Scottish | Kuwaiti

Photo credit: @johannasetzerphotography

Photo credit: @johannasetzerphotography

I am mixed Scottish & Kuwaiti however, I am a mix of all the places I have lived (Scotland, London, Kuwait, Spain, Brazil). The cultures I’ve absorbed and the languages I speak. That’s the truest way I can identify myself. I don’t think race is as important as culture.

My Mum is Scottish, and her family are from the east of Scotland. My Dad is Kuwaiti, his family and background, like so many Kuwaitis, originate from Saudi Arabia. They met at University, in Scotland in the 70s. My Dad was studying abroad and met my Mum at the library. The only other 2 or 3 half-Scottish kids I knew growing up had Dads who went to that same University, so I suppose love was in the air during those years!

I was born in Scotland but grew up in Kuwait. We lived for a while in Scotland when we escaped Kuwait during the 1990 invasion, and then again for a few months when I graduated from University in London. We always spent long summer holidays and Christmas in Scotland, but Kuwait is where I went to school, graduated high school, learned to drive, had my first job, and had all the experiences that most adolescents and teens have.

It might sound weird but, in all honesty, I was about 17 when I first realised I was of mixed ethnicity. I remember one lazy weekend morning watching a program on the telly about teens all over the world, and there was a segment about a half English, half Indian girl. The subject of ‘mixed-race’ came up and the girl starts talking about her experiences. It was a strange moment; it was the very first time I had even thought about the fact that my parents were different colours. I went through to my mum and asked ‘’Am I mixed-race?’’ It didn’t even occur to me. We didn’t ever use the word race.

In Kuwait, the friendship group was always, always mixed nationalities, cultures and religions, because Kuwait is such an international environment, especially if you went to an international school like I did. There are going to be a lot of ‘international school’ kids who can relate to this point, whether they went to school in Bangkok, Dubai, Amsterdam, wherever. I think growing up this way made it easier to connect to people later in life. Nothing seemed alien or foreign to me; growing up with different kids and cultures really teaches tolerance. Kids connect on a different level. I didn’t select or exclude friends based on religion, race or whatever. It sounds very kumbaya, but in all honesty, that’s exactly how it was, and still is.

For me, it was very important to be with someone open and receptive to the world, who shares the same values. Race didn’t really matter, as long as they were nice, basically. I saw a meme once that was like: find someone who has the same halal/haram ratio as you – that’s pretty good advice, actually. I ended up marrying a Catalan man.

I think that for mixed people there is a tendency to feel like a bit of an outsider, whatever group you are with. Your understanding of the world and your experiences are always going to be different, no matter where you go or who you meet. The bias comes when others try to categorise you: ‘Arab? White? Black? Latin? What are you?’ What they don’t get is that all mixes are unique, so no matter how hard they try, they won’t be able to define you by your ‘race’.

I don’t look typically Kuwaiti (paler skin, freckles) so when I’m out and about in Kuwait people often speak to me in English. It can be a little frustrating sometimes, but mostly when it happens I just smile, because it shows that people here are so nice to foreigners, and that makes me feel proud to be Kuwaiti. People always tell ‘’Welcome to Kuwait’’; it’s quite sweet really. It’s the same in Scotland, people assume I’m a tourist and go out of their way to be nice and helpful. It shows that there are still good people about.

I have experienced racism many times – I remember the first time was standing at a taxi rank and someone yelling “You’ve missed your bus back to Africa!”.

But mostly it’s great; I look like I could be from almost anywhere and that helps getting around, especially when travelling. I speak Spanish and Portuguese and most people would never guess that I was Kuwaiti/Scottish. I enjoy that surprise; it can be a nice conversation starter, and a way to break down stereotypes.

If I were to be born again, I would like to come back as me but with the ability speak every language fluently (and play the ukulele really well).

I think we need to stop thinking of it as ‘race’. At the end of the day, our cultures are what shape us. For example, a Scot and an American are both ‘White’ but they do not share the culture. Similarly, a Lebanese and a Saudi are both Arab, but their cultures differ. In the end, with globalisation, the ease of movement and international travel, we will all end up being mixed. If not because of our parents, then because we are adopting other cultures into our own lives. Just look at hummus.