Roxanne Davis is maker and creator of Doha mums - a thriving community of passionate mothers from all over the world who have come to settle in the sultry heat of Qatar. She found a slot in her crazy calendar of events to explain to expats everywhere the rise and fall of life in Doha.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I grew up in five Southern & Midwestern states of the US but claim California as my home.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Doha, Qatar
Q: How long you have you lived in Doha?
A: Nineteen months
Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A: Husband + two kids (2-year-old & 4-year-old)
Q: Why did you move to Qatar; what do you do?
A: My husband works in the natural gas industry. I was a CPA and litigation consultant prior to moving overseas in 2001. Now I am the Group Administrator (and founder) of Doha Mums.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A: It’s a very laid-back place to live. The pressure of enrolling your child in every activity under the sun doesn’t exist, though that’s mainly because the choices are limited. Quality of life is very good, but you have to accept a number of changes from wherever you were living previously.
Q: Any negatives about Doha? What do you miss most about home?
A: The weather is horrific in the summer, which lasts from the beginning of May through the end of November. It’s so hot that you literally feel your skin burning as you walk across the parking lot. I miss the green space and the opportunity to do things outside. Here it’s simply too hot for most of the year, there’s no topography and there’s very little green space.
Q: Is Doha safe?
A: It is relatively safe. However, crime DOES occur – it’s just not always reported in the media.
About living in Doha
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: Doha is odd in that there are no “good” or “bad” places to live as an expat. We’re spread throughout the city. It’s really a matter of wanting to be near everything but enduring the traffic (suggestion = Al Waab) or being a bit farther away from everything but not having much traffic (suggestion = West Bay).
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Doha?
A: It totally depends. The quality of the building is not good at all. Some compounds are better than others, but don’t expect it to be like home.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Qatar compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Housing can be pricey.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Generally speaking, the Qataris and the expats don’t mix much. There are definitely exceptions, though. One of my good friends in Doha is Qatari.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Doha?
A: It was much easier for me here in Qatar than it was in Melbourne or Buenos Aires, largely because I have kids. Doha Mums has been a fabulous vehicle for meeting other expats.
Family and children in Doha
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: My husband is very much an outdoor person, so this posting could be better for him in that respect.
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: My 2-year-old was fine, but my 4-year-old had a LOT of trouble adjusting and still talks about “the old home”. I am not sure how much is “just him”, but I suspect that this attitude is more “him” than the location.
Q: What are the schools in Qatar like, any particular suggestions?
A: You’ll need to secure your spots in nursery and school as soon as possible – before you get here, if you can. It can be really tough to get in, and the popular expat schools are expensive. There is one American Curriculum school and the rest are British or international curriculums.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Qatar?
A: Hmm. I would recommend that you go home if you have something seriously wrong. They seem equipped for your average situation, but I remain cynical. I did have a hand surgery here in Qatar, which was performed by an American doctor.
When I saw my surgeon back in the U.S. he said, “They gave you the wrong diagnosis and performed a surgery on your hand that I have never done and will never do. They used the wrong stitches inside your hand, which will lead to additional scarring. They also left your hand in the cast for much longer than they should have – and should never have put you in a splint once the cast came off.”
Yeah, I’d go home for even the more minor stuff given the option.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Go out and meet people as soon as you arrive. Attend one of the expat coffees the first week you arrive, and the second week and the third week. Change groups if you’re not impressed with one – but go back to the first group and give them another try later. Don’t be afraid to call a group leader and ask for them to have a coffee with you – sometimes knowing someone cares is all it takes to boost your confidence. Understand that Doha is different, and learn to accept some of the differences and stick to your preferences with others. Look for ways to have fun instead of complaining that there’s nothing to do. If you’re a parent with kids of any age, be sure to join Doha Mums!
~ Interviewed May 2010