In this installment of The Expat Mama Meets… we head to the Middle East, and to Doha in Qatar to hear from expat mama, blogger and self-confessed travel mad mum Emma Morrell. In Emma’s own words she’s “married to a long suffering (lucky!) travel mad husband and we also have a well travelled dog who we adopted when we lived in the States. I write a travel blog called Wanderlust and Wet Wipes about adventurous family travel with the aim to empower families to take holidays that they think are beyond their reach now that they have children. It’s not necessarily about having the same holiday that you had pre-kids, nor is it to say that everyone should take their kids backpacking in India for 6 months. It’s more about understanding that there are ways to have the holiday YOU want to have but that also works for your kids. There’s no right or wrong to family travel.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself!
So Emma, where are you originally from?
I’m British and spent most of my years growing up living in Devon in the UK however I’m what’s known as an Adult Third Culture Kid as I also lived in the US and Australia growing up as well as taking 2 gap years in Ecuador at ages 18 and 21.
And how long have you been in Doha, Qatar, and how long do you plan on staying?
We’ve been here for 2 ½ years so far. I would imagine that we have another 1-2 years left but the nature of the economy these days means it could easily be less if we are needed somewhere else or more if we are needed here. We are enjoying life here so we wouldn’t be averse to staying but equally we love going to new places so if we moved that would be fine too.
What was the driving force for your move to Doha?
My husband works for a large oil and gas company and we came here for his job but we have always been keen to move around and find new adventures.
What has your experience been like so far?
The first 6 months were soooo hard! We try to make the most of wherever we are so I didn’t even admit to myself how hard they were until they got better. I usually say you need 6 months to feel even close to settled anywhere you go but in our case there were health issues that really stalled us – mostly because they stopped us going out and meeting people. Without them I think we could have felt happier much earlier.
What has surprised you most about your move to Doha?
The expat community. It is a really tight community here, which is really lovely. Because it is quite an unusual place to come and not the easiest expat assignment (not the hardest by a mile though!) you don’t tend to get really obnoxious people coming here. Most people, even if they aren’t your “type” are kind and welcoming and friendly and are open to new experiences. I’m especially lucky as there is also a really close community with the company we are with and so that made the move much easier.
And what has been the biggest challenge?
We all have what I call “Doha Days” – days when you just get overwhelmed by the idiosyncrasies that are characteristic of Doha. There can be a lot of bureaucracy that doesn’t always make sense and can really annoy you if you let it. It tends to then have a snowball effect so if you’re having a Doha Day then other little things that don’t irritate you (like the terrible driving or the incessant road works, the lack of consistently available groceries or shocking customer service) suddenly feel like the most annoying things in the world. It usually only lasts a day. Then you’re back to normal the next day and regain your ability to laugh, shrug your shoulders and say “that’s just Doha”. I always try to remind myself that you have good and bad days wherever you go and there can be frustrations with day-to-day life in any country.
But would you recommend Doha or Qatar to someone else?
If you plan on moving again, what would you do differently?
I’d be more prepared. I have a tendency to put things off till the last minute through sheer procrastination. When we moved here there was a bit of that but actually a lot of it was I didn’t want to disrupt our old life too much until we had to but it meant that the last week or so before we moved was unbelievably stressful.
How do you think Qatar compares to the UK in terms of quality of life, family benefits, career prospects, healthcare and opportunities for women?
Quality of life / cost of living / family benefits: My husband is paid lots more so it meant I didn’t have to go back to work after my maternity leave ended (we moved around that time). The cost of living was much higher here than in London when we moved but I think it has equalised a bit now. We live much closer to my husband’s office so that’s an improvement for us too as we would both be commuting for 45-60 minutes each way at home. We live on an awesome compound, which is very safe, has loads of other kids and lots of facilities like a big pool so the kids adore it. They are able to play in the street (when it’s not summer and 50C) – something they would never be able to do where we live in London.
Career prospects: I haven’t looked all that hard for a job here – we decided this was a good opportunity for me to re-evaluate my direction in life but I have had a few interviews and we’ve almost always decided the job wasn’t a good idea because of the time commitment that it would require. I would say that things aren’t really set up for dual career parents – the British school day finishes at 1.45pm so it would be a logistical problem to pick up the kids in the afternoons. People do it but its just another thing that makes you think twice before accepting a job.
Healthcare: The healthcare here is actually very good. It takes a bit of navigating and it can be quite bureaucratic but I’ve generally been impressed with the doctors and level of care available.
Opportunities for women: Sheikha Mozah who is the current Emir’s mother and the second wife of the Father Emir has worked tirelessly to promote women’s rights in Qatar so that has made a massive difference for women in Qatar but there is still a very long way to go. There is a movement of younger generation Qatari women who are also doing loads to change attitudes so I hope it will only continue to improve. It takes a while to change the long-held beliefs of an entire nation.
What is your favourite thing about living in Qatar?
How happy my kids are here.
And lastly, what one piece of advice would you give someone who is thinking of moving there too?
Just do it! Get out there and meet people and you will be fine.
Follow Emma’s adventures in Qatar and get some serious holiday inspo via her blog Wanderlust And Wet Wipes, her Instagram (@wanderlustandwetwipes), her Facebook page (@wanderlustandwetwipes), and her twitter (@wanderwetwipes).
Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for any spur of the moment holiday bookings made as a result of browsing Wanderlust And Wetwipes….!
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