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Monday, March 8, 2021

Repatriation effects: The true cost of leaving Doha

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Many people in Qatar live transient lives, coming and going based on employment contracts, family situations and other factors.

Since 9 out of 10 people living here are foreigners, it’s common for people here to daydream about how much better life could be “back home.”

But those who have left Doha say things aren’t so black and white. In a recent blog post for Doha Family, a new website by Doha Mums, a former expat explained how difficult it has been to re-adjust to life in the US.

Melissa Downham, who lived with her husband and two children in Doha for three years, highlighted three key aspects about leaving that she found hard:

  • Losing good friends;
  • Taking a financial hit; and
  • Re-adjusting to her “home” culture

Downham points out that despite Skype dates, it was hard to maintain long-distance friendships with people who were not from the same country, and for whom Doha was the common thread that bound.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

She also spoke about giving up some of the comforts her family enjoyed while living here:

“Financially, things are very different as well. We came back to the United States making less than half of what my husband was being paid in Qatar. And we definitely didn’t have a free house, free electricity or free private education for our children.

While we were grateful that our experience in Doha helped us pay off student loans and a good chunk of our mortgage back home, we couldn’t help but be a little bitter that we were back to living like “regular” people, as spoiled as that sounds. Going from paying almost no bills to suddenly having at least 15 to 20 bills per month to pay is a hard adjustment.”

And finally, she spoke frankly about trying to settle back into life in the US, which was more difficult because communities were not as fluid.

“Trying to meet people in a new place without the ‘expat culture’ where everyone is trying to make friends, is emotionally draining. ‘Coffee mornings with Doha Mums’ don’t exist and it takes months, if not years, to forge friendships in the real world.

I got involved in as many playgroups, mom’s groups, etc. as I possibly could when we moved to Denver and it took me well over a year to find anyone who wanted to connect with me as a friend. The first two years in Denver were dark, dark days. I just wanted to go back to Doha—as crazy as it is—and relive the whole expat experience all over again.

The former expat’s advice to those planning to repatriate soon is to expect stumbling blocks, and to let go of the past and embrace the present.

What (constructive) advice would you offer to people leaving Doha? Thoughts?

51 COMMENTS

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Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago

leaving friends behind is always tough

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago

Yeah but sometime it’s better to leave first as those friends will always leave sometime and they’re not waiting for you to leave first.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago

So if that’s the case is it only a matter of time before re-expatriating yourself? Or that’s it?

LoveItOrLeaveIt
LoveItOrLeaveIt
6 years ago

Very interesting article.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

so now you can look forward to the people that complained & then left coming back again to do it all over again, haha

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago

Damn, her experience sounds very different than what I often hear on here of the expats being offered super duper deals in multiple cosmopolitan locations around the world, yet still only chose Qatar (a boring dry desert) for “something different”, only to be “shocked” by the reality on the ground. I guess she was paid to make the above comments, only rational explanation, as I am sure my expat friends will later confirm.

AnonymityBreedsContempt
AnonymityBreedsContempt
6 years ago

How about a link to the actual blog post?

Restie
Restie
6 years ago

Third paragraph of the article.

DavidAdora
DavidAdora
6 years ago

One person’s experience constitutes as news? Most of my friends and family have gone back home to better lifestyles.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidAdora

I agree, most expats who left doha and still keep in touch all share the same thing about one particular thing… “we miss having a maid…”

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Dont have a maid, I am against slavery.

Altaf Patel
Altaf Patel
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

then keep those people jobless, hungry. you negative people can’t think broad.

Bee
Bee
6 years ago

Yeah, I get it, but at the same time, not everyone is on the same kind of package at this woman. If she’s going to Doha Mum meetups, she’s probably not working and so her husband was making a good salary. Not every expat is on that. But still, it’s always hard to leave behind somewhere you’ve lived a long time and adjust to a new place.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

Since we’re dealing in anecdotal evidence instead of hard data: I have several friends that have moved back home to the USA recently and would share a completely opposite view of this woman. I’m sorry she doesn’t like Colorado. She’s probably the only one there that doesn’t.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

I think when it comes to comparing financial packages here and back home the experience is very different among expats. While some get free schooling and accommodation (or allowance that are more than sufficient), many get allowances that assist but don’t fully cover either of those. Also to be making less than half in the states he must have been on a pretty big salary. I know many expats that are better off than home but not nearly by that much.

Anyway, if you’re doing ok, however you define that, and have some good friends then it’s a pretty good place to call home.

AnonymityBreedsContempt
AnonymityBreedsContempt
6 years ago

Oh expats. You complain when you arrive, and complain when you leave.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

Don’t forget all the complaining they do when they’re here. When in Rome I guess :p

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Will you two stop complaining already

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaded

What else is there to do here :p

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Lol. Americans complain when those foreigners speak a foreign language and when their meal doesn’t contain 20000 calories….

Ms. Hala
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Yes we have an issue with being monolinguals but don’t mess with our calories! #Sarcasm

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Is that why Qatar’s obesity rate is 50%?

diabetes rate nearly 20%

You do realize Qatar is rated the fattest country on earth? right?

SokhnaFan2010
SokhnaFan2010
6 years ago

Actually, reading this whole thread, I am saddened. I have lived in more than 10 countries including several GCC /ME and the level of animosity and chasm of cultural misunderstanding / antagonism is frankly depressing and much more accentuated here. Banter is one thing, spite and cynical attitude helps no one today and certainly no one in the future. I realise we are surrounded by challenges, many serious, and few easy to solve in the short term. However, at some point both sides will have to compromise, otherwise tensions will just continue to rise as more expats arrive and the ratio of expat to local approaches double digits. I for one will wish a peaceful and safe forthcoming Eid to all those that live in Qatar, whoever you are.
As for the article, I have found that first time expats have very different perceptions to those that continue to live outside their home countries for extended periods and are asked the same question. For me, remembering an “Essence” of what that country is, either from music, native art or craft, friendship, a meal in a local home or travel experience with a local is what matters. The rest of it is just material stuff. Life is too short!

Guest
Guest
6 years ago

Western expats are whino losers, no one likes them. That’s why they left their country in the first place. They were probably whinning all the before they got to the ME. Came here expecting Utopia, got a dose of real life and started whinning again. Left, then wanted to come back, continued to whine. They watch too much TV and expect life to be what they see on TV, they feel helpless all the time, can’t seem to grasp reality. Please watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unkIVvjZc9Y

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

There goes LoveItOrLeaveIt and her “Guest” post.

LoveItOrLeaveIt
LoveItOrLeaveIt
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Hehehe, try again. I actually saw the nickname but can’t memorize it, it was there for while. Anyone else did?

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

It was Ugene

LoveItOrLeaveIt
LoveItOrLeaveIt
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaded

Thanks 🙂 . I’ll get desertCard the shovel..

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

No keep it, you’re bound to need it again soon

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Jeez thats a bit rich coming from a local…like really! Maids, drivers, cooks, gardeners, higher pay just for being you, maybe you should….

Mr. B
6 years ago

Culture shock cuts both ways.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

Doha is neither reality nor normality. For an expat it is a false society that is driven by need. It’s an opportunity to earn well and clear debts, but for many that comes at a heavy price. Lack of contact with friends and family (even having to leave the baby with the grandmother back home), the lack of empathy with a country that tries to drag every last drop of blood from youi, the climate, the restrictive Qatari culture and the working culture heap stresses on the mind that home life could never do.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

I like how people are discrediting this woman’s because she missed Doha lifestyle and didn’t give the dreamy view of moving back to the states that many expats have in their mind.
I bet if she going on about how good her life is now that she left Qatar you all would be giving her accolades.

This is an opinion peice and this woman gave her opinion.

I know most of you like to think this woman’s case is a rarity but its not. Just like expats who do well after moving back home isn’t rarity.

Everyone’s situation is different. The job market in the US isn’t the best so it is not unfathomable to be making less money when going back to the states. Also you have to take into consideration taxes. You could making $5,000 a month here in Doha and get the same back in the states but a chunk of that is being taken by uncle sam.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Opinion piece- if the article is written by the expat herself. This is an article quoting and linking back to the author. But the context of her situation is not quite clear. Why did she decide to move back to the US for half salary of her current one? Without any such details, just comparing it to general repatriation is not appropriate. I would say it’s a poor article in General.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

You still pay taxes in the USA even when working abroad.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Only if you make over $90,000 a year.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

“We came back to the United States making less than half of what my husband was being paid in Qatar.” And all this time, most people here have kept on saying how they’re not paid much more than they are back home! Hahaha, I guess the cat is finally out of the bag 😉

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Yeah, strange isn’t it. Americans are a funny lot, I had one guy saying he couldn’t come to qatar as it wasn’t a friendly place to white, western, Christians and we didn’t pay him enough. Told him better to stay in America and watch your Air Force bomb these heathens…..

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

You know ISIS has it’s eye on the Gulf don’t you? So maybe we should just let em continue, pull the bases out of Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar… and watch you guys fight them while primping in your LC honking for the maid to bring your AK.

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Likely counting the housing allowance as part of the salary, along with the tax implications. The US does not pay 1/2 of what is paid here, its actually quite the same in terms of based compensation, or even less here. I know people that moved here and took a pay cut. And Americans do pay taxes on their income here as well, just not as much. Colorado is one of the higher taxed states in terms of income. If he took a pay cut of 50% then one has to ask…why did you go back? Some people are just never happy.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Cerebus

For some there are more important “things” than money. Yes we all come here for the same purpose. To make money to retire better, better home, debt, etc etc. But when does it stop being about $$ and more about yourself?

Realistically I guarantee you have not saved near what you thought you would. It’s the nature of the beast. Everything is much more expensive (except gas, cigs and cokes) and grocery bills are crazy. This is not the south of France (don’t mean disrespect, just realty) and EVERYONE travels next week, and every other Eid, Summers and probably a couple more thrown in there somewhere. It’s almost a necessity to keep your sanity. And lets face it not many of us are backpacking and staying in hostels. With the hyper inflation and COL your true savings is really not that much. And if you’re american you still pay taxes.

If you’re lucky to still have your parents alive then they are getting older and that time away cannot be bought with money. Brothers, sisters, nephews, … back home seeing you, and your kids, sporadically on holidays and the summers. If you plan on being here long term (10+ years) then cheers to you. I just have a hard time lately justifying making a bit more in salary but losing whats most important.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Well said, but the reality is for us, that as far as wages goes we are fortunate enough to be well educated and regarded to earn as much if not more when we return. Not all are in the same boat I understand. We didn’t come here for money, we came here for the experience of living in the Gulf. We’ve experienced Qatar and our personal opinion is it is not up to standard, fails to deliver on it’s promises, we refuse to be complicit in the human rights abuses and is just to straight out dangerous on the roads to be driving our children around, so we are leaving , simple. Others may have a different opinion and love it, each to their own.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

I agree. I lived in Egypt for a decade and Qatar has nothing on Egypt other than money. If you wanted a true living abroad experience where you can jumped into the local culture and actually feel part of it… The Gulf is just a mishmash of people all trying to make as much money as possible and spending a lot of what they earn due to the reasons you cited above. All the while compromising what’s important. And for what? To watch those from lesser developed countries be treated like slaves? To risk my life daily on the roads because some idiots have to get no where so fast? To have a maid? (Which I refused to do), To worry about being Qatarized just for the sake of Qatarization when they couldn’t do my job anywhere near how I can? The overall experiences, except for the travel outside Qatar has been a waste of time. I’ve been here way too long, thank you economy in the USA, and now know (have known for quite a while) that it was a mistake coming here. Those who do love it here are here for different reasons. They spend lots of money to do the 5* thing, travel constantly, get the car they always wanted back home regardless of the price, etc etc. They may start out on the path of making their life back home better but soon fall into the trap of living lavishly with money they’ve never had before. Other than that the country offers little else. I can spend money and buy cars back home. I hope I’m following soon.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Exactly, very well said in my opinion, and has been our experience and thoughts. I too have lived in other places as an expat..Cyprus…PNG…Solomon Islands, and the experience was fantastic for all the reasons you mention about Egypt, sadly so so different here. Anyway onward and upward for us, I wish you a safe and rewarding onward journey and destination.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Well I know we’ve had our differences, but I wish you and @Observant One a safe journey back home. I actually do enjoy, most of the time LOL, both your contributions to the comments sections on this site. Good luck to you and you family 🙂

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

We are returning to home for good in a very short time , I can say that our combined wages, lifestyle, happiness, and quality of life will be higher then it has been here in Qatar. The only thing I will miss is expat friends nothing else, not a thing, nothing, nada, zero, zilch.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

i wish you a safe journey. live long and prosper

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Thankyou, very kind.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

Wow, I wish my experience in Doha include Free everything! I somehow have utility bills, phone, internet, water, rent. Most expats get an accommodation allowance rather than a ‘Free house’. I am obviously in the wrong job.
I would add that women who are not mums, not single, not 20 something, don’t find it as easy to slide into relationships, especially when all work colleagues and contacts are male and not the same nationality. There are not many places to go to socialize- if I’m wrong, let me know.

Rob
Rob
6 years ago

Heehee, she left it, and didn’t love it. Marvelous!!

paul cowan
paul cowan
6 years ago

I was expecting the “true costs” to be cargo shipping, possible landlord/bank/utilities problems, taxation issues, resettlement costs in the next country, (mis)calculation of service benefits, etc. An article dealing with those things would probably be of wider interest than this lady’s sense of social and economic dislocation.

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