Forgetting how doors work and other tales…

…AKA ‘You know you’ve lived in Qatar too long when…”

Fellow Dohaze dweller and blogger ‘Bright Lights, Little City’ recently wrote this post about the sudden realisation that he called Doha ‘home.’ It is, indeed, a shock to realise that you actually live in Qatar.

I only fully came to terms with the fact that this wasn’t some kind of extended, slightly dusty, holiday when I moved into an unserviced flat and had to buy bedding.

But slowly, surely, and subtly, Doha creeps up on you until you stop paying attention to the weird ways that are now an almost daily part of your life.

Below is a list of moments, experienced by myself, my friends, or my ‘only-know-them-on-Twitter-but-they-seem-nice’ acquaintances, that reminded us we have been in the Gulf too long.

1) You navigate around the city using five star hotels as the only landmarks.

There are no post codes, Google maps is, at best, a vague suggestion of the road system you might experience not taking into account roadworks, new roundabouts that make no sense, or old roundabouts that *did* make sense being removed.

Sentences like: “Turn right when you see the sign for The Kempinski, go past the W, head right at the crossing and you should see the Mariott…” are worryingly commonplace.

2) This is a totally normal thing to see:

Spotted en route to the beach

Spotted en route to the beach.

3) When it reaches 20 degrees and you reach for a jumper.

I told my mum to bring a jacket when she visited in December as it was getting down to 17 degrees in the evenings.

I got a ‘look.’

For context, here is this week’s forecast:

Saturday evening is looking a little chilly....

Saturday evening is looking a little chilly….

4) When you land in another country and assume there’s something wrong with your ears because you can’t hear construction noises.

5) When you forget how doors work.

To be absolutely clear, this wasn’t me.

When I first arrived a man I was interviewing said he once went back to the States and walked up to a door. It wasn’t automatic and no-one opened it for him so he stood there for a full 5 seconds before remembering what he had to do.

6) You have never made a coffee at work.

The service culture in the Gulf is insane, but the thing I found most difficult was the fact that most offices have a guy employed especially to make your coffee. It was rubbish because it meant I couldn’t procrastinate through my usual technique of frequent kitchen visits.

7) Filling your own car up is weird.

I don’t drive, but friends have told me stories of sitting in petrol stations in the UK or elsewhere and becoming increasingly frustrated that no-one is there to fill the car up.

8) When people say sandstorm everyone thinks this:

But you think this:



9) You are excessively nice to shop workers/waiters etc because you feel extreme guilt about how they are treated the rest of the time.

10) You understand that speed limits, traffic lights and lane discipline are all things that happen in other countries. People making left turns from the far right lane no longer freaks you out.

11) Any road is connected to all other roads by a series of roundabouts.

Also, it is totally normal that these roundabouts are named after the thing on them or near them. Immigration roundabout, arch roundabout, Oryx roundabout, TV roundabout, and Burger King roundabout are a few of my favourites.

Slope roundabout is on a slight incline.

This was a remarkably common costume at a 'good, bad, and ugly of Qatar' party...

This was a remarkably common costume at a ‘good, bad, and ugly of Qatar’ party…

12) Your reply to being asked for anything is “Bukra Insha’allah.”

13) You know that if someone says that to you it means “maybe sometime next month, or never, whatever, where’s my karak?”

14) You are at least 40% karak.

15) When you head back to the West, the outfits seem shocking.

I mean, there were shoulders and knees everywhere. Scandalous.

16) You change lanes as soon as a Land Cruiser gets anywhere near you.

17) You use ‘shway shway’ and ‘wait’ hand gestures without realising.

18) Dropping £700 at a time in the offy is no big deal. Also, a lot of that will probably be spent on pork. Ahhh, QDC.

19) You’ve stopped checking Facebook on a Saturday night because it is depressing to see all your friends at home getting ready to go out when you’re getting ready for work.

20) Three months without leaving the country is too long.

21) Tax is a dirty word.

22) You get unnaturally excited about Ikea opening.

Props to my Gulf-ised friends who added their thoughts to this. At least we’re all going insane together…


11 thoughts on “Forgetting how doors work and other tales…

  1. Went for a walk round our compound with my kids the other day. The stares of incredulity from people queuing at the traffic lights seemed to say: “Don’t they have someone to do that for them?”

    Great post. Love the ‘Blurgh’ caption, so true – and I endorse #9 with extra triple bells on. I become such a parody of English politeness I half expect Richard Curtis to yell “Cut!” when I stop talking.

  2. I think it is always useful to have a jumper with you even in the summer heat . Some public places are way too cool for me . I always enjoy reading the street names in Qatar . They are both in English and Arabic . I can learn a lot .

  3. – read ure article and as an expat who has lived in the middle east I can relate to your article. However I must say ure tone is extremely condescending and ure article might well be better titled “why we in the west are superior to these silly people in the mid east”. I fully appreciate that things can seem strange to us from the west but no more than it must be for others coming to the UK. We tend to be outraged if anyone dares to say our society and culture is wrong but feel it is ok to say the same of others. I do not believe there is a right or wrong- just different. Your article just poked fun at them. Badly done .

    • Hi Anna,
      Thank you for your comment.

      While your view seems to be in the minority, I felt it was only polite to reply as you have obviously considered your response carefully.

      I also think it is important to answer your points as others may share your views.

      To set the record straight from the outset, I adore Doha, Qatar and the rest of this region.

      I really believe that Qatar has a lot to offer the world.

      My article was never intended to be taken seriously, it was more a tongue in cheek look at how expats respond to being in the Gulf, rather than any form of judgement on Gulf culture. If you have the time I would invite you to read some of my other posts where I hope the joy I take from being in the Middle East shines through.

      I am surprised by your view that the tone of the piece was a negative one. This was certainly not my intent and, in fact, I was very happy when my friends from Qatar and the rest of the region saw the humour in my observations. having said that, you are entitled to interpret the article however you wish, all I can do is seek to persuade you that it was not meant to be condescending. Similar articles have been written about countries all over the world, and even some counties in the UK (I have seen ‘You know you’re a Yorkshireman when… articles and have laughed out loud) and my intention was to replicate this type of levity.

      I totally agree with your view that no way of living is the correct one as long as everyone within a culture is respected and happy.

      I would be interested to know where in the Middle East you lived, as from my experience, the Gulf is very different (but no better or worse) from, for example, the Levant.

      I hope this response has addressed your concerns.


  4. i add a few habits that i get used to in Doha:
    1. that you can call the corner supermarket for home delivery of milk and water
    2. that when you are a lady waiting to cross the road, drivers will stop and let you cross.. even in high speed areas.
    3. you expect the streets and public areas to be clean, you get used to the minions in yellow.
    4. that coffee costs from one riyal to Fifty depending on the name on the cup, and you dont mind paying more.

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