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Expat, Qatar, Travel

I Quit My Job!

April 10, 2017

I quit my jobHow do you know when it is time to leave your expat job? Expats around the world ask this over and over and most expats will tell you that you will just know. And it’s true. I knew a little while back it was time to leave Qatar and so about two weeks ago, I quit my job. At the end of June, I will leave Qatar.

Why

This was not an easy decision for me to make. The weekend before I gave noticed, I called my parents in a panic saying “This is a dumb decision, right?!” They assured me it wasn’t. My parents have been extremely supportive of this decision, as they have been with most of the decision I have made in my life. I know that if I don’t do it now, I may never get up the nerve to do this.

There isn’t a specific reason for leaving, it was definitely a feeling of it was time to go. I have had the feeling before now several times and the feeling just wasn’t going away. Qatar has been a great place to live for almost four years. My job is great and so are my coworkers. Trust me this decision would have been much easier if I hated my job or my coworkers were terrible. I like them so much, that I had huge anxiety about telling them. I have been at this job longer than any job I have ever had and that is saying a lot for me.

I will miss Qatar and everyone I have gotten to know. One of the hardest things is knowing that I may never see some of these people again.

What’s Next

You may be wondering where my next job is or if I am moving home. But I will tell you there is no next job or repatriation for me. In my typical, not do anything normal way, I have decided to travel for a while. Yes, I am going to be one of those crazy people who quits their job to travel!

This isn’t my first quit my job without another job venture and everything ended up fine with those too. I have an idea of what I want to do for work, but it may not work out or something else may come along. I want to give the blog more focus and see what if I can make it pay some bills. It may never be my full-time job, but I will never know if I don’t give this crazy thing a chance.

So, Where To

That is the next question everyone has asked after hearing my plans. Nailing down a plan for long-term travel is hard and I want to not have a plan, but the planner in me is having a hard time with that!

First, I will go home for a month because I have to dump all my stuff somewhere. Thanks, Mom and Dad, again! Then I head to London for a month. It has been over 20 years since I have been there and I am dying to go back. As you can see, I am planning on spending longer stretches of time in places. There are several reasons for this. One is that it is cheaper to stay somewhere long term than it is to stay somewhere short term. The other is that I really want to get to know the place and see it more as a local would.

There are other things planned, but I want to keep my plans to myself for the moment. Don’t worry, I will tell you eventually! You will just have to keep reading to find out what those plans are.

 

 

 

Expat, Qatar, Travel

Relocating to Qatar – What to Pack

January 23, 2017

Relocating to Qatar - What to PackWhat everyone brings when moving abroad is going to differ from person to person and family to family. Many factors come into play when deciding what to bring. Will you be provided furnished housing? Does that include household goods such as sheets and towels? How much furniture will be included? Here is a link to what my first apartment looked like. When I relocated to Qatar, I failed to ask most of the questions and more. Most of these things are small items as most furniture items are available in Qatar. While I had done some research, I wish there had been more information on what was available in Doha. (The photo above is my stash pre-Christmas stock up.)

This post may not be helpful for all my readers, but I hope that you find it interesting to get an insight into what moving abroad entails and if you are thinking about it, that this will help you ask the right questions wherever you are going. I will point out that all things listed here are American focused since I am American. The list would be huge if I tried to include all nationalities. I asked lots of Qatar Expats for their opinions, and this is a collection of their responses. One person only said she wish she had brought less!

Clothing/Shoes

Seems a bit ridiculous as Qatar has clothing stores! However, I have struggled with this one more than I thought I would. This is due to a lack of familiar options, lack of sizing and the prices.

– Unusual sizes – I am petite, and while there are petite sizes, they are not a lot of petite options. Almost all the pants I have bought here have had to be altered. Also, there are few plus size options, and a friend told me the clothes were not pretty.

– Familiar brands – We do have stores like Gap and a Banana Republic, but the selection is less than half of what you would find in the U.S. There is no Macy’s or Dillards here. However, we did get an Old Navy last year! This also applies to underwear. Only once have I bought underwear here and I didn’t like it.

– Shoes – There are familiar brands of shoes, but they tend to cater to local tastes. I have a hard time finding flats and shoes that aren’t covered in bling. Larger women sizes are also difficult to find.

– Prices – Clothes and shoes are more expensive here than in the U.S. There are also fewer sales because they are heavily regulated. This applies to children’s clothes and shoes as well.

Health/Medical

The orientation material I was given for my job gave me some sense that medicine availability would be different, but I didn’t expect it would apply to over the counter medication. Bring a couple of months supply of your prescriptions, so you don’t have to worry about that right away.  Since the list is long, I will just give you the list of what is unavailable or hard to find. (This photo is what I bought at Christmas, not including clothes!)

Relocating to Qatar - What to Pack

  • Tylenol – available but in blister packages of small quantity
  • Advil – same as Tylenol
  • Excedrin
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Neosporin
  • Cortisone
  • NyQuil
  • Sudafed
  • Contact Solution – usually available, but frequently runs out, and brands are different
  • Ear/Eye Drops
  • After bite
  • Sleep medication (have only seen Panadol PM)
  • Tampons – rarely find them and not the brands we have in the U.S.
  • Monistat
  • Limited birth control brands – over the counter, though!
  • Benedryl
  • Mucinex
  • Heating pad – order one from the UK
  • Secret deodorant – we have it, but it double the price
  • Diaper Genie refills

Beauty

Fortunately, this not as much as an issue. However, some brands and things are hard to find.

  • Origins brand
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Non-drug store brands of shampoo and conditioner
  • Quality hair spray
  • Hair color
  • Travel sized toiletries
  • We have Sephora, but the product selection is limited

Food/Household Items

Items marked with an * are available here but are much more costly or are only sold in small sizes. Also be aware that sometimes you find an item, and it disappears for a while, or it never returns.

  • Tortillas – made without lard here and taste a bit like chemicals
  • Vanilla extract – not made with alcohol here
  • Arm and Hammer baking soda*
  • Chocolate chips
  • Crystal Light
  • French’s Fried Onions
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • White gravy mix
  • Pecans*
  • Hidden Valley Ranch
  • Decaf black tea bags
  • Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal
  • Chili Powder – what you see here is not what we are used to
  • Kitchen tools you prefer – I brought measuring cups since Qatar is on the metric system.
  • Dryer sheets*
  • Magic Erasers
  • Swiffers
  • Christmas decorations*
  • Foam mattress toppers – I bought mine here at IKEA, but it costs a fortuned. One person said they brought them one-by-one on trips home.
  • School supplies

Entertainment/Crafts

Finding DVDs that work here or finding a DVD player that works here is difficult. Bring what you really want to watch and us the DVD reader in your laptop to connect it to your TV. Bring the connector as well as the one I bought here cost and arm and a leg! Sign up for Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. If you have kids, this is especially important as many of the kid’s tv shows are in Arabic.

If you are a crafter, you will find limited supplies here. The quality is also not great. Although, you can find fabric here. Be prepared to order what you need or bring a healthy supply. One person said you needed to bring a whole Michael’s with you and that is not an understatement. Art supplies are also limited and are really meant for the hobbyist and not serious the artist.

Books are another thing we are lacking. There are not many bookstores and the selection is limited. Public libraries are non-existent.

As you can see the list is long and there is probably tons of things I have forgotten. A friend of mine here also wished she had brought 3-4 months of all of these things, so she didn’t spend so much time, in the beginning looking for them. If you have space, I would recommend it. Also, I cannot stress enough to ask for specifics on what is being provided to you. I arrived to find two of the smallest towels on earth in my apartment!

Have you relocated to Qatar? What do you suggest bringing? Share with us in the comments.

Expat, Qatar

Expat Life, The Reality

May 16, 2016

Expat Life, The RealityThis week I heard two things that prompted me to write this post. Two of my blogging friends, Two Fat Expats, here in Doha were talking about an article on a popular Australian website; that will remain nameless. The article was talking about that expats have this amazing life and we get everything done for us by our companies and that we are stars in the foreign countries we live in. While there is some truth to the statement, most of it is far from the truth. Another thing I heard this week was that someone asked my Mom if I actually worked! I was slightly embarrassed by this question, and I have no idea of the tone the question was asked in, so I can’t judge. I can see why this person asked this because if you look at my personal Facebook account or the one for my blog, I am usually posting pictures from vacation or a work trip. It can seem very glamorous, but I am going to talk abou the reality of expat life. Some other Qatar blogger friends also said that they would like to see more of my personal life on the blog. This is an attempt to show you what expat life in Qatar is actually like for me. Not sure how much I will do, but here we go!

Work!

Yes, I work! This makes me laugh a little because I wouldn’t be able to be here otherwise. Qatar has strict resident requirements that you have to meet to be here. For most, this means working. Some are here under the sponsorship of someone who is working. Qatar or my employer, depending on how you look at it, controls my leaving the country. We all have to have exit permits to leave. I have a yearly exit permit, but some people have to ask for it every time. This can make it difficult to go as you have to ask for the exit permit a few days before you go and hope that your employer agrees for your already paid for trip. The exit permit is supposed to be going to a different system, but I am not sure when or if it will happen.

But you are always traveling!

It may seem that way, but I am really not. Because I work at a university, I have more vacation that most Americans do. I get the equivalent of about a calendar month off a year. I manage to combine those with holidays and university closings to travel several times a year and go home for Christmas. Some trips are also working trips. Like last month’s trip to Slovenia. I even mentioned that in my post. Research is a part of my job requirement and so is presenting my research. Keep in mind that I space out blog posts about trip specifically because of this reason of not traveling all the time.

Okay, but that’s expensive!

This is the tricky part to talk about. Yes, I do make more money here than I did at home and we are given a travel allowance that is supposed to be used to go home once a year. Because I am single, I am able to use that money to go home and to travel. I still look for airfare sales and good hotel deals, though. I am not living it up at the Four Seasons when I travel! The hotel I stayed in for my last night in Slovenia, which was on my dime, was $34 a night!

That all sounds amazing!

There is a downside that many expats don’t talk about because people are always saying how great our lives are. It is also because we don’t want to be seen as complainers since we should have nothing to complain about. So here are a few things that can make living in Qatar difficult for me. I say me because these may not annoy everyone. Keep in mind these are all minor things and not reasons to leave. We all have issues with places we live.

Not picking out my own furniture – I live in furnished accommodation, which sounds great and to some degree it is. The apartment is large and has four toilets! However, I wasn’t able to pick the furniture, mattress included and it was used.  My mattress was so bad; it gave me shoulder bursitis. Also, everyone’s furniture is the same in the whole building!

Gas stations are few and far between – And you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. Since the stations are so far apart, there are lines at almost every station and the one near my house blocks my way to work. Recently it has gotten so bad; I started going a different way. This also takes me past a gas station but seems to be less crazy than the other one.

No self-car washing – In what I assume is an effort to control water waste; there are no self-service car washes. Again lots of lines ensue! I have waited over two hours to get my car washed and I could have done it in 30 minutes.

Produce doesn’t last – Eat the berries before you leave the store! Okay so maybe within a day or two. It took them forever to get here and in the summer that sat in the sun for a while before they made it to the store. You do not want to eat moldy berries, trust me!

No Benedryl or Alka Seltzer – Medication is heavily regulated so for some reason we don’t have these at all! And pharmacies are not located inside grocery stores, so there is another trip to you have to make. Most grocery stores are in malls! I hated grocery shopping and malls before I got here, so even more UGH!

No left turns – Okay not no left turns, but very few. This means it takes longer than it should to get most places and lots of u-turns. Like when I go to the pharmacy!

No petite sized clothes – This perplexes me to no end! Many Qatari women are short and most everyone else is Asian, so not tall either and yet, we have no petites anywhere! Last night, I went on a long mission to a tailor to get pants hemmed and ended when I discovered the building had been torn down at some point.

Last, but not least and probably #1, No Street Signs – Well none that anyone actually uses! Lots of streets have names, but none of us has addresses! When I tell people where I live, I tell them by the closest hotel and mall! We do not get mail delivery in the traditional sense either. I really wanted to title this post, Where Streets Have No Name! Anyone who gets that song reference and has made it far into this long post gets a prize from Qatar!

I could go on, but then I would be complaining! There are definitely things about my life here that are easier as well. I have a housekeeper that comes every two weeks to clean the title floors, which I hate doing, but so do many of my friends and family back home. As a woman, you are sometimes allowed to go first in line at places and many salons and areas of restaurants are women only. Qatar is incredibly safe and I feel comfortable going out alone at any time of the day or night. Best of all, Rome is a 6-hour flight away!

Is there anything about my expat life you want to know about, but are afraid to ask! Go ahead, I don’t bite. Ask me anything you like in the comments.

 

Expat, Qatar, Travel

Souq Waqif in Qatar

September 16, 2015

Souq Waqif Qatar

You can almost step back in Qatar time by visiting Souq Waqif. Souq in Arabic means market. Waqif means to stop or to stand so it can be translated to the Standing Market. (I was so proud when I heard my tour guide in Jordan tell the driver Waqif, waqif and I knew what he was saying without even thinking about it.) Over the years, Souq Waqif fell into disrepair, and much of it was falling down. Then in 2006, the then Qatar Emir, and his wife set about to restore Souq Waqif. Realizing that the past is important, they opted to keep the traditional feel of the old souq and the current buildings are made in the traditional way with mud and wood. If you were visiting from the past, you would only notice that the souq is no longer on the waterfront due to the land reclamation and that cars and camels no longer go down the main street. The first hotel in Qatar is in Souq Waqif and is still there today.

Souq Waqif

In Souq Waqif, you can buy almost anything you could possibly want. There are luxury goods, such as hand-punched metal lamps from Egypt, and there are everyday items, such as kitchen supplies. You could cloth your entire family in the ready-made clothes or buy fabric to make your own. I think many Qataris do their grocery shopping there as you can buy spices and other foodstuffs in Souq Waqif. There is a bakery that sells fresh Arabic bread made in the souq for 1 riyal for five pieces. 1 riyal is about $0.27.

Souq Waqif Qatar

Not only all this, but you can eat almost any cuisine you desire. They restaurant selection is amazing, and new ones are always being added. The night I was there, I had Iranian food. My friend and I couldn’t decide between that and the Syrian place. There is also Egyptian, Italian, Thai, Qatari, Belgian, Lebanese, Moroccan and so many coffee shops you could stay caffeinated forever! Many of these places are open 24 hours a day, so you will never go hungry in Qatar.

Souq Waqif Qatar

Animals are also available for sale in the souq. Unfortunately, most of the animals sold as pets are not well treated. People in Qatar have tried to get a better situation for the pets in the souq with no success. As a result, I refuse to visit that part of Souq Waqif. There are some animals who get special treatment in Qatar including some that get air conditioning! Falconry in Qatar is huge and a still practiced sport. Falcons, falconry supplies and even a Falcon hospital are all on offer in Souq Waqif. The Falcons are the ones getting the air conditioning, by the way. There are also horses and camels in the souq, but I am not sure if they are for sale or even why they are there.

Souq Waqif Qatar

Souq Waqif

On weekend nights in Qatar, which is Thursday night through Saturday, Souq Waqif is a popular place for Qataris and expats. During holiday time, festivals and parades happen down the main street. My favorite thing to do at Souq Waqif, during the cooler months, is to get a table outside one of the many restaurants and just watch people go by. Since Qatar is a tourist destination for other Gulf countries, I enjoy seeing the other nationalities in their national dress and try to guess where they are from.

Souq Waqif Qatar

Souq Waqif Qatar

Souq Waqif Qatar

Things you should know before you go. There is underground parking available.  It is paid parking, but it is very cheap and much easier to use than circling the souq tons to find free parking. The souq is open all the time, but not everything is open all the time. As I mentioned earlier, many of the restaurants are open 24 hours a day. However, most of the vendors will only open in the afternoon around 4 pm and on weeknights close around 10 and on weekends they might stay open later. Very few things will be open during the day or in the morning, but if you want to catch the souq with no one in it then, go early and avoid the heat and crowds. Because this is a place Qataris frequent, you should be appropriately dressed, meaning shoulders and knees covered. Also, do not take close up pictures of locals without their permission first, particularly women.

Have you been to Souq Waqif? What is your favorite place there?

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