Making Friends and overcoming loneliness whilst living abroad by NickiAllman
Living overseas is an exciting opportunity but it comes with great challenges as well as amazing adventures. It can also be a lonely experience as well as being a time of building new friendships. The excitement comes when we take the decision to move to a new country, it fills us with a sense of adventure but can also be an incredibly daunting feeling. As many know already, moving on can be incredibly sad with leaving somewhere we have called home for however long or short a period of time. The saying goodbye to people we have called our friends, saying goodbye to family members, leaving a settled home, packing to move can be stressful and worrying. It can fill us with a sense of dread over the next steps leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions:
How will we make new friends?
Will our children settle? Will they make new friends easily?
What about new schooling?
What about work (if we are moving for a job) and how will I settle?
What about our new home, what will it be like?
What things do we need to take? What do we need to leave?
How will we ship our pets to our new country?
Will our shipping arrive? (Twice now this has been a huge source of worry as both times for a period of time our shipping disappeared but thankfully both times turned up, and yes we did use reputable companies!)
There is nothing worse than spending time worrying about what ifs and what could go wrong. These things can fill our minds with worry and fear about the unknown. But there are many sources that we can turn to which will help us out. What are the things we can do to help settle into a new country and help that feeling of being in a crowd but completely by ourselves?
1) Find online groups such as Expat Women’s forum to be put in touch with those already living in the country we are moving to. These types of forum can also be a great source of guidance for what to do and when to do things. They can answer questions such as what areas can be like to live in, what schools are like, how easy/hard it is to get into a school, what transport is like, what social activities go on and where, and provide useful ideas for tourist information, after all we do want to know about where we are living!
For Qatar Join the group on the link below
2) Use social media sites such as FaceBook and Twitter to get in touch with people in similar situations to ourselves. There are many groups on FaceBook alone dedicated to Qatar and Doha and these can be a great source of help and support for many. There are groups dedicated to buying and selling, social groups, sporting groups etc… It is worth getting a FaceBook account just to become a member of these as these will direct us to many good things.
3) Another good source of information can be the very people we are living with. Many overseas nationals have lived abroad for some time. It often surprises me how small a world it actually is. A chance conversation recently highlighted to me how somebody from my home country (themselves an overseas national for many years) knew somebody who had recently moved to a country I had just moved from. Asking questions to people we converse with can help us find out some things about where we are moving to. Do be aware though that if it is some time since they or their friends lived there then things may have moved on and changed a lot.
4) Chatting to work colleagues if we are new will also help; some will be in the same boat as us. It may be that for a time we help each other out by introducing each other to different people. Also work colleagues who have been around a while can help us as they will know about the place we have just moved to.
5) This is where my life has changed somewhat. As a mum chatting to other mums meant I got to know people quite quickly especially when our children played together or we invited our children’s new friends to play dates. This made settling in much easier. It is much trickier when children get older. My daughter is now 18 so meeting mums at school to pick them up doesn’t happen so it is about being inventive with social aspects to get to know other mums.
6) Helping at animal shelters or volunteering at other social activities can be a great source of finding company and getting to know people. This can then lead to friendships helping to ease any sense of loneliness.
6) Walking dogs can often lead to chance meetings. Who can resist a cute pooch? However, it is not advisable to go out and adopt or purchase one to meet people unless it was already in the plans for living it a country or something that has been thought about.
This is not an exhaustive list and I am sure can be added to. It is more difficult if we work as managing time can be much trickier. The key point is to find the courage to go out and make friends as this will ease a sense of loneliness and isolation.
Top tips for travelling with baby/kids
As expats, we often find ourselves travelling to and from our homeland quite often. And for some mothers even travelling alone with a baby or child. Here are some great tips about travelling with a baby in and out of Hamad International Airport.
1. Be up to date with current rules at the airport and airline regarding travelling with minors. Airport rules are always changing. So to avoid any delays or confusion on your day of travel, find out as much as possible before. Travelling to certain countries with children require certain documents. Make sure all these are prepared before.
2. With kids ,especially babies and toddlers, change their sleep schedule for long haul flights. If the flight is early during the day it would be useful to keep them busy the night before or wake up quiet early. And if the flight is at night keep them busy during the day. This will help them sleep through most of the flight.
3. Make use of airport facilities. Hamad airport has strollers availed upon departure and arrival. Activity nodes/ play areas are available in the departures area. Use them especially if you have time before your flight and a restless toddler or baby. If you forget to pack snacks or toys , there are shops in departure area where you can buy some. If you are early for your flight , you can even grab a bite with the kids at the many restaurants at departures. Just don’t lose track of time and miss your flight!
4. Make sure the kids use the toilet in the airport before boarding. Babies and toddlers diapers should be changed and everyone freshened up before boarding. Hamad Airport has family bathrooms and baby changing rooms which are great.
5. As much as airlines advertise the perks of travelling with kids as priority boarding I personally don’t advise it, especially if you travelling with an older baby or toddler. Sometimes they will get restless waiting for another 200 or so passengers to board and crew to get ready for take off. Usually the boarding and take off process takes 45 to 60 minutes. And this can be a long wait. So waiting at the gate until most passengers are bordered would be a good idea.
6. Upon arrival check for special lines at immigration dedicated to families or book for assistance before hand with the airline if you are travelling alone with kids.
7. Try to have snacks or a bottle of milk available for baby/ toddler when you arrive at the airport as immigration lines do get long and the wait will make kids restless.
8. And lastly try to relax and enjoy the travel experience.
Written by Noorath Hoosen
Leaving Qatar? A loss of employment and how to deal with it positively
Many of us consider Qatar our home — even if only a temporary one — and we enjoy our time here. The reality of the situation is that under the laws of Qatar our ability to remain here is often directly and unwaveringly linked to our own or our spouse’s employment status.
So, what exactly happens when our time in Qatar is up, and we are forced to consider leaving the country? I often have this subject on my mind, because the security my own husband’s employment has been in question several times during the course of the last two years, for various reasons. Many of them are beyond our control - such as company performance, corporate changes or restructuring, the relationship dynamics with managers and colleagues, but as we all know, these worries are common for many expats.
If we are able to leave in a scheduled manner, looking forward to a new job in another country or a well-earned retirement, it may be all well and good; but what if the unexpected news just hits us like a ton of bricks, with little time to prepare for it?
Seeing Through the Emotions
Whether it is happening to you or to your partner, being “made redundant” or “fired” – however we might refer to it — is not a pleasant experience, and it inevitably provokes strong emotional reactions. We come from different cultures and types of conditioning – with some of us more prone to self-deprecation and criticism that are not the best of advisors in a stressful situation.
The truth is that sometimes things just happen. More often than not, a loss of a job is not a reflection of our professional skills, qualities or abilities. There are numerous forces at play here – including something as trivial as our boss waking up in a bad mood one day – and most of them are beyond our real understanding or control. It is best not to dwell on them, but to concentrate our energies in a positive direction and towards the future.
Even if the dismissal was a result of a personal conflict or a critical judgement by your employer, try not to take it to heart — however challenging this might seem in the beginning. Instead, attempt to evaluate the feedback objectively, draw the conclusions that will be helpful to YOU in your own personal and professional growth, and move on. Just because we might have had a problem working for one organisation, does not mean that another company will not become a better mutual fit. Just like most things in life, other people’s opinions of us are relative, and it helps if we do not let them define us as individuals.
On the bright side, once your employer gives you notice, you are likely to get the elusive NOC and will be able to look for another job in Qatar — thus avoiding the disruption to your life caused by a move to another country.
Talk to Your Employer
Regardless of what the exact circumstances of the job termination were, and however disappointed or annoyed we might feel with the employer that let us down, it always helps to keep the channels of communication open. Work is work, but, fundamentally, we are all people, and we possess the innate ability to empathise with each other’s difficulties.
If you are on a one-month notice, ask your company if they will consider postponing your end day by a month — or even a couple of weeks — to give you more time to look for work and put your affairs in order.
At the very least, you can ask them to delay the cancellation of your RP for one month. This might be especially crucial if you have children of school age. Explain the situation to your employer and appeal to them for help in making your family’s transition as smooth as possible.
Request the estimate of the final settlement from the employer straight away and study it in detail. It will include the end-of-service gratuity calculation – make sure it is correct. There are on-line tools available to help you calculate the correct amount based on the length of service.
Re-read your employment contract carefully to see if there are any other end-of-contract benefits that you are entitled to, like demobilisation expenses. If you are not planning to leave Qatar straight away, ask the company if the cost of your return flights, relocation of your belongings, etc., can be paid to you in a monetary form.
All employers are different, and it is important not to be disheartened by setbacks. Be polite and respectful, but do not take the initial “no’s” for an answer – ask “why not?” and present your case calmly and clearly. If the person you are speaking to is unable to make these decisions, ask them “who can?” and request a meeting with a higher-level manager or a HR representative. It is a good idea, also, to put all the requests and questions in writing, even if only in an email.
Stay open and positive
A sudden loss of a job can affect us deeply. Feelings of a perceived failure and rejection can be difficult to cope with. We may work on an understanding that our professional status does not define us, but the worry about financial security can become an overwhelming issue for anybody.
In either case, try not to shut down or isolate yourself – talk to people, share, ask questions. What is happening to you has happened to many people before you and will happen many times again.
The community in Qatar is amazing with personal connections and networking being such a big part of the culture here.Qatar expat women are always ready to lend a helping hand especailly new comers to Qatar.
“When, Where & How in Doha” Facebook page is a great resource, where all sort of questions can be asked, but — if in doubt — make sure that you double-check the answers you receive from individuals, especially with regards to legal matters.
My husband and I have had first-hand experience of a job-loss situation, and I know for a fact that a positive and confident attitude works wonders — both in terms of the job search and for the simple emotional survival during a difficult transitional period.
Important Practical Matters
Try not to panic, but there will be issues that you will have to deal with pretty urgently. As soon as you receive your notice, it will be a good idea to start making a list. Below are some of the things you will have to think about. A good employer should be able to guide you through them, but if they do not, carry on asking for support or seek advice from government agencies or lawyers.
Life in Qatar might appear chaotic at times, but the authorities here have strict rules about legal issues and documentation. It is important to follow them, as the consequences of non-compliance can be severe and unpleasant.
Make sure you fully understand the process and timescale for this, as it will be your responsibility to arrange for the RP cancellation for your dependants.
You will not be allowed to leave Qatar while still in possession of property that will remain here. In the case of a vehicle, for example, you will need to sell or — if you are unsure about your plans – the vehicle could be de-registered and registered again for transit. This can buy you some time until you know what you are doing. Alternatively, the ownership can be transferred to a trusted friend or a family member, who is in possession of a valid Qatari RP. Weigh your options carefully and seek guidance from the Qatar MOI (Ministry of Interior) Transport Services.
Banking and Unpaid Credits / Other Liabilities
Talk to your bank and find out exactly what will happen when your RP is cancelled and the timeframe for it. Deal with your banking straight away to avoid funds becoming inaccessible and temporarily frozen in a Qatari bank account.
Credit can be a big issue for many people here — the loans appear very affordable when the salary is coming in monthly, but the repayments can become problematic once your employment is terminated. The situation can quickly become critical, as there are severe punishments for unpaid debts. You will not be allowed to leave the country until all your liabilities are settled.
It can be worthwhile requesting NOC letters from your bank when closing your account, your landlord, and any other companies — such as car dealerships — who you have previously taken out loans with. Allow time for these companies to provide this letter — banks, for example, usually require at least a week’s notice.
If faced with financial difficulties, it is best not to bury your head in the sand. Talk to your employer, your lender, and your family to try to find the best possible solution to the problem.
Your Children’s Education
Arrange a meeting with your kids’ school to discuss your situation and to facilitate the smoothest possible educational transition for them.
Start thinking about your pet’s future as early as possible. They are a part of our families and we are responsible for their wellbeing and welfare. They WILL NOT survive the heat of Qatar on their own.
If moving to another country, start planning early and make sure you understand the import/ export process sufficiently, as there is a strict timeframe — be aware that it will take time. It might appear daunting at first, but many people take their pets with them to other countries, and it is certainly possible and doable.
All the vets in Qatar are able to provide advice, and there are several specialist pet relocation companies operational in Qatar. There is a cost associated with it, and it helps to get several quotes. Dr. Al-Tamimi Vet Clinic in Katara tend to have the most competitive rates.
If the cost is too high for you, do not be embarrassed to fundraise externally – you are being a responsible pet owner and doing it for a very good reason. Friends and family will understand and many will be willing to make a donation – every little helps, and it all will soon add up.
If, after a careful consideration, the relocation of our pet is out of the question, it is our responsibility to seek another solution — like finding a foster or an adoptive family. “Find Me a Forever Home” Facebook page is a good place to start. Again, keep communication open – talk to people; ask if someone is able to help.
Interview the prospective adopters carefully to make sure they understand the responsibilities of owning a pet. Pedigree animals are at a high risk of being used for commercial breeding. Please ensure that you pet is neutered BEFORE the adoption to prevent this from happening.
Relocation of Belongings
There are many relocation companies operating on Qatar and their rates vary significantly. Ask for personal recommendations and be sure to obtain at least three quotes from different movers.
There will be many more issues to address and think about, but, once again, many people around you would have dealt with a similar situation or know somebody who has. Open personal communication is an important aspect of the culture in this part of the world, and many people are only glad to help, if they can.
Whether it will be in Qatar or in another country, I wish you all the very best for the next chapter in your life. The situation might appear difficult at the moment, but remaining true to ourselves maintaining a proactive attitude, and having a positive frame of mind can help us to not only live through a difficult period of change, but enable us to grow and learn from the experience in a beneficial way.
Disclaimer: The author does not have legal or financial training, and none of the above was meant as formal advice on these matters. If in doubt, always seek guidance from relevant authorities / professional bodies.
With many thanks to Greig Parker for his help with editing the article.
Wishing you all the best for the future
How life used to be in Qatar
My very first memory of Doha is arriving, exhausted from more than a day's travel where we had left in dramatic cyclonic conditions in northern Australia with three young children, to arrive at the old Doha airport, with guards on the ground carrying machine guns. No one seemed to speak much English, and it all felt somewhat threatening and less than welcoming. Doha has come a long way!
We stayed in the old inner city area, which was all men and we also found this a bit daunting initially.
We arrived Christmas Eve, during Ramadan, which was an interesting mix of religious observances. Our children were expecting Christmas as they had always known it, but we had to make a lot of adaptions. The Hotel staff were kind and made our Christmas very special and memorable, even if somewhat different from the ways we had previously celebrated.
Our first morning in the hotel was a surprise. I was woken pre-dawn by an Arabic voice shattering my sleep and had no idea what was going on since I had been sleeping so soundly after the trials of travel. Initially I felt panic at the strange message being broadcast by loudspeaker, then settled as I realised it was just the call to prayer. I now actually miss it when I'm travelling outside the Middle East.
There were few grocery stores and no shopping malls until The Mall opened. We learned to eat local foods, which we continue to enjoy to this day.
One of the things I missed most was being able to buy an English language book. This was before eBook’s or even reliable internet, so books had been a staple for me and for my family so every time we travelled we stocked up on books.
I hope you enjoy reading
All the best,
When you realise life is getting easier by Nicki Allman
Recently something struck me. It struck me how much easier life is getting. The challenges appear to be less and less. Let me explain. We’ve been here over nine months now and had been in China the two years prior to that. We’d got used to finding answers to questions about our daily needs then we moved country.
Initially in China we had no idea where to food shop, where to buy toiletries or household goods. We had no idea where to buy footwear or clothing and were thinking how on earth we were going to survive without our shipping (it took six months to arrive). Birthday cards and presents; where to get them? Where to go for the doctors or dentist? How to get around? How to make ourselves understood with not being able to speak the local language? How to get in touch with people back home and in other countries without WiFi or even data? Everything there seemed to be one challenge after another. We had arrived quite a few days before other ‘newbies’ so we needed to find this out with little help and we needed to find it out quickly. There were some there at the same time and they helped as much as they could which we were immensely grateful for. Once the other ‘newbies’ arrived it all became a little easier as we were taken to different places to be shown things and purchase things. Once we’d worked out where things were we were able to find things much easier. Life became much easier working out transport and getting to and from places.
However, we soon found that we didn’t really have to think about what to do to buy something and where to go. When our daughter went to a birthday event we knew how to find presents and cards at the local plazas and malls. For our holiday we knew exactly where to go to get what we needed. We needed new carryon luggage so headed off to a little store we’d got to know and purchased two fantastic Wenger cases for a big discount, and even conversed a little in very basic Mandarin. We realised that even though many things were still challenging and not as straight forward as in the UK, life had become so much easier. We also knew that because of Chinese New Year (everything shut down for approximately 15/21 days as many Chinese people head off back to their provinces) we had left it too late to order for an online delivery. This was something we made note of for future reference. We realised that we hadn’t really got much in terms of summer wear for holiday. Online delivery wouldn’t arrive and many stores are still stacked full of winter clothing, so we went to the local tailors with a top we already had. I was measured up and seven new tops were ready in a couple of days so much cheaper than buying in the UK and made to measure too.
And then we made our next international move; the challenges reappeared when we moved to Qatar. However, we were able to rely on our recent experiences and how we dealt with them…oh and learnt from them! Getting around in Doha has been much simpler than it was on our first exploit as expats. Finding where to go and purchase things we needed, basics like shopping, clothing that was appropriate to where we now lived, vets for our two rescue dogs, and the way to deal with the furnace of temperatures! China was hot in the summer but nothing like Doha! Second time round we were much quicker at asking for help and advice; about where to go shop and how to get a car to get around.