What 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 my advice for expats will help you. Also, 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 wishes she had brought less!
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.
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. Many of the things I use needed a prescription for such as Neosporin. Bring a couple of months supply of your prescriptions, so you don’t have to worry about that right away. You also may have to wait a bit for your health insurance to start. 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!)
- Tylenol – available but in blister packages of small quantity
- Advil – same as Tylenol
- Pepto Bismol
- Alka Seltzer
- 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.
- Limited birth control brands – over the counter, though!
- Heating pad – order one from the UK
- Secret deodorant – we have it, but it is double the price
- Diaper Genie refills
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
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
- 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
- Christmas decorations*
- Foam mattress toppers – I bought mine here at IKEA, but it costs a fortune. One person said they brought them one-by-one on trips home.
- School supplies
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 an 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 at the fabric souq. 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. There is now a public library at Education City which is quite large.
As you can see the list is long and there are 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.