Americans in Doha

With America’s Independence Day taking place on July 4, we catch up with expats from the States living in Doha and ask how they plan to celebrate

Jeffrey Tucker
Jeffrey Tucker
Americans in Doha Image #2
Melissa Downham Image #3
Melissa Downham
Americans in Doha Image #4
Rachel Awad Image #5
Rachel Awad
Americans in Doha Image #6
Americans in Doha Image #7
Americans in Doha Image #8
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Jeffrey Tucker

‘I’ve been in Doha for four years. I had a friend that had worked in Qatar, and he’d had a really good experience here. My family and I were also looking for a bit of adventure, so we thought we would try it out. So far it has been a great experience. I work in the oil and gas business, so this is a good place to be.

‘I am from a small town in Indiana, which is in the Midwest. Back home, I am used to four very distinct seasons and the winters are very cold. Doha is certainly much more interesting, although I miss the greenery and cooler weather from time to time. I remember when I first arrived – it was July, and I was overwhelmed by the oppressive summer heat. I think I have adjusted to it now, though.

‘What else do I miss? Well, family of course, but we have met other Americans living in Doha. There are many here that my wife and I have both met through work and the children. My experience has been that Americans don’t congregate like some of the other nationalities I have seen, however. There isn’t any place I have been to where I have come across a lot of Americans – we are pretty spread out.

‘We try to celebrate the big US holidays over here, and the children learn about these at school through the activities they do. This makes us feel a little closer to home. Most supermarkets offer food you can get in the US, but Megamart does a pretty good job of stocking those essential comfort foods. And I like to go for a shisha now and again – that’s something we don’t have in the States.

‘The traffic can be a problem here, but it is improving. Sometimes I wish I could read and speak Arabic – it would make things a little easier. In my spare time I like running – I don’t play an organised sport, but I run marathons and am training for a triathlon with some other folks. Work and driving the kids to soccer and swimming takes up the rest of my time.

‘We’ll probably stay another two or three years. The kids are happy in school, it is very safe and we still find it interesting. I’ve only been back to the US twice since we’ve been here. When it’s Independence Day, that’s when I miss a good American barbecue. How can you go wrong with hotdogs and hamburgers? We’ll be eating those on July 4 this year.’


Melissa Downham

‘My husband moved to Doha in July 2008, and I followed in September. We came here for my husband’s job – he works as the CFO of Northwestern University in Qatar, and I am a stay-at-home mum. We are from Chicago in the US, which is a much bigger city than Doha. It’s huge, and there is always something going on. The public transportation is really good in Chicago also, which is something Doha lacks. There’s also quite a bit of snow in Chicago in the winter.

‘We actually visited Doha before my husband accepted the job offer, so we knew what everything looked like and met a few people. I miss the green of home and my friends and family, though. Also Target, a huge “everything” store. I also miss working – at home I had my own photography business, shooting portraits and weddings.

‘We have met Americans through social groups and children’s playdates. Doha Mums has been a great resource for meeting people, and it’s run by another American, Roxanne Davis. We counter our homesickness by spending time with friends, travelling to places we never thought we’d see and trying to remember how lucky we are that my husband has a job he likes and can afford for me to stay home with our children.

‘We love travelling to interesting places and meeting people from different countries and cultures. But why is everything so beige here? I also think it’s quite expensive.

‘In my spare time I help out with Doha Mums. I’m the co-coordinator for Mums Only Coffee on Tuesdays at The One. I definitely volunteered more before I had my second child in February, and I hope to get more
involved again soon. I spend a lot of time taking pictures of Doha, my children and my friends’ children, as I like photography.

‘I’m not sure how long we’ll stay. Our contract is for three years. We visit home about once a year. We know we’ll end up back there, so we’re trying to travel around the region as much as we can instead.

‘I’ll get homesick on Independence Day. I spent three months back home to have our second child and had a great time with my family. But there are a lot of Americans on our compound, so hopefully someone will have a party.’


Rachel Awad

‘I’ve been in Doha for just over five years – we arrived in April 2005. I originally came to be a consultant to the Supreme Education Council, working on the reform of Qatari schools. I am still working at SEC, managing the Outstanding Schools Programme (for private international schools).

‘I am originally from Philadelphia, although I have lived all over the US. There are so many differences between Doha and Philly. For one, Philadelphia is an ideal city for walking, and there is so much green, with lots of parks. But they are both big cities with small town feelings, and I love that.

‘Having lived in Egypt for almost nine years before moving to Doha, I was expecting to find things here to be similar. But in fact Qatar is very different from Egypt in so many ways, and I was very surprised. I was not at all familiar with Gulf culture. For example, in Cairo things tend to start later in the day and continue well into the night. On our first night here we went to the mall, and were surprised to find the shops closing at
10pm on a Thursday.

‘My first job in Qatar was with a US-based consulting agency, so most of my colleagues were American. But now most of my friends in Qatar are from the UK, Australia and New Zealand. I know a few other Americans through work and various activities for expats. I also participate in the “girl’s night out” organised by Expat Woman, and have met a lot of friends through that, but again most aren’t American.

‘The things I miss most include family and friends, good fresh bagels and authentic Philly cheese steaks. But I have a plan for unlimited calls to the US, so I speak to family and friends all the time. Doha is full of American restaurants, but sadly most of them are fast-food type places. My son loves McDonalds, and we go to Chili’s every once in a while.

‘I love the working hours here. Since I work for the government, our hours are 7am-2pm, and I love getting home mid-afternoon and having the rest of the day to myself. I also love the mix of nationalities and cultures. I don’t know how long we’ll stay. It’s very hard to say, as it depends on contracts being renewed or extended. I originally came here on a 15-month contract, and never expected to still be here five years later. It might be another six months, or maybe a few more years.’


Country profile

America is more than a country, it’s an idea, dreamed up by a rebellious group of colonists, who, in declaring independence from the British on July 4, 1776, coined that famous phrase, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ And so America set out to
be different – in its ambition for all its citizens, irrespective of their birth. This took a long time to realise. While the United States became the world’s unrivalled superpower in the early 20th century, it was not until last year that the country gained its first black president, Barack Obama. Still, in this remarkably short time, the US has become the world’s biggest economy, contributed many important technological advancements, and played an instrumental part in the establishment of the United Nations. Not bad for a country that’s been around for fewer than 250 years.


Details

July 4 at Cigar Lounge, Sharq Village, 7pm
Celebrate with Harley – 25 per cent off burgers and drinks for Harley-Davidson card holders.

American Women’s Association
Various venues, call 428 1428 or go to www.awaqatar.com.

Ric’s Kountry Kitchen
Ras Abu Aboud Street (443 7846).

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