Rachel, 34, moved from London to the Gulf region nearly two years ago with her husband and young daughter.
Why did you decide to move abroad?
My husband received a speculative email from a recruiter about tax free opportunities in the Middle East…it all started from there! Until that moment it wasn’t something we were considering or had even thought about!
Why did you choose Qatar?
We originally moved to Saudi Arabia, which was daunting at first as I’d read a lot about the restrictions for women on dress code, driving and generally living life. We spent just over a year living in Jeddah on a western compound, and I can honestly say we had a fantastic time and made some brilliant friends.
We decided to relocate to Qatar when an opportunity came up with the brand that my husband had spent the majority of his career working for – this was his preferred company, so we decided to change countries.
Qatar was also appealing to me as a woman as I can drive, wear western clothing (while observing and respecting Qatari culture!) and generally live a little freer than in Saudi. In the UK, the thought of changing country at the drop of a hat is crazy, however for expats, where life is generally transient, it really is the norm.
What do you miss most about the UK?
Family, friends and - believe it or not - rainy days!
What do you like best about Qatar?
The perks that the expat lifestyle brings – a swimming pool a stone’s throw away, my daughter experiencing another culture, the feeling that life is an adventure.
What, if any, are the downsides to living in Qatar?
The downside, if there is one, is the intense heat of summer – luckily everywhere has air conditioning, even the underground car parks! We tend to take that time to travel back to the UK and enjoy the good old English summer!
What do has surprised you most about life in the Qatar? Is it like you expected it to be?
When we first left the UK, I tried not to come with huge expectations. I didn’t want to be disappointed and wanted to take each day as it came. I suppose what surprised me when we first arrived was how quickly we’ve fitted into life in the Gulf. There are times that it does feel like a holiday: hearing the call to prayer still reminds me of films I’ve watched, and walking through the Souk at dusk smelling the spices really is lovely.
The reality for my husband working full time are of course different however even his stresses are not like the UK - life is slower here.
What has been the biggest adjustment?
The biggest adjustment for me was becoming a full-time housewife and mother, having been in a high pressure, fast-paced job back in London. The pressure of amusing a two-and-a-half year old all day every day were much greater!!
Has it been easy to make friends?
The expat community is very welcoming and very close. There are often events, toddler groups and arranged parties where you see the same people who become your friends.
What are your long-term plans – do you see yourself there for the foreseeable future?
We had agreed before the move that we would stay for two years, however the lifestyle and opportunities in the Gulf are vast so it will be longer for sure.
Having adjusted to the expat mindset, we no longer ‘plan’ too far in the future, we are just enjoying the adventure and seeing where it takes us.
What’s are your top tips for someone thinking of making the move?
Do it! Life is too short to think ‘what if’. What’s the worst thing that can happen? If you don’t like it you’ll come home again…likely with slightly more cash than you went with, some lifetime friends and a tan!
Oh, and take the negative blogs that you read with a pinch of salt…the ex pats who are having the time of their lives are generally far too busy enjoying themselves to write about it!