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Meet a Doha Family: Habay Family

Zuley Habay, originally from Turkey, came to Doha in 2013 with her husband and two children. Here, she shares her thoughts with us about life as an expat, how she settled in and how she keeps busy and happy in Doha.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?

Doha is a small city so you would think it was easy to settle down here, but because of the very limited schooling and housing options in comparison to other cities we have lived in, it proved hard to find choices we were happy with. This made the transition more difficult in the first year.

What have you found are the best activities to do here?

More than ever, I have found that spending quality time with family and friends is important here. You cannot spend your whole time wishing you were somewhere else, doing something you used to do. The Middle East is not somewhere you can live outdoors all year round, so spending time with like-minded people, enjoying a nice meal together, sharing experiences and socialising has become a large part of our lives. We have made many friends living on the Pearl and we love it.

How does the cost of living compare to your homeland?

Doha’s first downfall is its cost of living. It is an expensive city, especially in terms of rental prices. You need to be smart in other areas of your life to make sure you are still saving.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?

I find there is a lack of quality education options here. This needs to be addressed and improved. There are very few good schools available and if you don't have a British passport, it's extra hard to find a place.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?

Negotiate before you sign your accommodation contract. This is a large part of the household budget and there are alternatives out there. Do your research and take your time. The more you socialise and tap into certain networks, the more options and choices you will find to suit  your needs.

What are your top five expat tips for living in Qatar?

  • Respect the locals’ lifestyle and try to understand them. You may not agree with everything they do and say, but appreciate it for what it’s worth and enjoy your time experiencing this cultural difference.
  • Become a member of social groups like Doha mums. It will help you so much.
  • Try to be active. It is very easy to work too much and not exercise enough. There are so many indoor sports options for adults. You just need to choose one and make it a routine.
  • Find a hobby. Volunteering is always a nice option.
  • Socialise with other expats (especially ones from a similar culture to start off with). You can learn from them and share so much with each other.

How would you rate the healthcare in Doha?

I am very impressed with this service. If you have a Hamad card, you can enjoy free health care.

What is the greatest lesson you have learnt to date?

That when setting schedules or a meeting, the word "insh’Allah" takes the place of an exact time. If you don't chase and follow up, people generally aren’t very punctual here. You need to follow up your case and sometimes push people to do their job. Lack of punctuality is disrespectful in many cultures, but here it seems to be normal. You must incorporate this into your schedule.

Where is your favourite place to go on weekends?

With my husband always working, we spend a lot of time at home entertaining. We prefer to spend our time at the Pearl, by the pool or on the beach.

Mr. Habay says

What is the best part of working in Doha?

I am generally working fewer hours here and I’m still able to earn good money.

Do you have any hobbies or activities you do regularly that you would not have normally done back home?

Swimming in our pool. It’s a great way to keep fit and it’s right outside my door, so no excuses.

How would you comment on your quality of life?

Our quality of life is definitely better here than in our home country. I have more time for myself and for my family. The all-year-round sunny weather is also an advantage to living here, although many people don’t like it.

Did you think your family and children settled into Doha life easily?

No, it was so hard, because we couldn't find a good school. We did not get them into a good school for some time. Education is very important to us and so it was on top of our priority list. The schools come across as being very good online, but when you experience them first hand and meet the teachers you quickly realise that the standards are not adequate.

How often do you travel back home?

We are fortunate to be able to travel twice a year. We go home for one of those trips and on holiday somewhere else for the other.

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