Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saudi Arabia? What Are You SURE About This?

We are in the process, once again, of deciding whether to become expats or not?  It is a question, because it creates huge upheaval in the family, in your life, in school, in after school activities. It is transitional. It is unnerving. It creates chaos.

BUT if you thrive on chaos, then this is the life for you.  Our considerations go deeper than the first few times we moved, we have children, they are older and they need stability.  They are excited. This is a new adventure and in all honesty I think that they are already expats in their hearts and perhaps will not need a home base.

A friend of mine Louise moved to Saudi Arabia, and worked in Riyadh as an X-Ray technician for 4 years.   She is a woman and she loved living there.  Would she go back?  Tomorrow if she could.  Did she do any research before she left?  Without a doubt - YES!  She chatted to other expats to find out what life was like and did a lot of online searches and reading.  Her advice is for expats to research the cost of living and how it can impact your life when you arrive at your new destination, in many cases your standard can be so much better than what it is at home.

Her first impression of the country was that it was hot, dusty, flat and yet exotic.  She loved the lovely hot weather and that it was never cold or rainy.  Disconcerting though was that the men were shouted at by the Matawa (religious police) if the women they were escorting had and hair or part of their heads were not covered properly.  There are also separate queues for families and for people that were there without their family, any queues you encountered were like this and restaurants also had separate sections.


Spare time was spent playing tennis and squash, as well as racing remote controlled cars in the desert. Traveling.  Sampling all the different foods and frequenting all the various souks (flea markets).   Your senses are sent on an adventure, with people chatting or battering, from the flavorful smells and colors, and the food tastes are authentically Middle Eastern.

The strangest or funniest cultural observation, especially for a westerner, is seeing how the locals sit around on the ground / floor eating.  Sitting on pavements / islands between two main roads “picnicking” and eating on the ground

From a cost of living perspective she found  it less expensive. Petrol and the cost of cars are very cheap, as are groceries. Thus the general cost of living is cheaper than South Africa.

The company did not help to pay for their transfer and only the following basket groups were paid for by the company:


Basket Group
Yes
No
Clothing

X
Communication (e.g. Internet; Telephone)

X
Education (e.g. Children’s School Fees)

X
Furniture & Appliances (e.g. Semi-Furnished Housing)

X
Groceries

X
Healthcare (e.g. Medical Insurance; Medical Facilities)
Y

Household Accommodation (e.g. Housing or Housing Allowance)

X
Personal Care

X
Recreation and Culture (e.g. Fitness Club Fees)

X
Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotels

X
Transport (e.g. Company Vehicle or Transport Allowance)

X
Air Fare Home each year
Y






Sometimes a place is what we make of it, positive outlooks and embracing a culture that is unknown to us can be an adventure. Be open minded. Enjoy the experience.



Xpatulator.com provides up-to-date cost of living data for over 700 locations worldwide, employers and employees can calculate how much is needed to earn in another location to have a similar spending power. Steven McManus is a Remuneration and Benefits Consultant and founder of  http://www.xpatulator.com



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Expat Tells About Cost of Living in Tanzania

Aidan and his wife have lived in Dar El Salaam in Tanzania for the last three years. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa this is there first experience as expats and their overall impression of Dar Es Salaam was that of a third world country.

international cost of living
Dar Es Salaam


These are some of his experiences and thoughts:

What do you like the most about where you are living now? 
Relaxed, close to the Ocean

What do you like the least about where you are living now? 
3rd World,  poverty, Very Hot, Limited FDI, hence limited work opportunities

What do you do for fun in each place? 
Beach, Game parks, meeting friends

What is the funniest / strangest cultural experience you have had? 
Can take 10 minutes to greet somebody. When greeting an elder, one calls him “Shikamoo” which means, “may I kiss your feet” and his response is, “yes a thousand times” (cannot recall the Swahili word for it.

How did you find the cost of living compared to your home in each of the places you have lived in? More or less expensive? Why? 
More expensive due to the fact most items are imported

Did the company help with your move? How? 
Yes, they paid for it and guaranteed jobs

Does your company pay for any of the following -
Basket Group
Yes
No
Clothing

x
Communication (e.g. Internet; Telephone)
X

Education (e.g. Children’s School Fees)
X

Furniture & Appliances (e.g. Semi-Furnished Housing)

X
Groceries

X
Healthcare (e.g. Medical Insurance; Medical Facilities)
X

Household Accommodation (e.g. Housing or Housing Allowance)
X

Personal Care (not sure what meant by this???)


Recreation and Culture (e.g. Fitness Club Fees)
X

Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotels

X
Transport (e.g. Company Vehicle or Transport Allowance)
X

Air Fare Home each year
X


What does your company not pay for that you feel it should pay for? 
Nothing, I feel we get a fair deal. Some people feel they should pay for your home staff, but I disagree with this.

Did you do research before your move on what you needed to earn to maintain or increase your standard of living? 
Yes

If so, what research did you do?  
Basic cost of living, but more along the lines of life-style, as our move was less about the money and more about a life experience.

What do you find expensive in your Host city?
Local travel and accommodation, eating out


Do you have any advice for readers on becoming an expat and the type of research to do before hand? 
Treat the experience as a life journey and not a means to earn additional money. Research on the cost of living and fellow expat community you have around you. Investigate the potential for violent religious fanatics in the area, i.e. safety concerns. If you are happy with all the above, then go for it and get involved with the culture of the country. Try not be too solely involved in the expat community.

Dar Es Salaam expat cost of living


Xpatulator.com provides up-to-date cost of living data for over 700 locations worldwide, employers and employees can calculate how much is needed to earn in another location to have a similar spending power. Steven McManus is a Remuneration and Benefits Consultant and founder of  http://www.xpatulator.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Doha Qatar - An Expats Experience

Having been an expat in Bahrain before moving to Qatar, Annabel had some idea of what to expect in a Middle Eastern Country as well as the experience of being an expat. This is what she has to tell us about moving to Doha in Qatar :

I am originally from South Africa - Johannesburg, prior to this we lived in Bahrain for 18 months and have lived in Doha now for 2 years and 9 months.


Doha Mobility Salary
We live close to the sea and take our
dogs walking on a daily basis

What was your first impression of the city / country you moved to? 
Bit of a mix impressions – some areas were very First World with fancy hotels and high rise buildings and yet other parts of the country looked very scruffy and dirty.

What do you like the most about where you are living now?  
The weather, the fact that we live on the lagoon and walk our dogs on the water’s edge every evening.  
The desert and what that has to offer.  
The amazing people we have met from all cultures.  
Our fantastic church (we were not sure if we would find a church in a Muslim country).

What do you like the least about where you are living now?  
The only thing that I don’t like is the fact that I am far away from my family & friends back home.

What do you do for fun?  
Cycling – and particularly enjoy cycling in the desert.  
Kayaking, eating out, going to theatre or shows (Jazz etc), horse shows (dressage, show jumping and races), watching camel racing, camping in the desert, swimming, entertaining.  
Going to gym, spinning, Pilates etc.


Doha Cost of living
Cycling Group

What is the funniest / strangest cultural experience you have had?  
When going to a water park was told by the staff that I cannot go down the slip and slide with my t-shirt on as it is dangerous and might hook and yet a couple of minutes later I saw a lady going down in her full abaya (now that I would have thought would hook)  

How did you find the cost of living compared to your home?   More or less expensive? Why? 
Oh definitely more expensive – everything is about 3 times more expensive because everything is imported and of course there are loads of designer stores, so you really have to shop around to find the discount or cheaper stores.  
The souq is a good place to pick up bargains, but you can’t buy everything at the souq.

Did the company help with your move? How?  
Yes they did, but not substantially – so we just moved our most personal goods (and did not include furniture in our move)


 Does your company pay for any of the following -


Basket Group
Yes
No
Clothing

x
Communication (e.g. Internet; Telephone)

x
Education (e.g. Children’s School Fees)

x
Furniture & Appliances (e.g. Semi-Furnished Housing)

x
Groceries

x
Healthcare (e.g. Medical Insurance; Medical Facilities)
y

Household Accommodation (e.g. Housing or Housing Allowance)
y

Personal Care

x
Recreation and Culture (e.g. Fitness Club Fees)

x
Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotels

x
Transport (e.g. Company Vehicle or Transport Allowance)

x
Air Fare Home each year

x
** The Education and home airfares were all incorporated in the total package – so it is up to us how we want to spend that.




Did you do research before your move on what you needed to earn to maintain or increase your standard of living?
Yes – and having a brother in law working in the Middle East made it easier as he could guide us on the cost of living and salaries etc

If so, what research did you do?
Loads of internet research and talking to other people who have lived in the Middle East

What do you find expensive in your Host city?
I think everything is more expensive except cell phone charges and petrol.

Do you have any advice for readers on becoming an expat and the type of research to do before hand?
We found that it doesn’t matter how much research you do (particularly on the culture) you will only really understand it once you are in the country.  
Having said that, you can never do enough research or talking to people who have been there before is the best way to understand the ex-pat life.  
Some advice that was given to me which really turned out to be very true “is give yourself 6 months to feel at home”  so if you having those down days, just persevere and definitely have an open mind and a positive outlook.  
Also very important to accept invitations from people as the quicker you meet people and find your hobbies the more settled you will feel.  
As a wife who moved for my husband’s job, it is also very important to drive and become independent as quickly as possible.  
Join clubs and societies to find like minded people.

Any favourite websites  / blogs about where you live, that can help others with their move?
www.qatarliving.com,
www.marhaba.com.qa
Facebook groups : South African’s in Qatar, SASCOM Qatar; SA Ladies in Qatar

Do you have a blog or website?
No – we used to do monthly newsletters to keep family in the loop of what we were up to and what living abroad was like – but unfortunately one’s life is just as busy living as expats as living in your home town.  This then becomes a yearly newsletter.
 
Moving to Doha
Beautiful landscapes and sites to see while cycling in the desert


Xpatulator.com provides up-to-date cost of living data for over 700 locations worldwide, employers and employees can calculate how much is needed to earn in another location to have a similar spending power. Steven McManus is a Remuneration and Benefits Consultant and founder of  http://www.xpatulator.com