السبت، 5 يوليو، 2014

Culture Shock

I've been silent for quite some time, but I've decided to start blogging again. Let's just say I became a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the experience here. It is something that happens to a lot of "expats" who come here. The phenomena is well-known, and commonly referred to as culture shock.

After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one's cultural attitude. Language barriers, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings.

Before coming to Doha, I had not traveled outside of the continental United States. A bit of Internet research suggests that's not so unusual. As few as 5% of Americans choose to travel overseas, and the Arabian peninsula is hardly seen as a recreation destination, perhaps with the exception of Dubai.

Qatar's population is about 1.8 million, of whom 80% are expatriates. More than one million are construction and service workers from India, Nepal, Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Many of the technical/professional jobs are held by about 50,000 Brits, Australians, and Americans.

I've now been in Qatar for nine months. My last post was in January, so a lot has transpired during that time.

At work my project management team moved to a new office, and will soon move once again to the construction site 15 kilometers South of Doha. In April I returned to the U.S. for a two week visit with family, friends and former colleagues. Upon my return, I left my shared apartment in West Bay and spent 5 weeks in the Al Saad neighborhood of Doha. Currently, I am staying again in West Bay, house/dog-sitting for my Project Director, who is on holiday in the States.
West Bay from the 25th Floor
To continue this blog means I will be writing about all aspects of my culture-shocked expat experience. When I try to describe what it is like here, the most fitting term is "surreal".

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