuwait’s complex business environment requires flexibility, patience, and persistence. Many U.S. exporters and investors in Kuwait face challenges such as inconsistent, sometimes contradictory policies, lack of transparency in decision-making, and other factors. Careful planning and personal relations are crucial for success in Kuwait.
GDP (official exchange rate): $110.5 billion
Currency: Kuwaiti dinar (conversion rate at press time: 1 KWD equals 3.28 USD).
Ease of doing business ranking by World Bank: 102 (down from 86 in 2015)
Sources: U.S. Commercial Service, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, “Kiss, Bow, and Shake Hands.”