So often when I come back home to the US the number one question people ask is “how do you like living over there?” My response is always, “I really like it!” Which I really do. Like any place on earth, there will be pros and cons, but for the most part, I’m pretty content with my life here in the Middle East. Reflecting on this has prompted me to write and share the things I like most about living in the Middle East. Now, there are many more things I could add to this list, but these are just a few I thought I would share with you. See my top seven reasons below. Enjoy!
Not Having to Pump my own Gas
Here in the Doha, we do not pump our own gas…at all…ever…never! We simply pull up to the gas station and wait in line. All gas stations have attendants that will pump the gas for you. Now, this can get tricky when I come home to the US, as sometimes I forget I’m not in the desert anymore. Needless to say, there have been several times that I’ve waited at the pump in the US for the little man to come and serve me…SMH.
Working with Other Expats
Living in the Middle East where 80 % of the population are expats means that the majority of people I work with are from different countries. I literally work with people from every continent. As I learn more and more about my fellow expats and their languages, there is really never a dull moment when we get together. Learning new slang words and differentiating an Australian accent from an Irish accent use to be so difficult when I first moved here. Now, I rarely have to ask someone “where are you from? Or to repeat themselves or ask what does that mean. I find that the more we spend time together, the more we begin to understand our unique languages and cultures. I often find myself using those terms when I’m communicating with some of my colleagues. For instance: Elevator=Lift, Vacation=Holiday, “is this your lot? = “are you paying for this?” and Cheers=goodbye. Yes, the British influence in my life here in Qatar is represented well, LOL!
Car Wash Attendants at the Mall
Ok, this maybe weird, but I believe the US should adopt this one. Here in Doha, you can go to just about any mall, park your car and get an attendant to wash your car for 15 Riyals ($4USD). Yep, just look for the man in the red and black jump suit who’s waving at you. Don’t be alarmed, he’s just letting you know there’s an empty parking spot on his row; and while your shopping he’ll wash your car as well. Yep, it’s just that easy.
There is a variety of food here in the Middle East and I must say my palate has grown. One of my favorite things to eat would be lamb chops and shawarma. To me, lamb chops here in the Middle East taste nothing like they do in the US. The Middle Eastern seasoning are so good and the lamb has a milder taste. Shawarma, I can best describe as shaved meat. It could be lamb, beef, or chicken. It literally rolls around on a rotisserie and they use a knife to shave it off. The meat is moist and I love it with Basmati rice. I’ve also grown to love Thai and Indian food as well. From Chicken Tikka, Butter Chicken, Mutton, Curries with naan or roti and Biriyani. I find that after almost 3 years of living here, I have craving for some of these dishes from time to time.
The Middle East is the perfect spot to travel from to get to just about anywhere and I have a personal goal to visit each continent before I leave Qatar (I have 3 more to go before I reach this goal). You can get to Europe, Asia and Africa within 6-8 hours from here. Therefore, these places are closer and way cheaper for me to visit than if I flew from the US. As expats, when we get bored, we travel, travel, travel. Which brings me to my next favorite thing…. the religious holidays.
Ramadan and Eid Holidays are perks as well. During Ramadan, we work 6 hours instead of 8. Although it can be challenging, having to go into to work late and having shorter work days for 30 days is a plus. We also have two Eid holidays in addition to Ramadan. Many expats take their vacations during this time as the Eid holidays guarantee us at least a week off with pay from work. Now, just to be clear, the purpose of these holidays is not solely to be off from work. Being off with pay is just an added benefit.
Experiencing a New Culture
The last thing I would like to mention is that living in Qatar allows me the opportunity to experience different cultures here and in other countries close by. I believe having the opportunity to experience a different way of life allows us to see the world from a different lens. I can’t express how important this is especially in today’s world to be able to relate and connect with one another. For instance, not everyone eats eggs and grits for breakfast. Yes, I know what you’re thinking southerners, but it’s true. Some people have never even heard of grits. In some countries women get a year of paid maternity leave, in others, health care and college is free. We are all living, but experiencing life in very different ways. At the same time, we are very similar as well. No matter where I go and who I meet, everyone is hustling for a better life. Some are paying college tuition for their children, others are working on a college degree, maybe starting a business, or planning that next family vacation. Most of us worship some type of higher power and seek strength from it during despair. Hey, no matter where I go, everybody’s momma is the best cook around, the single women want to be married, and the men want to provide the best for their families. These are the common threads that bind us no matter what continent you live on, what color you are or whether your female or male. I strongly believe that as a human race, we must realize that the world is so much bigger than our own neighborhoods, cities, states and country. I challenge you. Leap over the barriers and enlighten yourselves.