Meet a Doha mum: Agata Kobialka
Thirty six year old Agata Kobialka and her husband, Aureliusz Sobanski, are no strangers to expat life. Find out how they adjusted to life in Doha.
Originally from Poland the couple spent 15 years working and studying in the United Kingdom. Agata and her family left their suburban London apartment for Doha after her husband was offered a job as a project manager for an engineering company.
"I will never forget our very first day," Agata says. "We woke up and wanted to explore—a park or some shopping maybe—and got to the lobby and were quickly reminded about the heat in September but were keen enough to brave it anyway. The five-minute estimated walk was nearly impossible with a pushchair and a hungry two year old. There were no paved sidewalk or ramps, the traffic was non-stop and every second building was under construction. Our first impression was comically priceless."
An interview with Agata
Why did you move?
It all started when one of my husband’s work colleagues moved here. He described it as less hectic and more of a work-life balance. As a freelance civil engineer in London life was more than hectic and with a young child, family time was cherished. We then realised that even more people in our industry were moving to Doha and the feedback was all positive so we decided to take the plunge. We knew we needed a change so why not somewhere with a sound referral for raising a young family. Alexander, my son, is only two so when the opportunity arrived we thought why not, we don’t have any commitments to tie us down for now and this side of the world is where all the "action" is in our field of work.
What do you do?
For now I’m in charge of the household but I’m looking to find job in Doha this year in an engineering firm. Before becoming a full-time mum I was a cost engineer for Ridge & Partners consultancy firm in London and am looking forward to returning to the field in the rapidly growing city of Doha.
How did you find the transition to living in another foreign country?
My husband's company did a good job with the physical move. They provided all the necessary arrangements for a smooth transition with assistance at each step of the way, but adjusting is taking some time as it’s a cultural shock.
What languages do you speak to your son?
I speak Polish at home. Sometimes when we’re amongst other mums with children, we speak English but mainly Polish.
Where do you live and are you happy there?
We live in Kempinski Residences, West Bay and we are very happy with our very large apartment, in comparison to our London flat. Depending on how long we live here we may look to move elsewhere but for now it suits our purposes.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the international community living in Doha?
I think there are more advantages than disadvantages. There is sense of community in Doha and all expatriates are friendly and helpful. Since the majority of the population are expats there are many similarities and the opportunities to strike up a conversation or exchange experiences make it easier to make friends.
The disadvantage is the feeling of living in a sort of bubble. I have found it difficult to socialise or even get to know the locals. I live in Qatar but don't know much about Qatari people from a personal account, which is a shame. It is also very slow and a little more bureaucratic in terms of visas, paperwork and general information. The city is still very young and growing so rapidly so this will improve in time.
What surprised you the most about Doha?
The amount of construction definitely surprised me and also the lack of walkways and pavements. I am used to walking around to get where I am going (with pushchair wherever I can). I really enjoy my walks and I love to discover new places on foot and I miss it a lot. I guess it’s a different lifestyle here—more "in-" than "out-" doors—although during nicer weather we try to make the most of the outdoors.
What is your favourite attraction so far?
We love the MIA park and museum. Also, nothing beats the fact that we can go to beach in December without crowds and queues.
How would you sum up life here in four words?
Good for young families.
Where is your next holiday?
We are planning to take a short break to Muscat and then to Oman for a longer family holiday. Thailand, Maldives or Sri Lanka are on the wish list too; as they are so close, we want to take advantage of living here in this part of the globe.
What does your family think of living here?
I think Alexander loves living in Doha, as he has mummy and daddy around. He definitely loves the beach and enjoys the weather and meeting friends from all over the world.
Do you have an expat tip for anyone following in your footsteps?
As soon as you arrive, go out and socialise. Join groups and try to meet and talk to as many people as you can. You then get the inside story first-hand about Doha life and meet other mums and build your support network.
The Kobialka family’s Doha favourites
Ezdan Mall has a great indoor play area and we also like our playroom at Kempinski.
The Fish Market at the Intercontinental Hotel in West Bay and IDAM at Museum of Islamic Art.
Fuwairit beach and MIA park with its stunning views of West Bay.
Carluccio's for a nice pizza or when we have a taste for something more unusual, Mamig, the Armenian Lebanese restaurant in Katara.