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Expat in Kuwait – Monthly Happiness Report – January, 2015

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Published on , last updated on October 3, 2020

Beautiful canals in Al Khiran

We are entering 2015! The last year, 2014, ended with two months in which my happiness was lower than average. I was ready to turn this around in the new year. However, I didn’t know at the time that I was about to start an interesting, new period in my life. I was about to be sent to Kuwait, to work on a huge projects for a couple of weeks. It was all very exciting for me, but did it actually improve my happiness? Let’s find out.

The last couple of posts did not include a lot of pictures. I simply didn’t take a lot during these months. However, I believe pictures are a big part of what makes this post series personal. I want to add as much context to my happiness as possible, so I will always try to include multiple pictures. I will make up for the lack of pictures in the last posts during this monthly happiness report!

Below table shows the average happiness ratings for this period.

So last month’s happiness was already below average, due to the passing away of my granddad. I was unfortunately not able to turn this around in January, 2015. The reasons were totally different though. After already spending 5 months apart when I traveled to New Zealand a year before, my girlfriend and I entered another long distance relationship period. These periods usually don’t have a positive effect on our relationship. How did things go during this period?

Monthly happiness

The chart below shows my happiness ratings during January, 2015:

January, 2015 started off alright! The happiness ratings were all pretty high during the first half of the month. I enjoyed spending time with my girlfriend, recorded some of my music and ran a couple of times per week. These are the things that I most dearly love.

This quickly changed when my manager told me I’d be going to Kuwait to work on one of the projects. My happiness entered a very turbulent period from the moment I stepped foot in this new, exciting country.

Happiness factors

The table below shows all the happiness ratings for January, 2015, including the factors that influenced it.

So I left for Kuwait on the 18th of January. I was very excited to travel to a new country and continent. I remember that I was actually quite nervous at the time. In this period, the war in Iraq and Syria was extremely turbulent, and ISIS was doing a lot of damage to the world. Even though Kuwait is one of the most stable countries in the Persian Gulf, I was still a little anxious to fly next to these warzones.

“I was still a little anxious to fly next to these warzones”

The views from the sky were breathtaking nonetheless. I remember the sky was very clear during the day, and even though we circled around Iraq, I was able to spot the capital Baghdad from my window. I thought that was pretty cool, in a way. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Kuwait city at night from the sky

Anyway, my happiness ratings rapidly dropped once I started working in Kuwait. You can actually see it in the table. Most of the positive factors are located in the top half, while most of the negative factors are at the bottom. What exactly went wrong here?

Living and working in Kuwait

Living in Kuwait was pretty much what I expected it to be. The project was located in the far south of Kuwait, just a stone’s throw away from the border with Saudi Arabia. It’s a strange part of the world for a simple, naïve Dutch guy like me.

The village was pretty weird to begin with. It felt like a ghost town to me. On one hand, you have these giant houses with nice gardens and fancy driveways. On the other hand, it looks like nobody is actually living there. There was no community whatsoever. The infrastructure was all there, but there was no one using it. There was not even a supermarket in the village.

“It felt like a ghost town to me”

I think the Kuwaiti’s are planning for this town to become some tourist resort. They had already excavated a bunch of beautiful canals and the roads were pretty new. On my occasional walks, I was amazed to find that nobody was around to appreciate any of this.

Pretty strange, huh?

Beautiful canals in Al Khiran
The beautiful man made canals, which no one was around to enjoy but me…

Now that you know a little bit about the context, let’s see what influenced my happiness during this time.

Positive happiness factors

These factors are quite normal for me. As I said, I got to enjoy the things that I love most during the first half of the month. I had a lot of fun with my girlfriend, I ran my weekly miles and I locked my self away in my home studio to record my music. It’s what made me happy.

“I first thought he was joking”

I started working again on the first Monday after New Years. At the end of the first week at the office, my manager came up to me and told me that I was going to be working in Kuwait. I first thought he was joking. I remember that it took me a couple of seconds before I realised he was in fact not kidding me. My visa was already approved, and my ticket was about to be booked. I was leaving in about a week.

Holy shit.

It was quite a shock, to say the least.

My girlfriend was also caught off guard. Hadn’t we just survived a long distance relationship period?

She was quick to cope with the idea, though, which helped me get my mind straight as well. After the initial shock, I started looking forward to this new adventure. I was going to be working on a new continent, in a completely strange country to me. Mind you, I was not able to locate Kuwait on a map at the time, if someone had asked me.

Al Khiran in Kuwait
The desolated streets in a typical Kuwait town

What I’m trying to say here is that I was actually looking forward to the challenge. I knew it was probably going to be though, but I knew I’d only be going for a relatively short period (1,5 months). The project was huge, so I knew I would also gain a lot of great experience. I was thrilled to be a part of it!

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before my happiness and excitement melted.

Negative happiness factors

You can see the negative happiness factors in the chart below.

I started working on a huge project. The project team was gigantic, and the site office itself was already the biggest I’ve ever seen. The project was quite busy as well. Everybody was trying to do their best at making ends meet, so I was eager to help them in any way possible.

“I was eager to help them in any way possible”

I did so by working hard like everybody else. Work started at 7:00 AM and finished at least at 7:00 PM. These are obviously quite long days, but because I was extremely excited to be a part of a project of this size, the time actually flew by. My excitiment for this project helped me get through the long days.

If I was lucky, I would be back at my appartment at 8:30 PM. Long days, indeed.

I have talked about the value of sleep before. A lack of sleep often causes my happiness to drop. This time, however, I was facing a dilemma. I require about 7 hours of sleep on average. Considering I had to get up each morning at 6:00 AM, I would have to hit the bed by 11:00 PM. So far, so good, right?


I wasn’t content with only 2,5 hours of free time. I wanted more! How could I do the things that I actually enjoyed, when I only had 2,5 hours of free time??? Mind you, I also needed these hours to shower, exercise, have dinner and Skype with my girlfriend.

“I decided to decrease my amount of sleep”

So I decided to decrease my amount of sleep. I usually wasn’t sleeping before 01:00 AM, which gave me 2 extra hours of free time. In that time, I was able to exercise, watch a movie, play a game or read a book. I thought it was a good deal, because it increased my short term happiness.

This was a huge mistake.

It didn’t take long before my long term happiness dropped, and the sleep deprivation surely influenced it. In addition, I got headaches at the end of every day, which made me more frustrated. My emotions were also affected. My initial excitement soon melted, and I started to withdraw myself from my colleagues. I also lost the thrill and interest in the project, which was a big missed opportunity for me. The days got longer, and I was getting less involved in the exciting work with each day. I don’t think anybody is able to consistently work 12 hour days on just 5 hours of sleep. It’s crazy work.

“Nobody is able to consistently work 12 hour days on just 5 hours of sleep”

In hindsight, and with the help tracking my happiness, I now know that I should never cut back on sleep in favor of short term happiness. It’s a bad decision, and will often lead to a decrease in long term happiness.

Witnessing a sunrise over the Persian Gulf as an Expat in Kuwait
The sunrise was still as beautiful as ever

Long distance relationship

In addition, my girlfriend and I were not properly dealing with this long distance period. We were both stressed out: I was working too much on a lack of sleep, and my girlfriend had her final exams. The added distance and lack of proper communication quickly threw our relationship into a downward spiral.

Even though we would Skype virtually every day, the quality of our contact was poor. We both got irritated over the smallest issues, and it all sucked our energy. Not a very good situation to be in.

In the end, my happiness was all over the place. The second half of January, 2015 was pretty ugly. Even though January had a great start, it quickly tumbled due to these couple of factors.

I know I promised in last month’s happiness report that this month would be more positive, but it just wasn’t. January, 2015 was even worse than December, 2014. Was the next month going to be any better?

Probably not, but you will have to continue reading to find out.

And with that, I want to end this Monthly Happiness report. If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer them!



Hugo Huijer

Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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