Rajka Milanovic M.D. is an American Board Certified Family Physician with over 14 years of clinical experience. She also runs a blog, Expat Doctor Mom.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Cleveland, Ohio
Q: Where are you living now?
Q: How long you have you lived in Qatar?
A: 5 of the past 6 years
Q: Did you move to Qatar with a spouse/children?
A: When I first came to Doha it was with my 13-month-old son and my husband. Since then we have added another little one, a daughter!
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: My husband’s interest in doing at least one more expat posting along with a great opportunity for him. I worked for 2 of the 4½ years as well. We both arrived with jobs.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Doha, how’s the quality of life?
A: I like how social the expat environment is. With the hired help, it allows us to spend more time with our children.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The biggest negative is how hot it gets. It is too hot to be outside between April and October. This along with the lack of outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking. I would love to take my kids out for a bike ride on a trail.
Q: Is Doha safe?
A: The only danger is the driving. This is not to be minimised. Qatar had the highest rate of death by motor vehicle accident per capita several years back. The numbers have improved but disrespect for fellow drivers has gotten worse. I have never seen drivers do such deliberately dangerous things in my life.
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Doha as an expat?
A: Now we are in the Al Waab area which I like real well. West Bay is extremely nice but it is too far from many things for my liking.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Doha?
A:This depends on your expat package. We were able to get quite nice accommodation. Outdoor space is lacking but this is common throughout the city.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Qatar compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living in Doha (in regard to rent) is astronomically high! Thankfully housing is included. I also find the groceries quite expensive and the quality of produce poor as compared to the USA.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: It was difficult in the beginning for me to socialise with the locals as many of my colleagues were male and it was not really appropriate to socialise with them outside of work. However, the few locals we have met and socialise with have been a nice addition to our circle of friends.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Doha?
A: Initially no (first 6 months) as I went straight to work, worked with men that I couldn’t socialise with and didn’t meet other moms initially as my son was not in school. After those six months, I changed jobs and was able to do more activities by day. As the years have gone by, things are even easier in regard to making friends: more expats, more social events and more social groups.
About working in Doha
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Doha, is there plenty of work?
A: Doha is booming while unfortunately most of the rest of the world has suffered from the economic downturn in economy. However, finding a job as a “trailing spouse” after you arrive can be very difficult. It is about who you know most times.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I think things here have been one way for so long that change is difficult to implement.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: We only moved 11 boxes, mostly of children’s items. My husband’s company arranged the boxes to be moved.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: No, he had lived in Qatar before
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: My son did as he was only 13 months old.
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: At first, I was not impressed at all. I felt that many of the schools were sought after or thought of highly simply because there was a demand. We have been pleased with the American School: good environment. Despite really liking ASD, I think private schools in the USA are far superior.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: In 2005, I thought the quality of healthcare provided was a far cry from Western standards. This has improved. Still, in the case of a very complex medical problem, I would seek care back in the USA.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Join groups of interest on arrival. For example if you are a mum, Doha Mums, or if you are from a particular nationality, there are social clubs associated with those nationalities. Or if you are a professional (whether you are working in Qatar or not), The Qatar Professional Women’s network has been a saving grace.
~interviewed March 2011