Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Doha, etc.
I'm from West coast Scotland originally (where originally is a long time ago!) I'm a physicist turned engineer and a keen amateur musician and writer. I've worked in Broadcasting for the last forty years. I came to Doha from Dubai where I still have my own company. That was in 2005 and it was meant to be a three month contract...
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It was probably 2004. I was staying for a few months in Dubai Panorama Hotel, a thoroughly surreal establishment, especially the notorious and hilarious Jockey's Bar. I dubbed the hotel the Paranormal and myself Paraglider and started recording some of the crazier moments in the blog Helga's Chickens. With a couple of name changes along the way, it's still going strong as Paraplexed.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours? Please add the URL link as well.
I like preserving memories. Doha Ramada Library Bar featured a huge mural that told the story of the development of written language and its role as the archive and engine of civilisation. In true Doha style, the mural was destroyed in a refurbishment that turned the Library into just another generic and anodyne 4-star lounge. Fortunately, not before I'd managed to preserve it for posterity, here.
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?
Before Doha, I'd spent three years in Dubai, so the move was a bit like stepping back in time, into a world of bureaucracy and arbitrary restrictions. Why, for example, is it necessary to show your original passport or Qatari ID every time you fancy a beer? On the positive side, the Qatari locals tend to be pleasant and friendly. As a lifelong walker (I hate cars for what they do to people and places) I've found that Doha is far safer in terms of personal crime than most Western cities. People here live in peace with their neighbours.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Doha? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
As a general rule, I don't bother preparing for major moves. I simply travel as light, and with as few expectations, as possible. That way, there are fewer surprises and disappointments.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
There was the episode of the twelve storey apartment block that was built, fitted out, furnished, advertised, exhibited through show apartments, withdrawn from sale, unfurnished, unfitted and demolished, all within the space of three years. Apparently, the planners hadn't spotted that the whole of Doha city centre was already earmarked for urban clearance and renewal. But you'll find better stories on the blog itself.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Doha?
- Don't start work without a valid contract or you risk not getting paid.
- Don't expect anything to happen quickly if officialdom is involved.
- Get a decent hat and sunglasses and get out and walk!
How is the expat community in Doha? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Doha is still young and growing, so most jobs are in energy and construction. As a result the expat community (which outnumbers the local community by about six to one) is very male-skewed. This can be a bit trying, at times. Things are improving though, as the city matures and opportunities start to diversify.
How would you summarize your expat life in Doha in a single, catchy sentence?
It must be OK, as I've signed up for my seventh year of a three month contract!