Mum in Qatar
From our An Asian in Qatar series.
by Siska Susanti
I arrived in Qatar five months pregnant and with a one and half year old girl. My reaction? Shock.
For the first three months I was very bored and depressed - I would ring my mother and cry on the phone to her. Five years later it was a very different scenario - I was crying again, but this time because I was leaving Qatar.
One of the things that changed life for me in Doha was getting involved.
I started off by taking Arabic classes in the Language Institute. This is a great way to meet people! One of my friends from the Arabic classes introduced me to members of the Indonesian community in Qatar, and I was suprised to learn that there were thousands of Indonesians in Qatar. If you are from the Philipinnes or India you will find that there are even more of your countryfolk - in fact,there are more Indians and Filipinnos than there are Qataris.
I also rapidly developed a social life. One friend invited me to come to the QatarLiving cofee morning, which I did. Some of the members were also members of the Expat women's community, and I soon became involved in that too, meeting up with them every Wednesday morning.
These are not the only groups either! Another group that are great to join are the Doha Expat Mum's and Kid's community. This groups organises activities for Mum's and Children, parties such as Halloween and Christmas and mother's nights out.
Most of the women in these groups are European, and to start with I felt a little aneh' (strange). However, all the women are really nice and you will soon relax and start enjoying yourself. I also found that I soon developed another circle of friends from my own nationality.
I eventually went beyond just attending other people's events, and, with the help of some friends', started organising my own - with more than a hundred people coming to eat Indonesian food and buy Indonesian products!
On the net
Much more than I had done previously in Asia, I also became involved in Qatar's incredibly active internet.
There are loads of options here. Some people spend hours a day on Qatar Living (great for getting answers to tricky questions!), others on the forums run by the various women's website here (Expat Women and Doha Mum's and Kids). I spent a lot of time on Facebook and on Qatar Chatter.
I have never had a major problem being an Asian in Qatar, but some of my friends have reported having hassle - which they put down to the colour of the skin.
I have noticed that people who dress less suffer more - I recommend that you dress conservatively. (There is no need to cover your head, though, unless you feel inclined to for religious reasons - covering your arms and legs is enough.
In some places such as in hospitals you may find people put down. The answer is to be very confident when you deal with people, and always make you sure you keep on asking for the information you need until you get it.
On the plus side, some places actually treat you better because you are women - for example, in the traffic department you always go to the front of the queue. You will also find special waiting rooms for womens in many public places.
So long as you are under your husband's sponsorhip and speak reasonable English, you should find it easy to find work in Qatar. I found work on my second job application, working as a secretary for a British company. Unfortunately, I wasn't on British wages - the only people who got those were the Western expats working for the company!
When the weather was nice and cool I would take my children to the parks and playrgrounds. There are loads of things you can do with kids here - picnics, cycling (for the kids) and football. I would also take them to Al Wakra beach and Al Khor beach for the weekend.
In the summer, though, it is too hot to do things outside. I would then take my kids to special play areas in the mall such as Jungle Zone in Hyatt Plaza. Although you have to pay for entrance it is hours of fun for the children - and sometimes a couple of hours free for the parents!
Woman are allowed to drive in Qatar - however, Asian women have to take a test. I already had a licence from my country but I still had to do 12 days of lessons and take the test again! When you do the lessons you can choose whether to take manual or automatic - however, if you take automatic lessons and tests you can only drive an automatic.
You will life much easier if you learn to drive in Qatar, as there are too few taxis (and the cost of taxis soon mounts up!) What's more, it's not safe to cross Doha roads - especially if you have kids.
I been spoilt in Qatar - I have always had someone to do the housework for me, allowing me to spend more time with my kids and to take on work.
There really are plenty of options here - at different times I have had both a full time maid and part time help. The cost is a lot more than in many Asian countries, but at the same time a lot less than in the West.
The easiest way to get a servant is to do it via an agency. However, if you are here on your husband's sponsorship he will have to arrange their visa.