Victoria is a British expat who moved to Qatar with her husband when he got a job in the aviation sector in Doha. They have been in Qatar for over three years now, and despite missing the green of the UK, she enjoys the Qatar sunshine and the child-friendly nature of Doha. Victoria is a freelance journalist and writer.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: London, UK
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Doha, Qatar
Q: How long have you lived here?
A: Over three years. I arrived in March 2009.
Q: Did you move to Doha with a spouse/children?
A: I moved with my husband, who came out to fly for Qatar Airways. We didn’t have any children at that point.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: We moved because my husband’s previous airline went bust. The aviation industry in Europe was a mess, and Qatar Airways was expanding rapidly, and it was a great opportunity for my husband to fly long-haul routes on brand new planes.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Doha, how’s the quality of life?
A: I love that it’s child friendly, that the sun shines almost every day, and that it’s a constantly changing, rapidly expanding city – from a journalist’s perspective, there’s so much to get excited about!
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The heat of the summer months is stifling. This year we’ve enrolled our two-year-old in summer camp, so he can work off some of his energy playing with other kids, and not get frustrated about being shut inside with Mum all day! It’s very hard to do anything but stay inside in air-con in June, July and August. Like most Brits, I miss the green of home the most. When I go back to the UK, it really dazzles me. I grew up in rural Worcestershire and the view from my childhood bedroom is a lake, common land, grazing sheep and the Malvern Hills. I really miss that.
Q: Is Doha safe?
A: Doha is the safest place I’ve ever lived, including the Worcestershire countryside! There’s very little crime. The roads aren’t safe at all, though – the roads are at their best crazy and at their worst extremely frightening. The government is trying to improve things, but it’s a long process to try to change peoples’ behaviour.
About living in Qatar
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Doha as an expat?
A: Opinion is divided, but there’s a cluster of compounds around Villagio, one of the biggest shopping centres, that are particularly popular as they have easy access not only to the mall but also to the big park, Aspire Park, which is just behind it. It’s also a good place for many of Doha’s schools. Other people adore The Pearl, which is a man-made island with lots of luxurious apartments and villas on it. It has a “Mediterranean” feel, and we love it. We’d definitely live there if we didn’t have kids.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Doha?
A: We have a bigger house here than we could ever afford at home. Having said that, gardens are generally small or non-existent, and electrical fittings and plumbing can be a little, shall we say, experimental...
Q: What’s the cost of living in Qatar compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: High. An average rental for a villa would be around 13,000 QAR a month, although most companies give expats a housing allowance to cover most if not all of that cost.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: All the locals I’ve met have been lovely, but the trouble is meeting them; we all mix in our own “bubbles” here really.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: There’s an enormous expat community here, so you have no trouble meeting people, but as with anywhere, it takes time for proper friendships to develop. The added difficulty to that is that people are always leaving – a fact of life in the expat world. You get to know someone and then they’re gone! It’s hard every time.
About working in Qatar
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Qatar?
A: No, I got a visa automatically when my husband got his residents’ permit.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Doha, is there plenty of work?
A: Qatar is a boom town. It’s growing at an incredible rate, and there’s really as much work here as you can handle!
Q: How does the work culture in Qatar differ from home?
A: The weekends are different – they begin on a Friday – and the hours are different – they begin earlier and finish earlier. Also, some people work six-day weeks. There are no unions (although that may change) and every employee must have a “sponsor” who gives them permission to leave the country for holidays, etc.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: No, we did it all ourselves – not the easiest thing to do!
Family and children in Qatar
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: I was the “trailing spouse” in our partnership, and I must admit I found it hard to adjust to not working at the beginning. I’d had a full-time job at the BBC in London for years and suddenly I wasn’t having to get up every morning for a shift, and I didn’t like it as much as I’d thought I would!
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: My son was born in Qatar, so doesn’t know any different. Having said that, kids seem to settle in pretty easily here, although teenagers sometimes find it tricky.
Q: What are the schools in Qatar like, any particular suggestions?
A: Schools here are generally of a high standard. The most popular Western expat ones are Doha College, the American School, Park House, Doha British School, Doha English Speaking School (DESS), Compass, Sherborne and ACS.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Qatar?
A: Healthcare is pretty good here. There’s a state healthcare system, Hamad, which is excellent once you get your head around how it works. It’s heavily subsidised and most care is free. Additionally, most expats are given private health insurance by their employers, and there are several private hospitals and lots of private primary care centres to choose from. And I chose to give birth here, so that tells you about my confidence in the healthcare in Qatar!
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: My father-in-law, himself a serial expat, gave me some good advice. He told me not to even think about whether I liked my new adopted home for at least the first three months. It was good advice. Three months in, I’d got over my initial culture shock and felt so much better. Never make rash decisions too early on.
~ Interviewed May 2012