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Saturday, March 6, 2021

What single expat women should know before moving to the Gulf for work

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In Qatar, men outnumber women 3:1, and the population is comprised of people hailing from many different religions, cultures and classes. Meanwhile, the country is governed by conservative Islamic principles. This week, we are exploring how men and women interact with each other in this unique environment in a four-part series, titled “Gender Imbalance.”

Jobs in Qatar are never in short supply these days, and single professional women are often the hire of choice for many employers here. But in a place as family-friendly as Qatar, living as a single woman can be an isolating experience.

In recent months, there have also been renewed questions about safety, following the  reported murder of a British teacher in Qatar in October and the alleged rape of former Doha resident Marte Dalelv in Dubai this summer.

So as more women mull over the possibility of moving to the Gulf to work, I tackle some of their concerns in a new Telegraph article about “what single women need to know” before heading here.

The piece includes interviews with four women who have lived in Qatar, Oman and the UAE, and covers accommodation options, dating, dress code, social life and career satisfaction.

Though the women said that their overall experiences have been positive one, there are many pitfalls, including:

  • Dating: “I’d only recommend living in the Gulf if you would be happy not to meet anyone to marry here. It happens sometimes, but it hasn’t happened to me.”
  • Work stress: “Expat life seems very glamorous, but everyone has the same problems that you have at home, just in the sunshine. There were times when it was a normal part of my day to leave work and sit in the car and cry.”
  • And harassment: “At some point you’ll probably be followed in your car or at the shopping mall. I had my bottom pinched in the supermarket on my very first evening in Doha. “

Safety is also an ongoing issue, particularly in light of recent events. The women all said that they feel safer in the Gulf than they do in their home countries, but urge caution when going out at night:

“Like anywhere, if you’re going to get drunk, just make sure you and your friends look after each other” says Dubai based expat Liana Liston. “Although rape is very rare statistically, the woman is also sometimes accused in rape cases in the UAE, so it may be higher than reported.”

Here are the women’s top tips for those considering a move:

  • Get in touch with someone who already lives there to get an idea of what to expect;
  • Make sure your employment contract is watertight. Have a contingency plan in case things don’t work out;
  • Check you have good medical insurance. Local government health care standards are not the same as in the UK, and private care can be expensive;
  • Make sure you know where to go for emergency medical care as soon as you arrive, and find someone who can act as your local next of kin;
  • Invest in a few wardrobe staples that will cover your shoulders, elbows and knees; and
  • Consider finding a flatmate to share bills and keep you company.

What would you add? Thoughts?

43 COMMENTS

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HoHum
HoHum
7 years ago

It’s quite a retro place in terms of gender roles, with male breadwinners, Stepford wives and nannies as the middle class norm.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  HoHum

Now why couldn’t the article have summed up this nicely 😉

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

I would strongly disagree that single professional women are the hire of choice for many organisations. That is simply not true for many reasons.

DB
DB
7 years ago

Day to day, it’s not the men that go out of their way to make life difficult for expat women. It’s the local women who do that most consistently and aggressively.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
7 years ago
Reply to  DB

I have to disagree. I have generally found the local women to be ok. They are as curious and wary of us as we are of them. But once you make conversation whether across the counter at immigration or in ladies shops they are often happy to engage. They key is to look past the veil and see a human being. Yes there are some rude ones, but no more than from any other culture here.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  DB

Interesting; how so?

DB
DB
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Cutting in line, elbowing people out of the way, ramming into others with shopping carts, glaring at expat women in public places, etc. etc. I agree that they can be friendly in conversation, but in my experience the vast majority have no concept of common courtesy towards expats.

ann
ann
7 years ago
Reply to  DB

i agree with the cutting in line, in my experience many seem to have no sense of queuing up and taking ones turn.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago
Reply to  DB

I agree in some instances. They certainly are far more aggressive in lines, far more likely to mumble insults in Arabic at Western women as they pass (I’ve been amazed at how often this happens) and less likely to show courtesy in driving.

KJD
KJD
7 years ago
Reply to  DB

I would have to disagree. After more than 5 years of living in Qatar I can only think of 1 individual who was a Qatari who was rude or aggressive toward me. Ignoring that one individual I have found the Qataris (male and female) to be pleasant and polite. Now, if I was to count the number of expats that have been rude or aggressive I would need more fingers and toes that what I personally have on which to count them. (And by expats I mean any individual who is not a Qatari whether they are Canadian, Lebanese, Indian, Asian, Brit, American, etc …

Kingpin
Kingpin
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

Perhaps the expat rudeness that you experience is because;

“no individual can change the behaviour of another person. What we can do is instead examine our own behaviours to try and determine if there is something we are doing that may contribute to the problem. It might not be the way a person acts that draws unwanted attention. It could also be the way the person behaves or the things they say. If a woman behaves in a manner that is annoying and a man responds to the annoying tones the woman has contributed to the issue. (And there are some individuals who are annoying just for the sake of being annoying.) People are always so quick to point their fingers at someone else and demand that everyone else change, but are far more hesitant to place themselves under the same scrutiny and see that perhaps they themselves need to change.”

Spot the difference, first correct answer get a weekend for two at a four star hotel, just as long as you have your marriage certificate handy 😉

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

Am I the only who finds the fact that “dating” seems to be the 1st topic they’d started with to be a bit patronizing and condescending to women? Not saying it’s not of some importance to some, but based on the expat ladies I know, it’s not really one of the 1st things they ask about when they move here.

WholeWomanPeaceCorps
WholeWomanPeaceCorps
7 years ago

Except for the dating part – this all applies to married expat women as well. Having a wedding ring on and even being 42 weeks pregnant hasn’t stopped me being harassed or followed home or having a bad day at work.

KJD
KJD
7 years ago

As unpopular as my opinion is going to be, I think if individuals are being harassed they may need to look at their own behaviours to see if there is something they are doing that may be contributing to the problem. After more than 5 years of living in Qatar I have not once had someone pinch my bottom in the supermarket or follow me home. Of course, I dress pretty conservatively, I don’t wear tight clothing, and I don’t put everything on display for the world to see.

disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

I dress conservatively, KJD. That hasn’t stopped men from propositioning me for sex (paid and unpaid), following me in their cars, or pinching my bum in the grocery store. I’ve seen my Qatari friends in full abaya get the same treatment. You’ve been lucky enough to not be treated like a lump of meat, but it is not my fault or any woman’s fault that men think they can behave this way.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

Better ready yourself for the cyber lynching mob coming your way 😉

disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I’m not attacking her, but disagreeing with her argument. And frankly, I am saddened any time I hear someone say it’s a woman’s fault for acting or looking a certain way, because it just condones the behavior of the harassers.

KJD
KJD
7 years ago

My opinion does not condone the behaviour of the individual doing the harassing. However, no individual can change the behaviour of another person. What we can do is instead examine our own behaviours to try and determine if there is something we are doing that may contribute to the problem. It might not be the way a person dresses that draws unwanted attention. It could also be the way the person behaves or the things they say. If a woman behaves in a manner that is flirtatious and a man responds to the flirtatious tones the woman has contributed to the issue. (And there are some individuals who flirt just for the sake of flirting.) People are always so quick to point their fingers at someone else and demand that everyone else change, but are far more hesitant to place themselves under the same scrutiny and see that perhaps they themselves need to change.

disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

So when my mom is walking down the street with baby in tow and some dude tries to hand her his phone number, she should change her behavior? Maybe she smiled too much? Maybe her sleeves weren’t long enough? Maybe her hijab was askew and her hair was just too intoxicating?

disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

I think we would live in far, far better world if we consistently told each other that we all deserve safety and respect. That includes someone who may have flirted with you but doesn’t want to hook up with you. That includes someone who is vulnerable, intoxicated and can’t consent to anything.

Kingpin
Kingpin
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

What if the woman is doing none of the above, and still gets harassed? What then?

You example works far more in that the harasser should be the one who “place themselves under the same scrutiny and see that perhaps they themselves need to change.”

ann
ann
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

so whenever i am walking down the street, respectfully dressed, minding my own business, and get beeped at or have men walk up to me it was my fault? id love to know what i did that was so alluring, maybe it was that flash of ankle that the men just could not resist…

disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I’m not attacking KJD, but disagreeing with her argument. And frankly it saddens me any time someone says its a woman’s fault, because it condones harassment.

KJD
KJD
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

They can lynch away as much as they like as they are entitled to their opinions just as much as I am entitled to mine, but none of us are likely to change the opinion of the other.

Vanessa
Vanessa
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

What a terrible attitude to have in which the victim is blamed! For the record, the times I have been followed/harassed, I have been dressed quite modestly and most definitely didn’t have “everything on display for the world to see,” thank you very much! Backwards attitudes like yours are detrimental to women’s rights.

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

What a disgusting attitude!

When my Wife and I go to City Centre sometimes we spilt up as we want to go to different shops. On one occasion my Wife was followed round by some dudes in thobes and I can ASSURE you she didn’t have “everything hanging out”! Even after she shouted at them to leave her alone they wouldn’t. It wasn’t until I physically walked up to and confronted them that they finally buggered off!

Lets see if you still have the same attitude if you get followed round by a bunch of guys when your by yourself!!!!!

KJD
KJD
7 years ago
Reply to  Turbohampster

I do frequently go to the malls and shops by myself and have never been bothered. So I can assure you that I will continue to stand by my opinion. 🙂
Cheers!

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

“As long as Im alright Jack”
Yet another fantastic attitude displayed by yourself!

Glad not everyone in the world is as selfish as you

KJD
KJD
7 years ago
Reply to  Turbohampster

Face it Turbohampster, you simply don’t like my opinion because it differs from your own. Would you rather me point out the fact that I have eyes in my head and I can SEE how some other women present themselves in public. I SEE how there are many women who have a “why should I change how I dress to meet the standards of local culture.” Well, guess what? If a woman shows too much cleavage, wears clothing that is too tight, presents themselves in a flirtatious manner then she is actually inviting attention. If you invite attention you can’t always choose the attention you will receive. I would still say the same thing back in North America.
Furthermore, nothing about what I have said is selfish. It’s not me who thinks that “everyone” else should change, instead I am willing to make the changes necessary instead of constantly blaming everyone else for any problems I might have. Perhaps it is you who is selfish in your way of thinking in that it’s everyone else who has the problem.

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

Yes I don’t like your opinion!
But not because it differs from my own. But basically because it hasn’t happened to you, you seem to think that everyone else who it happens to must be dressing or acting inappropriately!

Which is quite frankly an extremely blinkered and naive point of view!

ann
ann
7 years ago

personally I would not have moved here if I were single, I find it very difficult even going to the shop on my own here never mind day to day life. Back home in Ireland I would not think twice about stepping out on my own and wearing whatever I want to wear. If it wasn’t for the better work opportunities here I probably would not have emigrated at all

Kingpin
Kingpin
7 years ago
Reply to  ann

you haven’t emigrated, they can kick you out at will

ann
ann
7 years ago
Reply to  Kingpin

Nice. And exactly the point of the matter

KJD
KJD
7 years ago
Reply to  ann

You are not in Ireland though and therefore need to dress in a manner that respects local laws and culture.

ann
ann
7 years ago
Reply to  KJD

Yes I am aware of that, and do dress appropriately. But I could be wearing black sack, covered head to toe and still not feel 100% at ease.

Aisha
Aisha
7 years ago

i find this article hilarious

Vanessa
Vanessa
7 years ago

What would I add? Follow the rules, find a reliable driver, avoid eye contact with unknown men, keep yourself busy, and don’t get drunk in public (bars, clubs, etc.).

James Harrison
James Harrison
7 years ago

Moving in new place is really stressful so its better to research about that place where you want to move. There are many good points, which will definitely help mover to move in that place.

Anon:)
Anon:)
7 years ago

“I had my bottom pinched in the supermarket on my very first evening in Doha.” Yeah that happens to me everytime I go to Carrefour. Does anyone know what I can do about it? If I tell security, would they do anything about it?

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