Tag Archives: expat

What I’ve Learned Living the Confused Expatriate Life

What I’ve Learned Living the Confused Expatriate Life
by Ms. Hala

Click here to read an exclusive version written for ILoveQatar!

As you may or may not know, I’ve said “salam” to Qatar earlier to this summer, a place I’ve called home for the last five-plus years. If you’re a fan of the rant series, you’ve read on how my expat life didn’t start off so easy.

I’ve documented some of my experiences from explaining my identity in the most diverse country in the region to the hassles of apartment hunting as a single lady. I arrived in Qatar confused and left a little less confused, grown and enlightened. I’m sure if I had known then what I know now, it would’ve been a little bit easier.

So long story short, let me share with you some tips I’ve learned living the confused expatriate life in Qatar.

Expect the Unexpected: When I first came to Qatar, I had a plan in mind: stay for a year, save a bunch of money and head back home. I had never planned to stay for as long as I did, but as they say, “God is truly the best of planners.” I promise you, whatever plans you have coming into Qatar or elsewhere for that matter will fly out the window, quick! You must expect the unexpected, nothing is like how it’s done back home and no one is going to hold your hand through the process. Have a plan, yes, but be prepared and stay open-minded, that’s how spontaneous an expat life can be.

Learn the Language: It’s wonderful that English is widely used in Qatar and most parts of the world. However, I’ve had my fellow English speaking friends complain when someone doesn’t speak English to them, be it a professional or private capacity. I’d have to remind them that the official language of Qatar is Arabic, thus no one is obligated to speak your language. Make an effort to learn Arabic, even if it’s the basics. You can start by joining language exchange groups as well as checking out language learning programs in Education City and Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center – formerly known as Fanar.

Try Everything Once: Being an expat is an adventure to be had! While an expat in Qatar, there’s so much you should try at least once. Head with a group to the sand dunes by Sea Line. Eat a bowl of chicken majbous in Souq Waqif. Enjoy an evening in a dhow boat. Volunteer to walk the shelter dogs at a lovely farm off Shamal Road. Spend the day in the Museum of Islamic Art, it’s free! Enjoy an evening of classical music by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in Katara. And you must have a cup of hot karak from any of the amazing tea shops all around town.

Befriend a Qatari: In the time you’ve stayed in Qatar, how many Qatari friends have you made? Don’t know where to meet Qataris? Start with everyone’s friendly neighborhood Qatari, Mr. Q (aka my buddy Khalifa). When I first came to Qatar, it was ILQ’s active forums that introduced me to him and many Qataris as well as new expats in Qatar. I’ve connected with Qataris active on social media and learned about their culture, language, and food. I consider many of them now my lifelong friends. So don’t be shy to ask a question, start a conversation and befriend those that have welcomed us into their country.

Share Your Blessings: Realistically speaking, it’s easy for many of us to live a comfortable life in Qatar but that doesn’t mean we forget to humble ourselves. There are many in Qatar living on so little to better provide for their families back home. There are things you can do in your daily lives to keep you grounded. When you eat at a restaurant, any good, untouched leftovers can be given to someone in need. When you buy large amounts of water, leave a bowl of cool water outside your building for stray animals. When shopping in a mall, give a little to the many charitable organizations’ kiosks supporting initiatives in Qatar and beyond.

Professionalism is Sometimes Unprofessional: Being the first and only female manager in my division at one of my jobs in Qatar, I was warned that “we don’t do things here the way you do it in America”. I didn’t understand that until I had to deal with an incompetent agent costing my division delays and lost sales. I was as professional as possible until I couldn’t anymore. I learned with time to stay professional but stern, stand my ground and make sure my team had my back. Again, things aren’t done the same way back home, and one has to adapt, fast.

Do What You Love: My advise to anyone of my peeps thinking of expatriating out of the US (or repatriating for that matter), do it for something you know you will enjoy. A passion to travel and work with a company you know (or at least researched well) will do right by you in the long run. Anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true! Don’t fall these gimmicks, including paying any recruiting or relocation company. If possible, visit the country you are considering before deciding to live there for a long period of time. Don’t move for a high salaried job that you already hated at home. I promise you, you’ll be miserable if you are not passionate about the work, the company or even the country you are deciding to move too.

Dating Is a Hit or Miss: I didn’t expect dating in Qatar would be much different from back home but it was an odd experience. Because Qatar’s population is 80% male doesn’t necessarily mean there are quality men. Trust me, slim pickings. However, it’s taught me that dating while a single expat is a coin toss. You can get lucky or you can feel icky. I did appreciate that chivalry wasn’t dead and even when I had a bad date, it wasn’t as bad as some I’ve had back home. Being a single expat can be tough, especially as a single lady in a conservative country. There’s more on that here.

Nothing Stays the Same: I learned this the hard way after my first visit home. Expect things to change when you visit or repatriate home. As I now try to rediscover my city, playing tourist at times, I’m slowly learning to adapt to the changes. Repatriating is not easy, and in some ways can bring back feelings of culture shock and learning curves you experienced when you first became an expat in a new country. It’ll take time and before you know it, it’ll truly feel home. It took me almost a year to feel at home in Qatar, hopefully, it won’t take me that long now that I’m back home.

To close out this five-year rant series, I’m blessed to have left with more than what I came with. I’ve gained great friendships, career growth, and wonderful memories.

And I’m a little less confused.

Foodie Farewell – a Snapchat Story

Flashback to two weeks ago when Kamal and myself (aka foodie royalty) got a magnificent send off! Can’t thank the team at Nisantasi Baskose and my foodie friends enough for this lovely, unforgettable afternoon.

Happy Eating peeps!

Living the Confused Expatriate Life

Living the Confused Expatriate Life
Has It Been Five Years Already?
By: Ms. Hala

On June 30th, 2012, I landed in Qatar thinking I knew what to expect. I had never lived in another city in America before, let alone another country so… of course, I was wrong! I thought I was only going to be expat living for a year, a year and a half tops. Of course, I was wrong. I thought I was going to make a dollar out of 15 cents, gold out of dirt, something out of nothing. Of course, I was wrong.

 

It has been five years –FIVE YEARS– since I got off that plane and was hit by the summer’s humid air, freaked out when the cold water taps were boiling hot and learning to sleep with the AC on full blast. I have learned to expect the unexpected and struggled through those last five years to make something out of myself.

 

Along this journey, I’ve made life long friends, laughed my heart out and experienced things I don’t think I would have staying at home, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the world is so grand but our bubble is so small. If I learned anything, anything at all, from being living the expat life, it’s to go beyond the bubble, even for just a moment and live a little in this grand world. Despite it all, for the things I’ve learned, it’s so worth it.

 

Screenshot_20170610-154838
“Qatar” – image courtesy of @ftmalthani

Qatar has an odd charm to it, flaws and all. The expat life here is not perfect but it’s a blessing to experience. As I start packing, not knowing how much longer I’m staying in Qatar (more on that later), I’m at peace. Alhamdulillah, I worked hard, surrounded myself with good people, ate some delicious food and discovered as much of the region as I could.

 

My time in Qatar will always be unforgettable. I can’t image having the experiences I’ve had else where. I’ll always pray for God to continue blessing this beautiful nation and the people within it that make it up it’s beauty. Qatar may be small but mighty and come to think of it, so am I.

A Prayer for 2016

Has 2015 come to an end already?

Alhamdulillah, this year was an interesting one for me but may not have been for others around the world. Back home, this year was a violent one in the US. The refugee crisis struck a cord with many of us around the world. The GCC saw a dip in the economy that made us say “good bye” to many of our expat friends. We’ve also had to say too many “good byes” to family and friends whom departed us for the heavens.

Praying for some form of peace and calm back home in the US. Praying for some form of stability for those trying to escape these unnecessary wars. Praying for some form of unity for those with many miles between us. Praying for God’s eternal peace and light upon out loved ones that have left this life. Ameen.

I pray that your year was good and that the next year only gets better. I pray that your year was full of knowledge and that the next year only gets better. I pray that your year was full of compassion and that the next year only gets better. I pray that you found your path, your place, your peace and that the next year only gets better. Ameen.

May you and yours have a blessed and rewarding 2016.

Image c/o Revista

Living the Confused Expatriate Life

Living the Confused Expatriate Life
Part 6 of a Few… Two Years Already?
By: Ms. Hala

I’ve passed my two year mark as an American expatriate living in Qatar this past July. WOW! Taking a moment to evaluate some of the things I’ve learned and discovered throughout this ongoing adventure I call #InLivingQatar.

As an expat:

  • I’m to expect the unexpected, period.
  • I know now that nothing is like how it’s done back home (nor anywhere else for that matter) and sometimes that’s a good thing.
  • I’m grateful to this country for not taxing my anything.
  • Not everyone is obligated to speak YOUR language. You live in Qatar, make an effort to learn the language! If you don’t speak a second language, don’t miss out on the opportunity to do so.
  • Home is what you make of it. It’s the simple things from the food to the adventures that make being an expat in the Middle East oh so wonderful.

About myself:

  • Apparently, I enjoy shopping for things other than shoes, office supplies and kitchenware. I mean, when was I ever known to be one who wouldn’t miss a sale at Mango (my new found obsession) or appreciate Riva for the size 4 pants that fit my proudly curvy body? REJOICE!
  • My savings isn’t very happy with the above mentioned self discovery.
  • I simply don’t care anymore about the pettiest of things that just do not matter. I’m too busy laughing at the silliest of things.
  • I’ve always had a thing for men in thobs, living in Qatar solidified it. Seriously, ANY MAN can look amazing in a thob.
I mean, can you resist this "thobi"? No, no you can't (and you shouldn't). #JustSaying
I mean, can you resist this “thobi”? No, no you can’t (and you shouldn’t). #JustSaying

Speaking of men:

  • Dating it’s a coin toss which isn’t much different than it was back home. I’ve realized that when I decided to accept dating someone I probably wouldn’t have dated say three or four years ago.
  • I’m still the least romantic person I know and thanks to my ex for catching on to that. =P
  • Chivalry is not dead and a part of me is still caught by surprise.
  • “Momken netwaseel?” or “May we keep in touch?” has to be the funniest pickup line ever! So polite yet stupid and invasive in so many ways… especially when it’s the 20 year old kids almost every single time.
  • Wearing Ed Hardy outfits, I mean the whole covered from hat to shoes, never has and never ever will be cute. Walk away now.

In dealing with people:

  • If you are not amongst good company, start by being part of a social group be it through Twitter, MeetUp or otherwise.
  • For whatever reason, the most drama queens I’ve dealt with in this country have been men.
  • Don’t be surprised that there’s just as much fake people as there is fake designer wear floating around. It’s really a global epidemic sadly, get over it.
  • This may be the safest country in the world but stop taking it for granted. There are people that can still break into your car, knock on your door at odd hours and simply just not be safe for you to be around.

Here’s to another year of an adventurous #InLivingQatar! =)