How to Cope With Moving to Qatar
If you're planning on moving to Qatar or just moved here, you may feel excited, anxious and overwhelmed simultaneously. You're probably already dealing with administration issues on unfamiliar grounds, and the last thing you want is an additional challenge. However, if you don't want to feel stuck in the expat bubble, you'll need to learn how to positively adjust to your new life and get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Feeling settled takes time and when expatriates enter a new territory, they tend to stick to what is familiar and never fully transition from expat to compatriot. After all, partaking in local culture is probably the hardest part of living abroad and you may feel obliged to share your experiences exclusively with other expats. You may feel that no one will truly understand your ambivalence towards social customs, your hesitation to try local cuisine and the general nicks of moving to a completely different environment, as well as those who are on the same boat. We have compiled a list of useful tips to help you cope with moving here.
Paint Your Own Picture
In order to get the most out of your expat experience in Qatar, you will eventually need to break out of your protected little cocoon and try to immerse yourself in the local culture. It is very easy to come to Qatar with ill-advised impressions and stereotypes, that have accumulated over personal research and exposure to the media. You would be surprised to learn how many of the things you hear are false, and you will eventually come to paint your own picture of Qatar. The first major step is truly letting go of preliminary negative conceptions and only then will living in a foreign country becomes a truly life-altering experience.
The process of transitioning from living like an expat to a living more like a local undoubtedly takes time. Culture shock is part and parcel of living away from home, and you will experience different degrees of it depending on your personal upbringing and exposure to various societies. You will experience culture shock perhaps just by observing the dress code in Qatar, or by learning about the different values that people hold here that may not reconcile with your own. The trick is not to let it get the best of you. You will shortly realize that Qatar is incredibly diverse, and there are so many different cultures and backgrounds of people here all living harmoniously under one roof. You will constantly be exposed to different dress wear, values, customs, religions, foods and experiences. The worst thing you can do is to close yourself off, try to engage in your new environment as much as possible.
The Charm Wears Off
You need to understand that whilst drinking a traditional Karak in Souq Waqif or getting on a lateen-rigged Dhow in the gorgeous blue waters may sound romantic at first, eventually, these things that lured you will wear off and you're stuck with the reality of living here. Everything appears exciting at first and your desire to explore will eventually calm down, and the little things that you initially considered charming may start to bother you. You will remember how everything ran on schedule back home, how familiar you were with your surroundings, or how much more relaxed and friendly everyone seemed.
The reality is, however, the allurement of a place dies no matter where you go, and you will shortly be hit with the reality of your new life. You need to get comfortable with new things, and sometimes you will have to discover them on your own. Just make sure that before you come here, you have truly fathomed what it means to move abroad and that it is not a decision built upon a fantasy of some sort. As mentioned earlier, it doesn't mean that you should starting conceptualizing about what to expect, but rather to keep an open mind regardless of what you're confronted with.
Every Rose Has its Thorns
After the burst of initial excitement, differences in Qatar will get to you. It will take time for you to realize that Qatar is not like the UK or Spain or India or whatever beautiful part of the world you came from. Until you get to this point, you need to try to be respectful, patient, and humble. Whatever reason made you move to Qatar, it’s unlikely you would have moved here if you lacked an open outlook on life in the first place, but make sure to maintain this outlook and remember what made you come here.
It’s more likely than not that things will be done differently from where you're from, people will have different perspectives on life, and governments will not be run as you are normally accustomed. Your new life here may seem remarkably better, worse, or simply different from the one you're familiar with. Remember to accept these changes as a necessary part of moving abroad, and try not to be overly critical as it will only just add to the feeling of being frustrated. Try to accept that things happened for you the way they did for a good reason, and you will need to adapt your way of living around Qatar and not the other way around.
Join Online Expat Forums
When you move here, you’re going to be joining an exclusive community of expatriates, some of whom are on the same boat and others who have been around and seen it all. In most cases, you will find that many are quite happy to share their experiences and are willing to help you settle into your new life. Forums and communities such as Meet Up and Internations are fantastic starting places, as you will find many events tailored specifically to welcome new expats in Qatar or international cultural events and holidays that are not widespread here. You will be able to meet many who are willing to meet you and help make adjustment easier for you. These forums are often built upon personal interests and hobbies, so often times you will find it easy to find another expat with a similar profile as you. But also don't be afraid to try out new things with people who have different interests and hobbies because often times, what you don't know might surprise you.
Try Learning the Language
The language barrier is one of those obstacles that are especially hard to overcome when living in another country. You will find that Qatar is surprisingly multicultural and you will more than likely find someone who speaks your language wherever you go. Nevertheless, don’t make that make you comfortable because the more knowledge you acquire here the better. No one is expected to be fluent quickly but your language skills will improve promptly if you use your time here to learn more about the basics of the Arabic language. Over time, you will begin to pick up common expressions and colloquialisms. Maybe you will not utilize them properly right away but remember that you will be recognized as an expat by most locals, and many here are quite forgiving when they evident interest to try.
Needless to say, becoming fluent in the local language will help you to become familiar with your surroundings and it will elevate your senses and overall experience. There are plenty of centres available that offer Arabic courses to beginners like the TII Language Centre and Fanar. Even if you don't want to learn Arabic in a structured environment, don't be opposed to watching movies in Arabic with subtitles, or listening to music, or asking locals about certain expressions and writings. Eventually, it'll become second nature to you, and you will come to understand a lot more than you ever expected yourself to. Just remember, that when there is a will there is always a way!
Get to Know Your Host Culture
To really understand the culture of Qatar, you need to immerse yourself in it. Reading or imagining how things are often don't add up to the reality. There will always be a lot to discover about Qatar’s history, social customs, national holidays and festivities. Sometimes the best way to discover these things is through locals or non-expat friends. Throughout your time here, you might be invited to holiday dinners or cultural events. They may seem intimidating and you might be reluctant to go but remember that the only way to truly experience something is hands-on. Get to know how people celebrate here informally through weddings, dinners, work events, cultural holiday rituals etc.
Being hesitant is normal and you need to understand that you're not alone in feeling this way. Not understanding local customs and the fear of offending someone can cause you to feel embarrassed and intimidated. You will eventually learn how people behave in social situations from greetings to mannerisms, meal times, and etiquette. Most people in Qatar are forgiving, and as long as you don't display ignorance and show eagerness to understand and respect the local culture, then everyone will help and guide you. If you're unsure about some of the typical customs in Qatar, you can check online on pages like Expat Arrivals, which briefly guides you through the many do’s and donts of Qatari culture. Among the things that possibly require you to gain some knowledge and insight on are the drinking and nightlife culture, understanding personal space and friendly touching, as well as appropriate dress codes in different scenarios.
Seek Out Help When Needed
Sometimes things will arise that will definitely test your patience; from administration issues to problems at work or with your landlord. Unfortunately, it's not unheard of that people will try to take advantage of the fact that you don't understand local laws and policies. Sometimes its best to find a trusted source to help you make the best of your experience and ensure smooth and honest conclusions. Make sure you know the relevant rules and regulations of different circumstances that you are bound to deal with. For example, if your landlord tells you to pay a huge deposit up front for your new place and you find it sceptical, don't be afraid to ask. Likewise, if your employer tells you that you're only entitled to a certain salary
Always seek a second opinion from locals or people who have lived here long enough, especially when finances and legality are involved. Realize that this scenario is not unique to Qatar or something that is likely to happen, but rather an important caution to take regardless of where you are moving. As mentioned before, local expat groups, online forums, work colleagues can all be an excellent source of information and advice. If you still aren't sure, you could consider seeking professional help and while it may come with a hefty price tag, their advice could save you in the long run. Having a knowledgeable contact is very valuable especially if you ever find yourself in a problematic situation.
Find New Service Providers
You cant do everything on your own and an essential part of feeling at home when settling into a new country is knowing who to contact when you need something done. Whether it's fixing a burst pipe, booking a haircut or going to your yearly dental checkups, you need to seek and meet with different service providers that you may need on a regular basis or in case of emergencies.
You may also want to seek providers who speak your language, and this is quite easy to find in Qatar. Expat online forums are a great resource to get recommendations in Qatar, especially if you're looking for service providers that speak your native tongue. Our Qatar Living classified pages also have plenty of information on companies that provide cleaners, building maintenance, private and public healthcare practitioners and much more. You can also research the category of service providers you're seeking, and you will find plenty of reviews on the internet that will allow you to determine what is best for you, and as previously mentioned, don't be afraid to ask.
Expect the Unexpected & Enjoy the Experience
No matter how realistic you are about life in a new country, you need to expect the unexpected. During your time here, you will likely experience emotional extremes from loving your new environment and enjoying the novelty of it all to having random bursts of homesickness and frustration with not being able to reach a certain target. While the initial phases can be the hardest, you’re more than likely going to experience mixed feelings over the years.
You will find yourself in unexpected situations with outcomes that didn't meet your imagination. The enduring benefit is that during the transitional process of getting comfortable in Qatar, you will definitely experience personal growth as you discover how to adapt and thrive. To avoid expat burnout, understand that it is perfectly normal to run into a few hiccups and bumps along the way. Regardless of what happens, try your best to remain positive especially with things that you cannot control.
Even the most prepared people don't settle in immediately, because its hard to prepare for every eventuality and its impossible to fully understand the local culture without experiencing it firsthand during your upbringing. Everything gets easier over time. So focus on the good things and forget the rest. If you give Qatar a chance, you will settle in and be able to embrace all the elements which expat living brings to you.
If you have any useful tips that we haven't mentioned, please share them in the comments below!
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