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

Communication (e.g. Internet; Telephone)

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

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


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

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

Personal Care

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

Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotels

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

Air Fare Home each year

** 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?,
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 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

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