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Now ye're talking - to a man living in Qatar

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  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Hi, my question is not meant to be antagonistic, but do you see a conflict between the 2 statements in bold above?

    And, aside from that, why do you think that your hosts might want to keep 'outsiders' isolated so much from what is the essence of the country?

    I came here to ask if Qatari people are familiar with the view that many in European/Western countries have of their state and are do they ordinary man on the street feel it is a fair representation of their country or not but I suspect, that interacting with the locals to the point of having such conversations is not something which generally happens. Is that fair to say?

    Hi.

    I do see the conflict between the two statements. The world is full of conflicts and ambiguities, most are never resolved.

    The reason why Qataris keep to themselves is, I presume, because they see that as the only way of preserving their identity in a country where they represent jus 10% of the population.

    Western media is freely available in Qatar and (apart from pornography) the internet is not censored, so Qataris are well aware of how their nation is portrayed in the media. We can however become a little Euro-centric on this point. They probably care at least as much about how they are portrayed in Arabic and Turkish media. I think that they also have a belief (rightly or wrongly) that the main reason most people/countries like them or dislike them is because of their wealth.

    I think that Qataris might speak more freely about politics and society in Arabic, probably at the majlis, than in English with a westerner.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Kat1170 wrote: »
    Is there anything simple you miss from home that you just can't get there.
    A bag of Tayto.
    A bottle of Lucozade.
    A decent fry up.

    Family of course, especially since lockdown.

    Yes, Taytos.

    I can get decent sausages and rashers but the B&W puddings are terrible.

    The other thing that I look forward to when home is a decent pint in the afternoon in a proper Victorian bar.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,130 ✭✭✭James Bond Junior


    Family of course, especially since lockdown.

    Yes, Taytos.

    I can get decent sausages and rashers but the B&W puddings are terrible.

    The other thing that I look forward to when home is a decent pint in the afternoon in a proper Victorian bar.

    We had 2 kegs of Guinness last week at an Irish function. They last 90 minutes and Khalas! They were only lovely!


  • Registered Users Posts: 850 ✭✭✭Agus


    Thanks for doing the AMA! Was there any particular reason you ended up in Qatar instead of one of the other countries in the region such as the UAE?


    Other than salary and the chance to travel, what were the main pros and cons you considered at the time in deciding to move out there rather than staying in Ireland or at least Europe? Did those factors work out the way you expected, or was there anything that ended up being a pleasant / unpleasant surprise?


  • Registered Users Posts: 31,833 ✭✭✭✭Mars Bar


    Family of course, especially since lockdown.

    Yes, Taytos.

    I can get decent sausages and rashers but the B&W puddings are terrible.

    The other thing that I look forward to when home is a decent pint in the afternoon in a proper Victorian bar.

    I had a package of Salt and Vinegar tayto sent to me :o


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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,019 ✭✭✭Cosmo Kramer


    Thanks for doing the AMA. It's very interesting, I think because, while many westerners work in the Middle East for a time, it's perhaps relatively rare to be there for as long or, if you don't mind me saying, at your more advanced stage of your career.

    Just a few questions:

    Do you have a pension setup with your company on top of your salary, or is it simply the case that due to your wages you don't feel you will need one?

    In terms of your next stage of life, how easy or otherwise do you expect to find it to adjust to relocating back to Europe? Are you likely to choose a location where there is a similar distance between the "ex-pats" and the locals, such as the south of Spain, or will you prefer to move somewhere where there are more opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture?

    Any finally, do your children consider themselves Irish, Qatari, or of no particular national identity (I assume they are Irish citizens, but my question is more identity based)? Do you/they see them returning to Qatar to live after you leave, or returning to Ireland, or more likely neither of the above?

    Thanks.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators, Regional East Moderators, Regional Midlands Moderators, Regional Midwest Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators, Regional North Mods, Regional West Moderators, Regional South East Moderators, Regional North East Moderators, Regional North West Moderators, Regional South Moderators Posts: 9,099 CMod ✭✭✭✭Fathom


    Once again. Interesting questions and answers. Thanks.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,811 ✭✭✭Tigerandahalf


    A great read and you have answered the questions in a very nice manner.

    Going back to the blockade and its after effects - I believe Qatar has made a big push to become more self sufficient. I remember reading a few years back of an Irish farm manager being employed to run a massive dairy operation out there built from scratch with the cows being imported and housed in automated air conditioned units.

    When the gas runs out (or the demand for it does) is the country any way set up to rely on tourism or other sector?

    Would you ever worry that your children will have no proper roots? That they may resent you for giving them the childhood they are receiving? You do say you will retire to Europe so I presume they will have to rebase themselves there rather than going back to Ireland?

    A great read, well done.

    Edit - I actually found a link to that farm manager in Qatar.

    Meet the Irishman helping Qatar import 10,000 cows

    https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/dairy-farm-profiles/meet-the-irishman-helping-qatar-import-10000-cows-36286922.html


  • Registered Users Posts: 177 ✭✭Hontou


    Still a fascinating thread.

    OP, when I lived and worked abroad (in the Middle East and Far East), I did it for the culture, travel and money. However, I always felt I was waiting to "go home" in the future. I feel I wasted some of these years and some of my youth, longing to be home in Ireland and regret not simply enjoying the day to day life in another culture. Do you ever feel like this? Are you putting a lot of emphasis on a great future/retirement in Europe/Ireland and as a result missing the "now"?

    Also, will you be entitled to healthcare in whatever country you retire to?


  • Hosted Moderators Posts: 23,081 ✭✭✭✭beertons


    When was the last time you were at a gaa match? Is your local club any good?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 821 ✭✭✭Sir_Name


    UAE resident here. I would like to ask you about your experience of raising Irish kids in Qatar. My kids were born in the UAE and are both under 5.
    One has recently been diagnosed with low-level special needs (which he might grow out of). It's already obvious that we are much better off in the UAE than in Ireland in terms of access to inclusion support in school (but across many other dimensions, too).

    My question is geared towards the long term implications of raising older western kids and teens in the middle east. Rightly or wrongly, I am operating with the view that I must repatriate to Ireland before my eldest reaches 10 years of age.

    This view was formed by anecdotes gleaned from others that older kids found it very difficult to leave the UAE / Qatar to return to the relative dullness of Ireland. Resentment often ensued, damaging the parent-child relationship.
    Others have said that children will gain a thoroughly unrealistic sense of life by feeding from the silver spoon that Qatar and the UAE provide; that they won't ever get to appreciate the value of money, or gain the important life experience of summer and weekend work; and that most importantly, they will remain as "third culture kids" and never feel that they belong anywhere.

    What do you think of all this? Lately I have been questioning the wisdom of my views, particularly in light of Ireland's response to Covid, the poor health service, poor schools, crime, and the persistent attraction of emigration to Irish youth (including me in my day).

    I am curious about this too. We also live in the UAE although returning home isnt a factor right now, we do talk about what will be the determining factor and I think it will be kids.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,097 ✭✭✭✭smurfjed


    Good morning and Ramadan Mubarak.
    Thanks for doing this.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Agus wrote: »
    Thanks for doing the AMA! Was there any particular reason you ended up in Qatar instead of one of the other countries in the region such as the UAE?


    Other than salary and the chance to travel, what were the main pros and cons you considered at the time in deciding to move out there rather than staying in Ireland or at least Europe? Did those factors work out the way you expected, or was there anything that ended up being a pleasant / unpleasant surprise?

    Hi and thank you for your question.

    I was not actively looking for a job. I got a cold-call from a recruitment agency. I hadn't therefore been looking at other jurisdictions, but I had always wanted to live and work abroad, and my wife and family were also open to the idea, so when this opportunity came along it was not hard to consider.

    Regarding the other pros and cons, well I really just wanted to experience a different country and culture, and Qatar certainly ticks that box. For the most part it has been a good sojourn. We originally came with a 3-year stint in mind and we're still here 10 years later. We were really delighted that the education available to the children was of such a high standard. Had that not been the case I think we would not have stayed regardless of the salary. As for unpleasant surprises, I did a post earlier about things I dislike about Qatar. If I had to pick a single one it would be the casual racism.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Thanks for doing the AMA. It's very interesting, I think because, while many westerners work in the Middle East for a time, it's perhaps relatively rare to be there for as long or, if you don't mind me saying, at your more advanced stage of your career.

    Just a few questions:

    Do you have a pension setup with your company on top of your salary, or is it simply the case that due to your wages you don't feel you will need one?

    In terms of your next stage of life, how easy or otherwise do you expect to find it to adjust to relocating back to Europe? Are you likely to choose a location where there is a similar distance between the "ex-pats" and the locals, such as the south of Spain, or will you prefer to move somewhere where there are more opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture?

    Any finally, do your children consider themselves Irish, Qatari, or of no particular national identity (I assume they are Irish citizens, but my question is more identity based)? Do you/they see them returning to Qatar to live after you leave, or returning to Ireland, or more likely neither of the above?

    Thanks.

    Hi and thank you for these questions.

    I was about 50 when I came to Qatar, with 30 years of contributions into an Irish pension which remains intact. I will have no pension from my work in Qatar. So while the salaries may look strong in the Middle East you will need to factor in that you will have to put some of that aside to supplement (or indeed commence) your retirement kitty.

    If I have one piece of advice to any person relocating to the Middle East it is to steer well clear of "financial advisers" - they will fleece you. If you need financial advice go to someone in Ireland and insist that you will pay them a fee rather than allowing them to be paid by commission. This is so important that I'm going to put it in BOLD!.

    When we retire I do not think that we will live, permanently at least, in Ireland. Because of their education and experiences I think it is likely that our children will settle in continental Europe. The idea of a small house with a lemon grove in Spain is very appealing - but we haven't decided yet. However even if we go to Spain we would prefer to live in a Spanish community (even if I know I'll struggle with the language) than in an expat community. We would not live apart from other expats, but I have no desire (as some do) to recreate their homeland in the sun.

    My children do consider themselves to be Irish and it is a very important part of their identity, but it also has to be said that they don't have a word of Irish, and have never studied Irish history at school. They will study at European Universities because, bizarrely, they I don't qualify for EU fees in Ireland, but they do qualify for EU fees in European Universities. I would have liked them to have had the possibility of studying in Ireland, but that is Ireland's loss and frankly the Universities in Europe that they attend are far better on the Times rankings.

    I don't think that they will come to work in Qatar immediately after graduation mainly because salaries for new graduates are not great. It is a better idea to get some work experience, and maybe a graduate degree, before coming here. However they certainly might work in Qatar - or the broader region- at some point in the future.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    A great read and you have answered the questions in a very nice manner.

    Going back to the blockade and its after effects - I believe Qatar has made a big push to become more self sufficient. I remember reading a few years back of an Irish farm manager being employed to run a massive dairy operation out there built from scratch with the cows being imported and housed in automated air conditioned units.

    When the gas runs out (or the demand for it does) is the country any way set up to rely on tourism or other sector?

    Would you ever worry that your children will have no proper roots? That they may resent you for giving them the childhood they are receiving? You do say you will retire to Europe so I presume they will have to rebase themselves there rather than going back to Ireland?

    A great read, well done.

    Edit - I actually found a link to that farm manager in Qatar.

    Meet the Irishman helping Qatar import 10,000 cows

    https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/dairy-farm-profiles/meet-the-irishman-helping-qatar-import-10000-cows-36286922.html

    I actually met and had a pint with that farm manager, John Dore - a perfect gentleman, with lots of great stories to tell.

    The story about the dairy farm is quite incredible, built at speed from nothing. It was just one part of the broader food security programme which included buying huge tracts of farmland in places like Australia and South America etc to raise animals (mainly beef and sheep) for the market in Qatar.

    Regarding the gas it is not likely to run out for some time. I'm not an expert, but I believe that LNG is seen as being the cleanest hydrocarbon, and as part of the bridge between our current energy systems and a cleaner future. The size of the main gas field is something of a state secret, but it is clearly vast in scale:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Pars/North_Dome_Gas-Condensate_field

    Because of the distance to markets, and some unfriendly neighbours, using pipelines to get the gas to customers was not an option. Early on the Qataris invested heavily in the technology needed to cool, liquify and ship natural gas. They have long-term supply contracts with many countries, but especially valuable contracts with Japan and Korea.

    There is one gas pipeline - they pipe gas through Saudi Arabia to the UAE (which has a lot of oil but very little gas). That supply was maintained during the blockade.

    What happens when the gas runs out? We don't really know. Qatar has built a 3m person metropolis and I guess they hope that they can sit back and live off the rent. They do also want some tourism, but they won't be competing with Dubai - more like Abu Dhabi, a genteel place to spend a few days of luxury with some nice museums and galleries to help pass the time.

    I do worry that my children will not have roots - but perhaps that liberates them too. They had no choice when we came to Qatar, and I cannot guess how their lives would have turned out if we had not. I can say however that we have often spoken about this, and they always say that they think we did the right thing. I do not expect that they will live in Ireland, but who knows. At their age I had never heard of Qatar!


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Hontou wrote: »
    Still a fascinating thread.

    OP, when I lived and worked abroad (in the Middle East and Far East), I did it for the culture, travel and money. However, I always felt I was waiting to "go home" in the future. I feel I wasted some of these years and some of my youth, longing to be home in Ireland and regret not simply enjoying the day to day life in another culture. Do you ever feel like this? Are you putting a lot of emphasis on a great future/retirement in Europe/Ireland and as a result missing the "now"?

    Also, will you be entitled to healthcare in whatever country you retire to?

    I think I will always want to visit Ireland - and more regularly than I have done while living in Qatar. But I'm neither sentimental nor religious. As far as I know this is the only life there is, and there is much else that I would like to see and do. I am looking forward to the next chapter (in the knowledge that the book is coming to an end).

    On the healthcare question, as far as I know as an EU citizen I will be entitled to the basic health services in any EU country that we might live in. That may need to be topped up by private insurance - I don't know the specifics at this moment, partly because I don't know where we might go to. Spain looks very nice, but so too do Portugal, France and Italy. First world problems, as my kids say.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,546 ✭✭✭Hoboo


    Hi and thank you for these questions.

    They will study at European Universities because, bizarrely, they I don't qualify for EU fees in Ireland, but they do qualify for EU fees in European Universities. I would have liked them to have had the possibility of studying in Ireland, but that is Ireland's loss and frankly the Universities in Europe that they attend are far better on the Times rankings.
    .

    They sound like they have been very successful academically to date looking at the top universities in Europe. From your posts I had presumed they were young children.

    Do you think the expat Quatari education system has provided them with a higher level of education than a standard western system?


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    beertons wrote: »
    When was the last time you were at a gaa match? Is your local club any good?

    Hi and thank you for the question.

    I was never a huge GAA fan I'm afraid. My father could never understand how I could spend 30 years in Dublin and only go to Croke Park to see U2.

    There is a vibrant and dedicated GAA club here and, they are a credit to themselves and our culture. Because there are quite a few young Irish professionals in Qatar (many in teaching) they are able to field a good team by all accounts. Pre-Covid there was a Gulf league and they travelled to play the GAA teams in Bahrain and the UAE etc. Hopefully that will start up again soon.

    https://qatargaa.qa/


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Sir_Name wrote: »
    I am curious about this too. We also live in the UAE although returning home isnt a factor right now, we do talk about what will be the determining factor and I think it will be kids.

    Well the education system in the international schools here is excellent - but really expensive. If you do come here make sure your employer covers all or at least most of the education fees.

    If they spend long enough here your children will become third culture kids - we were happy with that, but it is a decision for each family to make.

    If this ever becomes a real option for you I'll be happy to share information and experiences with you.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    smurfjed wrote: »
    Good morning and Ramadan Mubarak.
    Thanks for doing this.

    Ramadan Mubarak

    I love Ramadan - a shorter working day!


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  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Hoboo wrote: »
    They sound like they have been very successful academically to date looking at the top universities in Europe. From your posts I had presumed they were young children.

    Do you think the expat Quatari education system has provided them with a higher level of education than a standard western system?

    The education system offered by some, but not all, of the international schools in Qatar is on a par with top class education anywhere.

    The schools that seem to fall down on standards are those that are run exclusively on a for-profit basis. Fees are high but results are often not. In many cases these schools are twinned (and carry similar names) to prestigious schools in Europe - especially British schools. But this is largely a branding exercise.

    If you choose the right school, although expensive, you will get what you pay for. At the school where our kids studied the pupil teacher ration was 11 to 1. For what it is worth I think that the best schools are those that operate (at least partially) under the patronage of an Embassy - schools like the American School of Doha, Doha College (British), the Lycee Bonaparte (French) etc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,443 ✭✭✭finbarrk


    Can a visitor bring in a bottle of duty free liquor? Or is that banned? Are hotel bars the only place to buy alcohol? Thanks.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,097 ✭✭✭✭smurfjed


    Does that shorter day apply to all, or only some in that caste system? 40 minutes to the west of you, it only applies to those celebrating the month.


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,212 ✭✭✭✭Tom Dunne


    As somebody who lived in the Middle East for a number of years, it's depressing to see the standard tropes being rolled out - human rights abuses, women as second class citizens, religion and so on. And from my experience, no amount of reasoning with some posters will ever change their minds. The reality is far more nuanced, but hey, don't let reality get in the way of an ill-informed keyboard warrior who can pull multiple reports from Amnesty, but probably can't name five TDs in our government.

    Anyway, Qatar is one country in the Middle East I never got around to visiting, for some reason, but your experiences are pretty much identical to my own. So I have two questions for you.

    In this time of Ramadan, have attended an Iftar feast?

    Also, have you visited any mosques?


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    finbarrk wrote: »
    Can a visitor bring in a bottle of duty free liquor? Or is that banned? Are hotel bars the only place to buy alcohol? Thanks.

    You cannot bring alcohol into Qatar.

    Some (but not all) hotels have bars. A beer at full price can cost 15 Euros, but there are often happy hours and promotions.

    There is also a single off-licence where expatriates can buy alcohol for home consumption:
    https://www.qdc.com.qa/

    There is a limit on the amount of alcohol you can buy that is related to your salary. A slab of Heineken will set you back about 60 Euros and a drinkable bottle of wine about 20 Euros - so still not cheap.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    smurfjed wrote: »
    Does that shorter day apply to all, or only some in that caste system? 40 minutes to the west of you, it only applies to those celebrating the month.

    The answer is that it varies.

    I personally have always felt that given that I'm not Muslim I'm very lucky that I get shorter hours. I work in the broad public sector, which is were most Qataris work, and so I benefit from that.

    For people working in the hospitality and food sector Ramadan means that they have a very long day. Even during the fasting hours take-away is permitted and the streets are a-buzz with delivery bikes. There is no sit-down dining in Qatar at the moment, but from the break of the fast until the early hours they will be working flat-out. I don't know the hours precisely, there is a maximum number of hours that you can be required to work, but I don't know how closely that is policed in the service sector.

    Shopping malls also have extended opening hours during Ramadan - they can still be mobbed at midnight, so again I think that people in retail have long days.

    Other businesses (banks, utilities etc.) will usually have shorter working hours during Ramadan.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,162 ✭✭✭OEP


    What do you do for fun there? During the time when the weather is nice and not too hot.


  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    Tom Dunne wrote: »
    As somebody who lived in the Middle East for a number of years, it's depressing to see the standard tropes being rolled out - human rights abuses, women as second class citizens, religion and so on. And from my experience, no amount of reasoning with some posters will ever change their minds. The reality is far more nuanced, but hey, don't let reality get in the way of an ill-informed keyboard warrior who can pull multiple reports from Amnesty, but probably can't name five TDs in our government.

    Anyway, Qatar is one country in the Middle East I never got around to visiting, for some reason, but your experiences are pretty much identical to my own. So I have two questions for you.

    In this time of Ramadan, have attended an Iftar feast?

    Also, have you visited any mosques?

    Thank you for your questions.

    In previous years I attended many Iftars and Suhoors. Ramadan is a time for corporate entertainment in Qatar and every company will, over the course of the month, host an Iftar or Suhoor in a hotel for employees and customers. Due to Covid that did not happen last year or this year.

    I have never been invited to an Iftar in a private house - these tend to be restricted to family and close friends.

    I have visited a couple of mosques including, recently, the new National Mosque, where a couple of colleagues and I got a great tour and talk from a British Muslim who now lives in Qatar:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imam_Muhammad_ibn_Abd_al-Wahhab_Mosque


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,443 ✭✭✭finbarrk


    You cannot bring alcohol into Qatar.

    Some (but not all) hotels have bars. A beer at full price can cost 15 Euros, but there are often happy hours and promotions.

    There is also a single off-licence where expatriates can buy alcohol for home consumption:
    https://www.qdc.com.qa/

    There is a limit on the amount of alcohol you can buy that is related to your salary. A slab of Heineken will set you back about 60 Euros and a drinkable bottle of wine about 20 Euros - so still not cheap.

    Thanks. I don't know what will happen during the World Cup so. It will make it awkward.


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  • Company Representative Posts: 96 Verified rep I live in Qatar, AMA


    OEP wrote: »
    What do you do for fun there? During the time when the weather is nice and not too hot.

    Camping in the desert is great fun. Because you will need to go well off road you should travel in a convoy with (IMO) at least three good but not fancy 4x4s. The Australians say that if you want to go into the desert drive a Land Rover, but if you want to come back out drive a Toyota.

    You can't compare Qatar to Connemara or the Golden Vale, but the desert does have a tremendous beauty of its own, and in the evening the idea of campfire songs and barbeques may sound kitsch - but it is good fun.

    If you are a sports fan there are often interesting diversions. There is a good soccer league and I know several westerners who have adopted a team and love the whole experience. There is a top class (mens and womens) tennis tournament every year and tickets are really cheap. There is also a golf tournament where tickets are easily got and you can follow top players around the course much more easily than in Europe or the US.

    Finally, we really love going to the Philharmonic. I'm no music buff, but sitting down 50 feet back from a full orchestra is quite an experience. Again tickets are quite affordable.


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