Letter from Qatar
MARKS and Spencer at Christmas, distinctive seasons and the smell of freshly cut grass are just a few of the things Rachel Slaven from Whitley Bay misses about the North-East, but the boozy expat brunch in Doha, Qatar, almost make up for it.
What prompted you to move abroad?
We had just purchased a new house, had got my four-year-old into a good school and had no intention of moving. My husband came home from work one day, said he had been asked by work if he would be interested in moving to Doha for a couple of years. I laughed and said “I hope you told them no”, he said “Yes, but they will pay for us all to go out for a week and have a look”, so I laughed again and said “As long as you make it plain to them that we have no intention of living there so I do not feel guilty about the free holiday!”
We came, liked it more than I expected to, but the deal breaker was that it meant we could afford for me to take some time off work and enjoy being a full time mum to our little girl. As a shift worker at the airport, in immigration, I missed out on a lot of family stuff and thought that a move could benefit us as a family.
When did you leave and how long have you been there?
We arrived in 2008, despite the fact that I had not intended to work, within 3 weeks I was offered a job at The British Embassy and was working there. After a while we decided to try for another baby and Olivia arrived in 2010, born in Qatar. Within a few weeks we went home as I wanted to bring the baby and Amelia up in the UK, however, after a year, we ping pronged back to dusty Doha, as many do, and have been back three-and-a-half years now.
How easily did you make friends/find work?
If you have children, it is actually quite hard to work as the school hours are quite restrictive. Schools start around 7.30am and finish around 1:30pm. Unless you have a full time nanny, it is really difficult, especially if the children are ill. Work, however, can be found relatively easily but friends sometimes are harder to find as it is a very transient place.
The first time I was here I was very homesick and sometimes Family reasons make it very hard to be away, however, second time around, perhaps because I knew what I was getting in to it is much easier, however, Doha is changing at such a pace that it keeps things interesting.
What have you achieved that you wouldn’t have done back home?
I suppose you could say that had we not been living in Doha, financially I could not be spending so much time with my children and travelling to lovely interesting places as Doha is an excellent travel hub. Also I suppose Olivia is the biggest thing we have achieved as had we been living in the UK, financially and time wise we may not have been able to have another child, so on that score Doha has given us our second lovely little girl.
What have you learnt about yourself?
That working is easier than being a full time mum! Also that perhaps I am a lot more sensitive and insecure than I thought I was, and certainly a lot less confident. In the UK, I have many friends from different parts of my life and they are very supportive and reliable. In Doha, you can make friends but sometimes it is hard to feel that you fully fit in and are accepted, ‘warts and all’. You have to force yourself to attend ladies’ groups, mums’ groups etc and put yourself in positions you are perhaps not completely comfortable with in order to meet friends.
Does the English accent get you far?
Not so much in the Middle East as the English Accent is predominant, together with, Scottish etc. Doha is very much an expat society so the accent neither helps nor hinders.
What do you miss about home (excluding family and friends)?
St Mary’s lighthouse, seasons and the smell of cut grass, plus the Marks and Spencer food hall, especially at Christmas!
Drivers who adhere to the rules of the road, i.e. stay in the correct lane and use signals correctly which are sparse. High class supermarkets where you can get readymade good quality tasty meals ready to plonk in the oven! The NHS, and UK school times. Oops that’s four!
What three good things would you export from where you are to make the North-East a better place?
The price of petrol being the same in the UK as it is here, bet that would make a lot of our lives a lot better! The financial packages and sorry to say it but the Expat boozy all-you-can-eat-and-drink-brunch is pretty good fun!
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