We have been an expat in Qatar for over nine years. And the time has come for us to make a decision: should we stay or should we go?
Should we stay longer in Qatar or go to another country or move back home? Going to another country is not really an option. I mean, sure, we can go to Emirates or Etihad or British Airways or Singapore Airlines. And then what? We are back to that question: should we stay or should we go?
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.
If we are moving back home, is that it for us then? After traveling the world and being an expat for nine years, is it time for us to put down roots?
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Here are the reasons why we stayed longer in Qatar:
> Career. Well… my husband is a B777 Captain. Have you seen a B777 Captain in their late thirties in the US? No, right?!
> 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. No deductibles. 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 pay for 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 an hour!!!
> 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 to the Philippines to see my family in 9 hours. I can go to the US and visit the kids’ 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.
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.
By the way, the main reason why we thought about moving back to the US is my husband got a job offer 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. It may not be a passenger airline, but 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.
> Higher Salary. The salary of a Management Pilot is much higher than the line 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. It is never-ending!
> “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*
> Travel benefits. Sure, we will have discounted tickets. But I think dependents will always be at the bottom of the list. 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?
1. 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. We literally list our responses on a piece of paper – the priorities, goals, pros, and cons. Each week, we try to update it. We assess and reflect if the list still holds true.
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.
2. State the difficulties
When you make that decision, state all the difficulties no matter how small they are. You can pretty much envision how it is going to be. You can also delegate among yourselves who will do which tasks.
Obviously, since I am the Mom, I am in charge of anything related to the kids like looking for a school, supplies, etc. My husband usually thinks about whether we should buy a house or rent, buy a new, etc.
3. 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.
4. Seek wisdom
Get opinions from your families, friends, people who know the life of being an expat, people who have worked in another airline, people who decided to go back to the US, and people who decided to stay as an expat longer.
Get different insights and perspectives. Chances are you missed something. Yes, it will be more confusing the more ideas you get. But it is better to make a decision when you have all (or most of) the cards open.
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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