InterNations Featured Blog
Donna: Letters from Doha
Weather-wise, you will probably be very hard pressed to find two countries more contrasting than Canada and Qatar. The latter, being one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, can still make sure its expats and residents can enjoy most every luxury imaginable – for example ice hockey in the middle of the desert. Letters from Doha is a blog about a Canadian mother and her and her family’s new life abroad in Qatar.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Doha, etc.
My name is Donna Seeley Lemoing. I am Canadian, and along with my family, am on my first expat assignment. My husband and I moved with our three boys to Doha in August 2010.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
For the first couple of weeks after moving to Doha, I was sending emails to a fairly large distribution list of family and friends, keeping them up-to-date on all of our new adventures (which usually included “How We Buy Groceries in Doha” and “Life on the Compound” updates). This got tiresome after awhile (for me as well as them!), and so I started a blog to keep everyone back home informed about our goings-on. Over time, I hope that my blog has evolved into something that is interesting to a more general audience, especially those new and old to Doha.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
You bet! My favorite three are:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Doha differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The most striking difference to me on moving to Doha is climate. Coming from Canada, we’re used to having actual seasons, and snow! What a treat to just slip on sandals every time I go outside, and to never, ever, have to scrape ice off my windshield.
There are many other differences, too, of course. Moving to an Islamic country was a bit of a challenge, mainly because the mindset is so different. I’ve learned that the people here really appreciate it when expats make an effort to show respect for local culture and religion. During Ramadan, the Muslim Holy month of fasting, we make sure that we don’t eat or drink in public during daylight hours, out of respect for those around us who may be fasting. I try to be reasonably conservative in dress, in recognition of the modesty that this culture values.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Doha? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was lucky enough (!) to have my husband move to Doha a couple of months before me. We were fortunate that his company provided a furnished villa, and a large shipment by sea was also allowed. Since he was here for a couple of months before me, he got more of a feel for what was really necessary to bring with us. Still…in hindsight, I would have brought more of my good kitchen stuff, like my good pots and pans! Happily, we brought an artificial Christmas tree and decorations with us, so we didn’t have to go searching when the holidays rolled around. Many of the things that we needed to buy are surprisingly readily available here, so newcomers need not worry — if they’ve forgotten to bring it, they can probably find it here. About the only thing we stock up on when we go back to Canada is hockey equipment, since all of our kids and my husband still participate in their favorite sport here, ice hockey.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The prefix “Al” is in front of many names in Arabic, and is the definitive article “the”. One of the compounds in Doha is Al Rayyan. One night at dinner, my 11-year-old was describing what he learned in Science class that day. He said, “Aluminum is an element.” I said, “Alum is a compound.” My nine-year-old decided to contribute, and said, “Al Rayyan is a compound.”
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Doha?
- Be patient. Time operates on a different schedule here. If someone tells you that your car, your iPod, your you-name-it will be ready in two days, give them four. And then smile and say “Shukran” when they say “Sorry, madam, try again next week.” Eventually, things get sorted out.
- Drive defensively. If that fails, drive offensively. Many, many people here drive recklessly, and you may find yourself thinking that “if that happened in my country, they’d lose their license!” And with so many expats, from so many different countries, on the road, everyone has their own idea about proper etiquette and rules on the road. Try to breathe deeply and think happy thoughts.
- Revel in the experience. For the majority of us, the amount of time we’ll live here is set, or so we think. Many people who come for two years end up staying for six. And there are those who thought they’d be here for three, and had to leave after one. We are fortunate to have our kids in an exceptional school, the likes of which were not available to us at home. Doha is such a great jumping-off point for travel, too — get out there and see this part of the world while it’s close!
How is the expat community in Doha? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Doha is thriving. My advice would be to find the social or sports activity you or your kids liked doing before you moved here — almost everything you can think to do is available here. In that way, you’ll be able to meet many people with the same interests as you.
How would you summarize your expat life in Doha in a single, catchy sentence?
“Home is Where you Take it…” — Laura Amiss (lauraamiss.com)
I have a painting in my house by Laura Amiss, entitled “Home is Where You Take It…”. It is a painting of a girl pulling a wagon, with a house in the wagon. For me, this title and its sentiments sum up what life as an expat is, truly!
Failing that, my next best sentence, reflective of life as an expat specifically in Doha, would be: “Got beer, need ribs.”