The Expat Life Interview Series was created to know more about the country, not just from a traveler’s perspective. We hope to help others who are thinking of working abroad to know how it is to live and work with the locals.
Let’s start our Expat Life Interview Series by sharing with you Carmen’s experience. She is a Registered Nurse in the Philippines but worked as a Flight Attendant in Qatar. This is her experience before she met her husband, Handel.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am from Pili, Camarines Sur, Philippines. It is a small town located south of Manila.
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I am living in Doha, Qatar. I moved here alone. Now, I am blessed with a husband and a son.
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: I’ve been here since May 2010. We are just waiting for the next job opportunity, and I guess by then we are ready to leave.
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: I went first to Dubai to look for a Nursing job, but then I got accepted as a Flight Attendant for Qatar.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
Q: Moving from the Philippines to Qatar, what was your first impression?
A: Since I came from Dubai, I was not shocked by the extreme hot weather. My first impression was ‘it’s bare’. Qatar wasn’t this developed 7 years ago.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Qatar? What were some of your favorite experiences in Qatar?
A: Nothing in particular. As long as I spent my time with family and friends, I am enjoying. I don’t have a favorite, but the camel ride and desert safari are my unforgettable experience.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: Actually I miss a lot of stuff. I miss, first and foremost, the cheap spa and salon. I can do facial treatment, manicure/pedicure, foot spa, massage and hair treatment in Manila for much lower prices. That’s why I had to wait for my vacation leave or a Manila trip on my roster to do them. I also miss our local community. From time to time, I miss rain. Though I wouldn’t wouldn’t wish for it to happen. Rain means more accidents and heavier traffic! It is when it’s gone that we get to appreciate it more.
Q: What has been the greatest aspect to your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: I left Philippines when I was only 22 years old. So, the greatest aspect of my expat experience is knowing I only have myself from now on. I realized that I was really pampered by my family. Thank God there’s a washing machine here. But I still needed to cook for myself. There were times when I was so tired and I didn’t have the energy to cook. When I got sick, I had no one to take care of me or buy medicines for me. When something went wrong, my Mom wasn’t here to solve it.
Another adjustment is wearing conservative clothes covering my shoulders to the knees. Pork is also not allowed which was hard at first. Now I am used to not eating pork. Alcohol is only available in hotels – though this didn’t bother me that much. I don’t drink.
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: The quality of life here is much better. It is very convenient and comfortable to live here. But of course, everything comes with a price. Being the richest country doesn’t mean its cheap here. Most of the items or products are imported from other countries, that’s why grocery is a little bit expensive. When I was still a stewardess, I usually go to Bangkok or Philippines to do my grocery, and USA to buy fruits. In our accommodation, everything is electrical. So if there’s no electricity (which rarely happens), you can’t use the microwave, stove/oven, washing machine, dryer, aircon, tv, cable, and wifi!
Then, I didn’t have a car. I didn’t see the need to buy one since the company provides transportation. I used Karwa Taxi. But there are also Uber, bus, and soon-to-have Metro. Car lift is very common, where men will approach you to offer you a lift for a fee. It’s one of their ways to earn additional income. Car rentals are also available, or you can buy a brand new or second-hand car. Take note that you need to attend a driving class to get a driver’s license.
Usually, the company provides health insurance. It is expensive to get sick here so make sure you have an insurance. I prefer a private hospital over a government hospital. We usually go to Al Ahli Hospital. They provide all services, including, but not limited to, pediatrics, gynecologist, Internal medicine, surgery, x-ray, laboratory. Don’t get sick on a holiday! Hospitals are closed. Only few Emergency hospitals are open.
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in Qatar?
A: If you just got here, see the Museum of Islamic Arts, Corniche for the picturesque view of Doha skyline, and Souq Waqif. See our comprehensive list of Tourist Attractions in Doha.
Museum of Islamic Arts Park
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in Qatar.
A: Before I met Handel, my day was very simple. On my day off, I would watch television series or movies, do groceries if needed, cook (if I was in the mood), pay bills, send my uniforms to the laundry, or send money to my family.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: In my accommodation, we are three ladies living in one flat. I am very friendly and I can easily adjust to my friends’ personality. I also met other cabin crews during the flight and can easily befriend them. We would go out on our layovers or have a meal. I don’t have a lot of local friends since I live in a company-provided accommodation full of expats. I usually mingle with the Filipino community. But upon meeting Handel, I met a lot of expats of different nationals.
Picnic at Corniche with my flatmates
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: My cousin sponsored me a tourist visa to Dubai. However, when I got accepted as a Flight attendant, the company prepared the visa for me.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I don’t have a regular 9 to 5 job, so I can’t say. Each day means different flight, different crew, different passengers, and different time. For sure, salary and benefits are much better than back home.
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in Qatar?
A: Be ready. Be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready.
Be ready to feel homesick. For mothers working here, it’s going to be hard to be separated from your children. There will be times when you feel down and miss your family, and would want to go home. If you go home just to see your family, can you afford it financially? Can you afford to resign? Is there a job waiting for you back home? Is it worth it to go home and give up the job here?
Be ready for the hard life. You will need to work hard. Some people take additional jobs so they can earn more. I remember doing the difficult flights, working on a day off or doing overtime so I can just earn more money.
Be ready for the unfair treatment. Remember, we are residents. They will always prioritize the locals or other nationality over you. But don’t tolerate it all the time. Be assertive.
Be physically ready. Make sure you are healthy. It is expensive to get sick. Pack appropriate and conservative clothes for the ladies. Prepare clothes for both hot and cold season.
Be spiritually ready. Have faith that everything will be ok…
Thank you for reading Carmen’s expat experience! If you are planning to work in Qatar and have some questions, leave us a message in the comments below.
We would love to hear your story too! If you are living and working abroad even for only a few months or several years and would like to be featured on Wellington World Travels, please Contact Us so we can send you the questions and share your expat life experience.
Read more expat stories on our Expat Life page.