When you move to a new place, you expect things to be a little different. I didn’t quite know what to expect when moving to Doha, but I knew a completely different place and culture on the other side of the world would have a few surprises for me. Below are just a few of the things that jump out to me that are quite different from back home.
The entire city is one giant construction site.
You can’t drive anywhere in the city without passing a new building (or complex of buildings) being constructed or a road being torn up. Tower cranes seem to equal, if not outnumber, the skyscrapers here in the city. Doha seems to almost want to be the next Dubai, and it seems to be well on it’s way. I wonder if Dubai had as many growing pains as it seems Qatar is having.
Everyone here thinks they’re a race car driver.
And a lot of them have the cars to go with driving style. There are plenty of Ferraris, Maseratis, Porsches, Land Rovers, and Land Cruisers on the road. The more expensive car you have, the more aggressive driver you are. Any place the horn is used more often than the brakes is a great place to perfect your defensive driving skills.
Multi-lane roundabouts are everywhere.
Before I moved to Qatar I was under the impression that roundabouts were safer than the traditional intersections, and Wikipedia confirmed my thoughts. After living here for almost three months now, I think I’ve lost a little faith in Wikipedia. The combination of aggressive driving, blatant disregard of lane markings, refusal to use signals, and drivers inching the front of their cars out into the roundabouts while waiting to enter makes for an adventure in entering any roundabout during rush hour.
All pedestrians seem to have a death wish.
There are few sidewalks, and a lot of those that are here are being torn up due to construction. There are crosswalks at intersections here, but few people seem to use them, and of course there are no crosswalks at the roundabouts. People not only cross major highways by foot, but even walk down major roads that have no shoulder. Daring pedestrians, aggressive driving, and the amount of construction going on in this city is a dangerous combination.
The architecture is world class.
The Qataris want to construct incredible structures, and they spare no expense in doing so. The architecture in this city is incredibly unique, and completely different than anywhere outside of the Middle East. Most skyscrapers here seem to have their own unique shape or feature to set them apart from the one sitting next to them. It’s something that most building owners outside of this part of the world wouldn’t pay for, but here they will. The combination of the willingness to spend the money for a unique building and the implementation of the traditional Islamic geometric designs into the architecture makes it a fun place for any architecture aficionado.
Parking on sidewalks, major roads, etc. is totally acceptable.
Despite spending loads of money on the buildings here, someone forgot to explain to them that all these buildings house people, and all these people drive. There is a serious lack of parking available here, and so the people make due with what they can. Sidewalks are packed with cars near busy malls and congested commercial areas. People park on the side of major streets, taking up traffic lanes. Double parking here is almost as common. Park in front of another car, throw your hazard lights on, and you’re good to go. At least until the person you’ve blocked in wants to leave and starts using their horn.
The city is incredibly segregated.
I can really only speak for the United States and for the little time I’ve spent visiting other countries, but Qatar seems to be the most segregated place I’ve ever been. It appears that for the most part, nationalities keep to their own. To be fair, the heavy majority of people here are not from Qatar and it makes sense that people tend to cling to others that speak their language and relate to their culture from back home. I need to be aware of this, and make an extensive effort to make friends with people from all over (and there are people here from all over).
The bathrooms are truly international.
Any bathroom you go into here in Doha will have both toilet paper and a bidet shower (aka ‘bum gun’) for your hygiene requirements. If you’re in an apartment or a house, there’s a good chance you’ll have the option of cleaning up using a full size bidet as well.
You can get a carwash anywhere you park your car.
This is quite awesome. Go to the mall, and once you get out of your car there will be someone waiting to ask you if you’d like your car washed for 10 QR (about $2.75 USD). I parked in a dirt lot once, and a guy offered to wash my car there (and I took him up on it). Our job site has guys on staff to wash the employees’ cars. Don’t ask me why, but I’m certainly not going to complain.
Tea boys are standard in every office.
That’s right, tea boys. Tea boys are guys whose job it is to serve tea and coffee to everyone who works in the office. Officially, each person gets two deliveries a day – one in the morning, and one after lunch. You give them your order when you start working there, and that’s what they bring you every day, twice a day. In our office, during the beginning of every meeting they come around like a waiter asking everyone what they’d like to drink. I’m pretty sure this is something we need to implement in the States. Immediately.
You can get any kind of food delivered here.
From pizza to McDonald’s to baked goods, it can all be on your doorstep in minutes… well, maybe not quite that fast. Labor here is cheap, so they’ve got guys out on motorcycles delivering all kinds of things. It’s kinda cool, yet kinda strange.
All in all, Qatar is much more Westernized than I would have guessed, but I’m sure the longer I’m here the more I’ll begin to notice other things that aren’t quite what I’m used to back in the States. I’m looking forward to discovering all the nuances and differences of this place. What kind of different or strange things have you noticed while traveling or living in other countries?