Tag Archives: Qatar

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.

 

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“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.

Iftar @ Streets of Arabia – A Snapchat Story

Streets of Arabia Ramadan Tent - Doha Marriott Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Inspired by the success of Street Food Doha, the lovely Doha Marriott is at it again for the second year with Streets of Arabia. Dishes from all corners of the region, such as Sudan, Morocco and Qatar, are the stars of the streets. I started with the Moroccan harira soup and was tempted to go for seconds but there was much to discover throughout the restaurant gallery turned street food galore.

Headed to Sudan for stew, Egypt for hawashy, Lebanon for grills, Qatar for majbous, Turkey for kavurma and India for dahi vada. I was not disappointed in the least bit! Desserts were good, the qatayef were a hit for me. I just wish they had them in serving sizes rather than “serve yourself” type setup, people get a little too excited around desserts. #JustSaying

Service, as always, was professional and friendly. I just wish some of the serving staff were more knowledgable of some of the dishes they were serving. The setup is simple, nothing over the top, but nothing plain either. It’s a very chill and casual space for iftar, my kind of chill to be honest. It’s so chill, even the famous Ramadan camels, Bashoosh and Sahara were just chilling in the warm breeze outside the hotel with their new baby girl, Samara. Yep, it’s a girl! Woohoo!

Ladies’ Night @ Trader Vic’s – A Snapchat Story

Trader Vic's - Hilton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato In case you didn’t know, every Wednesday night is Ladies’ Night at Trader Vics, Hilton Doha! Unlimited drinks and bites for two hours for 100QR! Even us hijabis and/or non drinkers can join in on the fun!🍹

You can read my review on Zomato and watch the full Snapchat story below!

 

Note: I’ve been to Trader Vic’s for Ladies’ night a few times, both as a guest and customer. My opinions on my blog and social media are strictly my own. Please contact if you’d like permission to share/repost this content.

W.I.S.S. – The Word “Spinster”

spinster [spin-ster] Disparaging and Offensive. a woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying.  Arabic: عانِس، عوانس

Being a 34 year old lady, I’m again reminded of the word “spinster”. I’m convinced that the word must’ve been phrased by a very bitter person back in medieval times (be it in any language). The fact that the word is almost only applied to ladies makes me hate the word even more. It’s sexist, hurtful, divisive and discriminatory on so many levels.

The first time I heard the word “spinster”, I was 19 years old. It was said to me by an older lady with limited education whom wanted me for her son so he can move to America. I didn’t pay much mind to her at the time. Maybe because I knew what her intentions were. Or because I was too young to understand that word at the time.

That word really didn’t hit me hard until a couple of years later when it was said to me by someone I once liked and respected. From then on, I heard that word more often than necessary. When I decided to go to graduate school, I was told I would never find a husband. When I decided to travel, I was told that I wasn’t making an effort to find a husband. Every time the subject of marriage came up, I was reminded by random people to stop being picky because I was becoming a spinster.

This all happened before I turned 30.

As much as I try not to let it bother me, it bothers me. It’s derogatory and very offensive, more so to those whom actually are looking for someone to share their lives with but haven’t. I’m not alone on this as per my conversations with people between the U.S., Egypt, Qatar and beyond. Whom decided what age a lady (or a man) should be married? Whom decided that if you don’t have children before a certain age, your prime has come to an end? Whom decided that men only want to marry a lady within a specific age group?

I have relatives in Egypt that have passed this unbeknowth marital age for one of many reasons. One cousin has dedicated his life to his work and found it difficult to find someone from the humble country town whom would share and support his passion. Another cousin in the same town and of the same age sided with her demanding parents of unrealistic expectations which has caused a hault in suitors coming through the door.

Even though the culture in Egypt asks that both parties’ families share in the financial costs, there’s this pattern of making it more difficult than necessary to get married. Anything outside of marriage is haram but the halal way has been made to be so difficult, it’s almost near impossible. And those whom wait too long to be able to go about it the halal way? They’re now spinsters.

In Qatar, I’ve met people whom remained single simply for financial reasons while others were divorced but still paying back some hefty marital related loans. Unlike in Egypt, men here are burdened with all the finances to get married and start a family. As the culture here is very tribal, there’s this “keeping up with the Jones” mentality. If one family did something, you had to do the same if not better. Even if you couldn’t afford it, you borrowed for it. I know at least two of my friends whom have been divorced in under 5 years of their marriage just over financial troubles. They got married like the Jones, but they couldn’t LIVE like them. And those that choose to wait, refusing to be a statisic? They’re now spinsters.

In the U.S., it’s a real mixed bag between the cultures but the mindset of spinsterhood is still there. People are in awe when a 40 year old celebrity gets married. Did you see the rukous over George Clooney “finally getting married”?

However, from my personal experiences within the Muslim and Arab community back home, some of this ideology exists. If a man marries a lady beyond the age of 30, it’s as if he performed a charitable act. If a lady marries a man beyond that age, it’s because he’s rich or she couldn’t get someone her age. It can’t ever be because two people loved each other, God forbid.

Sigh.

And let’s back track for a second here, is it just me or do those that barrage us with “get married already” comments the ones whom are completely unhappy in their marriage? Seriously, I have yet to be approached by a happily married person, aside from my mother and aunties, about my marital status. Maybe it’s because those happy in their marriages know what it takes to be in a happy relationship. It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just marry the first person that crosses your path.

Maybe it’s because those happy in their marriages are happy because they actually lived their lives, learned to care for themselves before they were ready to share it with someone else. Maybe the happier you are, the happier your relationship. If you happiness depends on someone else, you will in fact be miserable in that relationship. Sometimes, one is not destined to be married with 3 kids living in a house with a white picket fence by the age of 25.

I can’t image being married at 25. Hell, I can’t image being married at 34!

At 25, while many of my friends were ready to join the marriage club, I was taking care of my family while starting graduate school. I was no where near ready to be married let alone even date at the time. People go through different phases in their lives at different ages. There really is no structure or time frame for one of the most important commitments in one’s life.

Let’s be honest, when the time comes, it’ll come. People nagging us into something you aren’t ready for doesn’t help. Using the word “spinster” only makes it worse.

So ladies, when a miserable hater comes at you with, “when are you getting married already?”

Just tell them, “I’d rather be a happy spinster than a miserable wife.”

Tarrington Spinster
image c/o  grave-mistakes.blogspot.com