It’s a very strange feeling to have a sense of loyalty towards a country you haven’t stepped foot in yet (unless you count being in the airport to catch a connecting flight to Bali 2 years ago). However, somehow, I find myself defending Qatar, and almost having to justify my reasons for wanting to live and work there, on an almost daily basis. It’s astounding and infuriating the amount of people who have pre-conceived negative ideas about life there.
Today, we had an appointment scheduled at a bank to get a joint account set up before my big move (how grown up of us). We were invited into a little glass room and the assistant talked us through the features of the account all the while coughing in a Mr Poe-esque manner (If you don’t understand this reference you need to watch A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix immediately).
She asked us what we did for work and I said that I was just about to move to Qatar to teach. “You’re crazy” she said with a deadpan face, “I can’t think of a worse place in the Middle East to move to”. A strange statement to make I thought, given the current war torn state that some countries are in. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was basing this statement on as she said she had never visited nor did she know anyone currently living there. She then proceeded to say the one phrase that has the power to make me instantly be wary about a person…
“I’m not anti-Muslim
She continued to tell me all about women having absolutely no rights in Qatar. I’ve sort of given up arguing with these people so just gritted my teeth and smiled politely but my other half couldn’t stop himself from telling her that “despite her reservations” I had secured myself a very good job. Sometimes I feel that I haven’t got the right to defend my decision to move having not yet experienced the culture or country (who knows, I may get out there and agree with her that there isn’t a worse place to live – but I highly doubt it).
I feel fairly prepared for what I am going to be confronted with when I arrive in Qatar. I am lucky, I have a fabulous friend who has just come back from four years teaching in Qatar and has been kind enough to answer the vast amount of questions that pop into my head at 4am. I have also spent countless hours reading expat blogs to gather ideas and learn about other people’s experiences on top of making a conscious effort to keep up to date with current news topics so I feel better informed.
The judging makes me fed-up and I guess In some ways I’m envious of my friends who are staying in the UK to teach – when they tell people they’ve secured a job they probably get asked the following 3 questions:
Where is your school?
What year group are you teaching?
How many children are in your class?
When I tell someone I’ve secured myself a job at a leading international school in Qatar here are the 3 questions I’m asked:
You’re a woman so you won’t be able to drive will you?
You do you know you won’t be able to drink right?!
Have you got to wear a burka?
(The people who are really concerned for my welfare will also, of course, ask me about the availability of bacon).
Here’s hoping that when I return at Christmas I will be better prepared to tackle the preconceptions and be able to produce some fabulous photographs of me -shock horror-driving to work, enjoying the occasional cocktail with my friends and, for the most part, wearing the clothes I would wear at home.
8 days to go