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Richard Nero
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In the land of sand

26 November 2010, 07:16  - Richard Nero
I have been living and working in the State of Qatar for nearly six years and it has been a wonderful but also at times difficult experience.
There are a number of South Africans living and working here amongst many other people from all over the world.  So I even speak quite a bit of Afrikaans.
Qatar has a population of about 1.5 million but only about 250 000 are local Qataris. Because of the wealth here, many people want to come and work here despite it being a desert and extreme heat with temperatures over 40 degrees C for about eight months of the year.
Nevertheless don’t think it is easy and you will make your fortune. You work hard here. My normal working week is six long days. Many work longer than that especially in construction and a lucky few less than.
A big shock for South Africans though is that there is no labour protection as in SA. An employer can fire at the drop of a hat and many do. If for some reason that is not an option your employer is also your sponsor so can cancel your sponsorship in which case you no longer have the right to live in the country so you had better get out as fast as you can before immigration catch you.
But generally if you work hard you will not have a problem. Nevertheless there is affirmative action here as well so if a local wants your job you will not last long. Fortunately the locals prefer the softer jobs so if your job is a tough one you are reasonably safe!
But the benefits are a tax free life (no PAYE or VAT) so you get to spend all your salary yourself instead of the government helping you. Nevertheless many things are more expensive but cars are about 60% of the cost of SA and petrol only R1.60 so one can afford to buy and drive bigger cars, generally 4X4s and filling them up is no problem. My car costs less than R250 to fill here whilst in SA would probably be over R1 000. As a result most South Africans tend to drive Pajeros, Prodos, Hummers and other muscle cars because they can.
Generally a bigger and higher 4X  is preferred by all because the standard of driving is terrible so one needs the protection of a larger vehicle.
A word of warning though, accommodation is hugely expensive. The type of villa (that is what they are called here) that the average middle class South Africa will be comfortable with will cost at least R25 000 per month but it is nothing to pay up to R40 000 per month and more. So it is essential that you include a housing allowance in the region of R30 000 per month in your package or you may be very disappointed. And make sure it is all in writing because once here it is too late to negotiate or resign and change.
Lastly, don’t think you can come here and change jobs as you can in SA. Once here you are tied in by your sponsor. To change jobs you need a release and these are only given in exceptional circumstances. This applies even if the employer is at fault. So be warned!
So these are the main disadvantages other than the extremely hot summer and desert conditions.
But we are still here because there are many positives. Generally we live well and can afford to do things we could never consider in SA. We drive better cars and can afford more luxuries including being closer to Europe being able to travel more. We also get to meet people from all over the world and I have really had my eyes opened but one needs to be open-minded and tolerant to enjoy the diversity. Leave your old SA intolerant attitudes behind if you want to make a success here.  Many South Africans have not done so resulting in unhappy short lived times here.
Other than the petrol price though probably what I appreciate most is the security. Coming from SA it is difficult to believe that a modern country can be nearly crime free. Yes, there is some crime but so little that if a car is stolen it makes the newspaper and I have never heard of any violent crime in five years here. I have left my cellphone at a restaurant and it was still there when I came back. Often they will actually come running after you. It is also not uncommon to see a car in a parking lot, unlocked with the engine running whilst the occupants go about their business.
Although theft appears to have increased a little it is still minor with the result that theft insurance cover is not considered normal. Violent crime is almost nonexistent with the result that women have nothing to fear out on their own at night in almost any part of the country which is certainly a good thing because much business and entertainment is done at night to avoid the extreme heat of the day.
Well there is so much more I could tell you and if anyone wants to know more they should e-mail me and I will try to assist.

Nevertheless I consider it a privilege to be able to live and work in this country and will enjoy it and add as much value as I can whilst I am here but ultimately there is only one place I really want to be and that is back in Beautiful South Africa.

- Are you a South African living abroad interested in sharing your views? What is it like for a South African living in a foreign country or how do you view South Africa from a distance? Send us your columns to and you might get published in our new Beyond Borders section.

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Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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