Nailya: Scary Azeri
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Doha, etc.
I am originally from Baku, Azerbaijan, but have lived in the UK for the past 12 years. We moved to Doha in January, 2012.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started to blog about three years ago. It was mainly a culture clash observations blog to start with. I like to notice things that are different in my two cultures- the British and the Azerbaijani ones. Cultural differences can be funny, and a lot of them start right in my family. Now, Qatar is added into the mix.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
It is more of a question what was favorite of my readers. I think one of the most popular ones was the blog post about Eastern European women and why they never smile.
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?
No, I would not say that I experienced a big culture shock. In some ways, Qatar is similar to my home country. But it is, of course, very different. I expected it to be, so I enjoy my experience here so far. I miss fresh air and walks though. You have to drive everywhere in Doha. And driving in Doha is extremely stressful.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Doha? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Not really. I found it a lot more advanced in many ways than I expected, if it makes sense. There is maybe one thing- it is turning out a lot more expensive to live here than I thought it would be. Everything is, of course, imported, and things I took for granted in the UK are stupidly pricey here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My latest funny experience involved over-catering for my husband’s birthday party. I discussed this one dish recommended by a friend from back home to me, with the owner of the restaurant. It was called a haruf, and basically, was half a sheep on a bed of rice. When I asked the guy on the phone how many people this dish would feed, he replied 10. So I ordered two plates. When they arrived, I ended up with basically, a whole sheep in my kitchen. Two “plates” were two enormous metal trays, about 70cm in diameter, with a mountain of rice and- most delicious but still- half a sheep resting on each of them. I always thought my home country is famous for over-catering and wasting food when we threw dinner parties or at weddings. But clearly, Qataris beat us in that!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Doha?
Be prepared to drive defensively and buy a big car. I mean REALLY big. As big as you can afford. Remember, life in Doha is very expensive. Yes, petrol is really cheap. But everything else isn’t. From villa rentals and school fees to strawberries and dish-washing tablets…You need to know how much living here will cost you when you are negotiating your contract.
How is the expat community in Doha? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Expat community here is okay. I expected to be involved in a lot of British club events or things organized by the Brits, like I remembered it being back in Baku when I worked for BP…But I find that the expats are all mixed together here, and I barely even know any British people in Doha. Neither do I hang out with Azeris or Russians. My friends are from all over the world, but I quite enjoy that. Finding like-minded people is never too easy. But possible. You just have to be patient. The hardest part is not finding new friends. It is saying good-bye to them at some point.
How would you summarize your expat life in Doha in a single, catchy sentence?
“Yes, ma’am.” (That is what you hear most often-the service here is superb.)