We have been an expat in Qatar for over nine years. And the time has come for us to make a decision of staying longer in Qatar or going to another country or moving back home. Going to another country is not really an option. Traveling the world and being an expat for nine years, we are ready to settle down (settling down doesn’t mean we will stop traveling though!).
We consider the USA as our ‘home’. So it’s a matter of staying longer in Qatar or moving back home. If we are going to stay longer in Qatar, for how many more years? Qatar is not a ‘forever’ place, this is just a ‘for now’ country. You can’t own property here or start a business without a Qatari sponsor. That’s why, I have been very emotional for the past couple of months, and the pressure of making that decision is looming on us.
Read more: Expat Life Interview Series
Here are the reasons why we stayed longer in Qatar:
> Career. My husband is a B777 Captain and he is only 39 years old. If you notice in the US, it takes decades to be a Captain because of the seniority list and the Union. You’ll be close to retirement by the time you become a Captain, much less fly a B777 airplane. It was really hard to give up on something I know he had worked for and have been aiming for his whole life. He is really good at what he does. He has been a First Officer his whole life and only been a B777 Captain for 2 years. He was not willing to give up being a Captain of B777 to be a First Officer of some small airplane just to say that we are back in the US.
> Free accommodation. We are living in a fully-furnished 4-bedroom (plus maid room) in a premium apartment compound with a playground, an indoor pool, and a gym.
> Free health insurance. The health insurance is also provided and paid for by the company. We just need to show up in the hospital or clinic and show our insurance card, that’s it! No questions asked. It is much less complicated than the healthcare system in the US.
> Free tuition. The kids’ tuition is free from 4 years old and above up to 4 kids. The company pays for everything school-related. Just this year, they also included free school bus transportation. Now, this is one of the things that’s hard to give up. Which company do you know in the US would pay for their employees’ kids to go to a private school (plus their transportation)?
> The lifestyle. We describe the lifestyle here as luxurious and convenient. Or maybe it’s just me. I came from a simple home, and everything here is luxurious. We even have a helper here! Babysitting and cleaning services are very cheap, unlike in the US. I can just call an agency to send somebody to clean the apartment for $10!!!
> Easy traveling. Since Qatar is in the Middle East, it is easier to travel anywhere. I can travel to Europe in 6 hours. I can go back to the Philippines to see my family in 9 hours. I can go to the US and visit the grandparents in 12-14 hours.
> Travel benefits. Personally, I don’t want to give this up. LOL. As a Captain’s wife, I am entitled to travel business class and First class on this airline anywhere in the world. Talk about living the life and lots of pampering!!! LOL. Kidding aside, we have unlimited staff tickets where we get 90% and 50% discounts on all destinations. The kids, my helper, my mom, my siblings, and my husband’s family benefit from these ticket discounts. The seniority of on-loading staff passengers is based on the seniority of the employee. And my husband is quite senior. We can also get a discount on the hotels where the crew stays.
> Tax-free. Everything here is tax-free, including the salary. Though I have read somewhere they are going to start adding a tax on cigarettes, etc., but not sure if they have implemented it already. For US citizens, there is an expatriate tax exemption. I suggest you contact your accountant (if you haven’t done so) because you only pay tax to the US government after a certain amount. Once we go back to the US, we have to pay 28% or 30% tax (not sure – still clarifying that with our accountant).
Read more: How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock
Now you know why we stayed in Qatar for 9 years… and that’s only one side of the story – the advantages of staying in Qatar. The more we think about it and rely on our emotions, the more we get confused.
Here is the main reason why we thought about moving back to the US:
**My husband got a job offer in the US to fly B747 as a Captain.**
You can pretty much guess which is the more logical option. I mean, C’mon! It’s still a Captain position, and B747 is bigger than B777. Plus, it is a well-known cargo company!
Just to be fair, here are the benefits of moving back to the US:
> Management Captain. Rather than going back as a First Officer and at the back of the line of 15,000++ pilots, he is going back to the US as a direct-entry Captain plus a management position. All of his friends here who have been a Captain longer than he is had to start as a First Officer. We don’t know if this job opportunity will be available in 3 – 5 years. We got the job opening because we knew somebody from the company… and now, he has retired. Tough world! Knowledge and skills are not enough. Networking and connections are vital too!
> Higher Salary. The salary of a Management Pilot is much higher than the normal Pilot. BUT we have to start paying tax now! Also, we have to start paying for the kids’ tuition ourselves. We also have to look for our own place and furnish it.
> “Home“. Technically speaking, ‘he’ is back home. I don’t really mind. We already knew from the start that we will eventually move back to the US. It was just a matter of ‘when’. He will be closer to his family and friends. Yeah, this means I will be farther away from my family and see them less. *teary*
> 401k. I still don’t understand how this works. But my husband said once we go back, we can work on our 401k retirement plan.
> Travel benefits. We will be provided with discounted tickets but I am not sure if the extended family can get them and what will be our priority when it comes to being on-loaded. I am not even sure if I can fly business class, much less in First class, anymore.
> Gain Citizenship. This time I can work on my residency so I can become a citizen. I couldn’t get it because I was living outside the country.
Okaaay. This doesn’t sound like a lot of ‘advantages’. Maybe because I wanted to stay here…
So here are the things expats should do when they are considering moving back home:
We have been talking about it almost every week – reassessing our options, the advantages, and the disadvantages. Should we go or should we stay?
Take the time to reflect: Build your list
This is one of the toughest decisions we have to take because each decision has its consequences. If we stay here, that job opportunity might not be available in 3 to 5 years. My husband might have to come back as a First Officer. If we go back to the US, then we are giving up those things I have mentioned above. There is no turning back once we made a decision. And it’s hard to come back here, in case we realize we made a mistake. We have friends who moved to the US and regretted it. They were not earning enough money. Now they want to come back to the Middle East.
We literally list our responses on a piece of paper – the priorities, goals, pros, and cons. If it’s just the two of us, it’s easy to pack up and go. We have 2 young children (4 years old and 1 year old) that we also need to take into consideration.
State the difficulties
If and when we decide to move back to the US, there are some difficulties we need to address:
> Our house is in Georgia. And the job position is in Anchorage, Alaska. We don’t know if we should buy one or rent a house because we don’t know how long we are going to stay there.
> We have to look for an Adventist school for our son, and a daycare for our daughter. Oh! My son is in school so we might have to settle some stuff with them too. And he also won’t be able to finish his Pre-Kindergarten class.
> Career-wise, I have to look for a new job – the downside of being a ‘trailing spouse’.
> He is on his last year of studying Law, and I also have one more year to go before I finish my Master’s. Not yet sure how we can multitask between packing/unpacking, moving, working, studying, taking care of the kids, etc.
Project into the future
What do we want in 10 years? Where do we want to be in 10 years?
Actually, it’s hard for me to imagine and project into the future right now maybe because I am still emotional. If I am 10 years older and could turn back time, should I have stayed or gone?
Thinking long-term, it’s more beneficial for us to go back to the US now. I wanted to stay longer for 3-5 more years. But what difference does it make if we leave now versus leaving in 5 years? Those advantages of staying here are just temporary. If and when we moved to the US, we will gain permanent, long-lasting benefits. My husband is a US citizen, and he has enumerated a lot of benefits.
We have called a lot of our friends and families on their opinions – those who know the life of being an expat, those who have worked in another airline, those who decided to go back to the US, and those who decided to stay as an expat longer. Each has their own reasons, priorities, and goals, but they did give us some insights and new perspectives.
Now, you understand why we are in this dilemma: Should we stay or should we go. I know decision-making is a process. Whatever we decide, I will let you know guys! We (or I am) are still waiting for some divine intervention. LOL.
I would love to hear your opinion! How do you make decisions? Have you been in my situation (or similar situation) where you had to decide whether you should stay or go? What has helped you make that decision?
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