Now that I’ve handed in my resignation, here are what I’ve loved or maybe just liked about living in the Middle East in general and Qatar in particular.
1. Cultural Diversity
I sat eating sushi the other night with an American lawyer, a Syrian couple, a Canadian teacher and Nancy from Lebanon. Qatar may be limited in many ways but the cultural diversity in the country does lend it an interesting edge. This is especially reflected in food where restaurants of every cuisine can be found. My personal favourite is KFC. No, no I mean either the Pakistani or the Korean restaurant. With all the on-going strife I’ve worked with 10s of nationalities. There are 7 alone in that picture above. And you know what, they are mostly like me and you.
2.There is no crime, well almost
Well yes apart from the murder of an English teacher and the odd other murder, hushed up rapidly by the media, there is very little. Ask why Qatar has only executed one person in 10 years and the answer is they send them to Saudi Arabia to do it. That’s media management for you. But leave your laptop in the car and no one will smash the window to grab it.
3. Time to study
What I’ve noticed amongst colleagues is the amount of study that goes on. The Gulf is a stop-gap for many. An opportunity to gather cash and spend your free time studying for higher education. While I read only a little last year, I am back on it now and also my Japanese and Spanish study. This is linked to the lack of social life. And is time good for a restless mind?
4. Cheap taxis everywhere
Taxis are cheap here. I don’t think I have spent more than 6 pounds getting around. They are also everywhere. However the flip side is they can be incredibly annoying. There are many familiar tricks but it gets demoralising after a while.
As stated in the sporting blog, Qatar subsidising every sporting event. The Qatar Super League is rumoured to lose $100m pounds a month as it pays out for players and facilities and yet has almost no audience. That means events are very cheap to come by, essentially free.
6. No real hassle
I’ve had no administrative problems here. My apartment is provided, hassles such as the aircon dripping were dealt with quickly. I get driven to work. I can walk to the office. Of course what this means is someone else deals with it.
7. Easy to get to immigrant countries
Qatar isn’t quite as well-connected as Dubai but it remains very cheap to get to migrant countries. Flights to Nepal or Sri Lanka were less than 170pounds return. Bargain!
8. Salary/no rent/no tax
That’s right and that of course is the main reason people come to Qatar. You save as much as you earn.
9. The locals
Qataris themselves, especially the adults are very nice and hospitable. They are generous and kind and willing to help. We do live parallel lives, rarely interacting but when you do meet them, they tend to be a touch wary but soon warm up. However formal generosity and friendship are very different things in my opinion. This is only true if they are not in a Land Cruiser.
11. The Rules Don’t Matter
Visit the Damien Hirst exhibit and see the signs saying No Photos? No problem. Buy cheap tickets for the tennis and walk into the expensive seats? No problem. Need to take a shortcut down a one-way street? No problem. Need some medicine without a prescription? No problem.
12. Opening times
Due to the weather and the times of prayer everything is open in the morning and until 10pm in the evening. Its only the afternoon that’s the issue.
It’s nice in the morning to throw on some shorts and a t-shirt and wander to the shop. It becomes such a habit that a cold wind coming from the Persian Gulf is a genuine shock to the system. The weather is often cited as a reason to live in the Gulf but to be honest, 4/5 months of the year it is unbearably hot. The rest of the time it varies between warm and hot. Just as long as you can deal with the panda eyes.