CONTRIBUTED BY JAMIE
When lots of families with two young children are working hard to keep a comfortable, manageable routine, this inspiring family has instead opted to throw off the bowlines and head off on an adventure together on the other side of the world. Find out what it’s like to move your family to Qatar…
My wife and I have been wanting to take our family on an adventure for quite some time, so when I received a job offer to move to Qatar, it didn’t take us long to make the decision to go.
Like many Canadians, the Middle East did prompt a slight hesitation in us, but Qatar is possibly the most progressive country in the Middle East, and I had a friend there, so we felt comfortable enough to make the move.
We’ve been here for a year now, and we’re pleased that we didn’t let early perceptions stop us from taking the risk! We’ve discovered that safety isn’t an issue here, except of course for when you’re driving, which we’ve discovered is bonkers!
We were given the opportunity to move to Qatar because I was hired to take on a teaching gig for Strength and Fitness / PE. I arrived in time to start the 2012/13 school year and have enjoyed it so much that we’ve decided to come back for at least another year.
I ended up receiving this opportunity because a very good friend of mine (we taught together for 11 years) had followed his teaching daughter over to the Middle East. The school where he was teaching needed an experienced teacher with my skill-set. After some networking and Skype sessions, it was made possible for me to head over as well with my family.
Almost everything in a new country is both amazing and difficult at the same time! Whether it’s the Immigration, or the settling in, or getting used to the heat, there is so much new that needs discovering and overcoming when you move to the other side of the world. Especially when you’re taking two young children with you!
But it’s worth it! Some of the incredible new opportunities we’re now enjoying are:
- fun stuff like desert safaris, going to the beach, shopping (learning to shop in the Middle East – negotiating prices)
- the ability to golf in the winter
- crazy, bonkers things like learning to drive in Qatar
- our children being able to ride bikes, swim, and enjoy summer all winter long
- my wife took time off work to do more post-graduate education and as a result has found an opportunity in the international school our girls attend
- we’ve travelled to Europe on holiday, something that would have been unlikely from Canada (both time and money-wise)
- learning , meeting, eating, socializing with a whole bunch of new people from all over the world
- giving our children and ourselves an incredibly open mind to other people and other cultures (our daughters are the only Canadians in their entire school)
Considerations when Moving your Whole Family
Really, all aspects of life need to be considered when relocating your entire family. Children need to go to new schools, make new friends. You need to make sure that everybody’s going to be settled and happy. You also need to think about what you’re going to do with your existing life and things you’re leaving behind.
My wife and I firmly believe that the age of our children made this opportunity ideal. Both of our kids are under the ages of ten, which makes it a little easier for them to relocate.
In terms of our house back in Canada, it was a lot of work, but we boxed up our things for storage and found some good tenants who are now renting our home. Qatar is an adventure for our family. We do not plan to live here forever so we were not about to sell our family home. We plan to eventually return there.
We also did a gradual transition. I went over for the start of the school year and my wife came over with our children at Christmas. That way the groundwork was done ahead of time and our children and my wife could have a little bit of know-how upon arrival. There’s a lot to get used to!
For anyone considering moving their entire family to the other side of the world, I would definitely recommend a similar gradual approach. I think it helped alleviate a lot of stress that we would have faced if we’d all come at the same time.
Living arrangements in most cases in Qatar are arranged by the school, assuming you come over to teach. However, most teaching staff have the option to find their own villas, condos or apartments if they desire. We chose to live in the school housing as it just made it easier for us in terms of the transition, leaving one less thing to worry about.
The Villa we live in is fantastic, with four bedrooms and four bathrooms. Our expat compound is all teaching staff and there’s a pool and fitness facility. It’s also right around the corner from the major grocery store. We can even walk to work if we desire as the school is even closer than the store!
I think one of the biggest things that comes to someone’s mind when they think of life in the Middle East is the quality of life for women. It might be helpful for others if I say that my wife is treated here in Qatar just the same as she in Canada.
There are moments where you need to be culturally sensitive with dress. But there are no laws to state that a woman must be covered from head to toe. My wife has the same rights in Qatar as me.
Teaching in Qatar
The school day in Qatar is pretty much like the school day in North America, with the exception of time. The day starts around 7am and ends around 2pm, whereas in Canada it’s from 8am to 3pm. I think the basic reasoning is to avoid the heat of the day in an attempt to keep the air-conditioning usage to a minimum.
I also believe it has something to do with culture as well. In general, they seem to start the day early and shut down mid-afternoon, then reinvigorate again during the evening hours.
The biggest difference between students in Canada and the Middle East is the cultural upbringing and their native language. There are times where you have to be aware of culturally sensitive topics and you also have to be cognitive about your students being ESL. As with any other place on earth, classroom management skills are a must for a teacher in the Middle East.
That being said, I’ve talked to several teachers from other schools in the region and it varies by school based on population and what the goals of the specific system are. As long as there’s open communication between staff, things function just as they would in Canada.
Finding a Teaching Job in Qatar
I’ve been told that the major recruiting services have good resources. I honestly have to say that this experience was initiated in a ‘who you know’ kind of matter for me. So my first piece of advice would be to keep tabs on friends. You never know where they’ll take you!
Other than that, people need a whole bunch of patience in Qatar! You either bring it or you’ll just have to learn it. Like any other place, they do things their way. Not yours. And you have to learn to respect that and act accordingly.
Teaching Salary and Packages
Most schools recruit through recruiting agencies. From what I can tell, administrators attend most of the major job fairs to find their teaching staff. Networking does work though if you want to avoid that chanel; I’ve seen a lot of our staff arrive on that train.
Salaries is where you’ll see a lot of variance. Most teaching staff are made aware of their salary options on interview, but most organizations vary quite a bit in their pay scales. That being said, my teaching salary is very comparable to what I would find in Canada. If anything, it’s better, especially when you consider that you’re not paying housing costs.
Most job offers should come with housing, some sort of transportation allowance (or access to transportation), as well as health insurance and, most important, some sort of relocation allowance as airfare ain’t cheap!
The Overall Experience
My wife is happy. My girls are happy. I’m happy. Life here is good for us. We’re loving our new adventure together and we’re all developing in wonderful ways that will only make us better people all round. We miss family at home, but we have a big house here and they love coming to visit us, so our move has also benefited them.
As I’ve said, we’re coming back for another year. Why wouldn’t we?