Expat Interview: Life in Qatar
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
Tiffany Schureman blogs at A Girl and Her Passport. She is originally from Dallas, Texas. Having lived in Lubbock, Texas, New York City, New Orleans, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Fort Worth, Texas; she now lives in Doha, Qatar. Qatar is in the Middle East near Saudi Arabia. The country is very small and so is the population, which is about 2.2 million, of which most of those are expats.
Medibroker often helps people moving to Qatar find health insurance so we asked Tiffany to share her experiences of life there to help our customers make the move.
Hi, Tiffany! What brought you to Qatar?
I moved to Qatar for work. I was offered a position at a branch campus of a U.S. university as a librarian. I had wanted to live abroad ever since living in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009. Qatar has been a great choice for me. I love my job, have great friends here and traveling from here is very easy as the airport is a hub for Qatar Airways. I also get to go home at least twice a year.
Before the move, which aspects of planning were the most stressful for you?
The most stressful thing was getting all my paperwork sent to the necessary agencies. My university took care of the hard parts, but I had to get my degree attested to to get my visa. My degree and my fingerprints had to be notarized. The notary had to be attested by the State of Texas. This meant a trip to the capital, Austin. When I arrived, the computer system was down, and I had to wait all day.
Once I got the paperwork all sent off, then it was just getting rid of all my things that were time-consuming. I also spent a lot of time running errands to get things I knew I wouldn't have access to in Qatar like toiletries. Fortunately, I had done lots of research on what was available and what wasn't and was very prepared. At the last minute, I realized my suitcases were all under the weight limit, and I added books to every bag! There are few bookstores here though.
What has been the most challenging aspect of settling into life in Qatar?
Learning how things work here. Each country works in its own way and getting used to a new way was hard. Things take longer here, and they don't always tell you what you need to have to get something done, so you end up having to go several times to say, get your car registration renewed. They also aren't consistent, so just because your friend didn't need her passport, doesn't mean you won't.
Do you have any funny stories to share about culture shock or integrating with locals?
Not really. Outside of work, I don't have a lot of interaction with the locals. They are very private people and keep to themselves. They are friendly, but not likely to talk to you unless you begin the conversation. At work, they feel much more comfortable with you and will talk to you.
What I do love is that there are so many cultures here and I get to learn about them on a daily basis. Many times I go to eat with friends and I am the only American in the group. So not only do I learn about Qatari culture, I learn about Indian culture, Irish culture, Nepali culture and on and on. The biggest challenge of all that is that English is so different in every English speaking country, so sometimes I have a hard time understanding my Irish or Australian friends. It makes for a good laugh in the end though!
What’s the best thing about being an expat in Qatar and what’s the biggest difference between there and ‘home’?
For me, the best thing is the ability to travel. Many expats in Qatar make more money than they would at home and for me that means I have the means to travel now. The biggest difference between here and home is my standard of living. Even if I were making the same money at home, I would still have rent and bills to pay.
My apartment here is much larger and nicer than any apartment that I have every lived in. I also go out to eat more here than at home because I can afford it here. Many times, going to eat means going to a hotel because they are the only places that serve alcohol and don't think I have ever had dinner at a hotel in the U.S.
What is the healthcare like in Qatar for expats?
Healthcare for expats differs here for every expat. My company offers both American insurance and International insurance, but we can't choose both. I wish we could! For me, it makes more sense to have the American insurance because I get my check-ups done at home. I also have access to the state-run medical facilities here like the hospital. These services are very inexpensive, although the experience is very different than what I am used to in the U.S. The waits are long, and the staff's beside manner is not always good. It really bothered me at first, but now I understand they are short staffed and over worked.
Sometimes my lack of Arabic language skills is difficult even if the doctor speaks English because their English medical skills are not always as good as their everyday English. The good thing is it is mostly free and what I do pay for is very cheap! I had an ultrasound for about $12!
Many expats are offered international insurance, and they can access the private hospitals with less expense. However, I have still used the private hospitals. When I first arrived, that is all I used and paid out of pocket. A basic emergency room visit is still much less expensive at the private hospitals than it would be at any hospital in the U.S. Even at the private hospitals the level of care and bedside manner is not good.
Tell us about your blog!
A Girl and Her Passport is about my travels from Qatar and my life in Qatar. So far I have traveled to Ireland, Jordan, Italy, France, Bahrain, UAE, Turkey, and Belgium in the two years I have been here. Next month, I am heading to India and Thailand in October. Most of my travel is solo. I also enjoy photography, so you always get to see photos from my trips. In addition to my trips, I have a weekly Friday Favorites series that brings you my favorite travel articles, tips and destinations from that week.
If you're living in a country with no free healthcare or where the public medical facilities are low standard, it's important you purchase a compliant health insurance plan to protect your health, finances and peace of mind.