Adventures of a Travelling Male Spouse

I am delighted with my guest post today as it comes from one of those still rare – or is it just shy? – species, the male expat spouse. I know their numbers are increasing, but it’s still the women we think of when we imagine what life is like for the non-working partner. Anyway when Neel (who lives with his wife in Qatar) offered to write a guest post for me, I jumped at the chance. Here he talks about what life has been like for him and his partner since arriving in Doha at the end of last year.

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About me

Me and my wife were born in London and lived there our whole lives. My wife was interviewed for an exciting new role in recruitment in Doha before the summer of 2014 and eventually was given a start date just before Christmas of last year. We both decided it would be a fantastic opportunity for her and there was potential for me to find work (as I am a qualified teacher) and for us to have an adventure and travel before settling down and having children . I decided to come and visit for a month, the week after my wife arrived so I could help her settle in and have some face to face interviews here. It’s transpired that I have ended up staying and have a permanent role starting in September.

First impressions

I am glad that I decided to come over as soon as I did as Doha can be a lonely place. Particularly for women as the area we live in is permanently under construction and populated full of male labourers, although I believe it is safe, it is not the most comfortable environment to be around. We weren’t given a great deal of support in terms of figuring things out, where to go to get various documents signed etc etc.. so I did a lot of the initial exploring. My wife does comment sometimes that if I hadn’t arrived when I did then the first month would have been much more difficult and she would have ventured out far less than she did and potentially even come back home.

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Job searching and the VISA system

One of the things you notice about Qatar and perhaps this is true of most of the Middle East, is that it is a male dominated culture. Subtle things such as responses being directed at me rather than my wife who asked the question. In almost all the interviews I had, the first question I was asked was how much money my wife was earning and what package she was on. My situation was bemusing to many employers who could not understand why she would be earning more than I would, despite the fact she is a successful and ambitious private sector employee and I am merely a teacher.

A big issue for me as a trailing spouse was the VISA arrangement. Although I have stayed on a tourist VISA with regular airport runs until now, there were two options for me. Either I could be employed but under the sponsorship of my wife or I could be sponsored by a school. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Being sponsored by a school means I could be eligible for a housing allowance which would make my salary package more lucrative but most schools would be unwilling to transfer your employment to someone else. So if you end up working at a disreputable school then you are either stuck there or if you do leave, you wouldn’t be eligible to work anywhere else in Qatar for 2 years. Under my wife’s sponsorship I would have the freedom to move but my pay would take a big hit because I wouldn’t be able to get a housing allowance.

Another issue was that if I was to work under my wife’s sponsorship, I could not transfer this sponsorship to my employer for at least 12 months. All of these things considered, I decided to decline the job offers I had been given until I was satisfied I would get a job in a school I would be happy with as it would be far better for us both in the long run.

The perception

In the meantime I have been tutoring and working part time to keep myself busy and doing some voluntary work which has actually led to a full time position for September. I do get teased by friends and my in-laws for being a bum and not working which I can laugh about most of the time but occasionally it does grate as I’ve taken a long term decision and not taken a job that I would be unhappy in. My wife has been very understanding of the situation but she probably takes the piss the most!

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Meeting people

The Doha social scene caters very well to women, mothers and children. It is a great place for families and there are lots of support groups and social activities for them. Perhaps it’s a nature of the place that many expat wives are able to look after their children full-time and have more free time to devote to leisure time but I don’t think that’s always the case. For men it’s a different story. As a single guy, Doha can be difficult. Many public places are only open to families on certain days and times. We were fortunate to know a few people who lived here before we came over and they have been fantastic for us and really helped us out. Although we have made lots of acquaintances, we still don’t know that many people outside of our workplaces. I am quite sporty so I have played football with friends of friends and have got chatting to people at our local gym. There are lots of opportunities for this in the city. When I start work in September I hope to join the tennis club and play some golf which I’m sure will be a nice opportunity to meet people. You really can do all sorts here, there are meetup groups happening all the time. Learning Arabic would also be an excellent way to do this and integrate yourself into the culture.

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My advice for trailing spouses

  • Take your time deciding on a job offer. It’s better to come here, see where you are going to live and settle in first
  • Keep yourself active and busy in the meantime, look for volunteering opportunities, networking events and social activities
  • Be proud of your wife. An opportunity for her can still be an opportunity for you. It’s worth weighing up your options to see if it makes sense for both of your careers
  • Enjoy the experience, if you have kids it’s a safe place for them to grow up and Qatar is a travel hub where you can explore so many places
  • Ask me a question. Feel free to come by to my blog and read about my experiences or to ask me anything, I’d be happy to try and help

Thank you Neel – I love your advice (especially to be proud of your wife 🙂 ). You can read more about Neel’s adventures in Qatar at his website Dohabitation. And if you too are a male trailing spouse please let me know – I contribute to a number of expat blogging link-ups and twitter chats and it would be great to see more of the guys there!

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8 thoughts on “Adventures of a Travelling Male Spouse

    • Wow! I would of course say London but I am very biaised. It’s the city where I grew up and even though I have travelled to a lot of places, I still think there is nowhere on earth that can beat it for so many different reasons. It’s such a mix of culture, history and energy that its impossible to be bored over there. If you can get yourself a good job on a decent salary and a nice place to live then you can have a really good life over there.

      However, thats not to say that Doha isn’t a nice place to live. It’s a small city and easier to get around (depending on traffic). Its cheap to hail down a taxi and the weather for 8 months of the year is amazing. I find I have more free time over here as I am not travelling as much as I did back in London and the sunshine and warm weather lifts your spirits compared to the grey miserable days you get back home. Going to sporting events is usually free or ridiculously cheap and there are so many on throughout the year. The food is amazing in the restaurants here too.

      Doha is on such a fast paced journey and changing beyond recognition year on year. In a few years there will be a metro system and a whole new mini-city to the north, its a very exciting time to be here!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Neel, Loved your post. My wife and I and three boys, 5,7,11 are thinking of a move to Qatar, from Australia. My wife is a senior nurse in a highly specialised field and I am a 18 year Police Officer. My wife has been thinking about taking up a job in Qatar the money isn’t really a factor, it appears the medical management positions are hard to come by and I assume are filled by people who have already completed contracts there. As such she would need to take a lower role which in terms of pay would be comparable to what she already earns. Only benefits being a slight tax advantage (she already enjoys massive tax advantages) and free housing, utilities and childrens education (plus an amazing experience for the children). Having put to bed my concerns about whether I could still enjoy a beer now and then. I am thinking if we do make the move that I would also take my time in finding employment and am unsure what employment I might find that is suitable as I have no real tertiary qualifications (other than a Detectives Diploma in policing). I accept that I would be earning less than I currently do (even considering tax free status) possibly get a job in the hotel industry working security. I too play tennis and golf, but days of Rugby are behind me, the sporting opportunities and outdoors life seem to offer a lot for my boys. Ease of travel to Europe is also a bonus.

    Can you think of any negatives for a person in my situation making such a move? (despite the obvious, my career, our friends, our families).

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    • Hi Colin, apologies for the delayed response, I have been on holiday and just come back and seen this. Your situation may be a little different to ours. In regards to our situation, my wife has made a sideways move in terms of salary, it is around the same as it was back in London but the total package means we have more disposable income over here and the international experience may help when we eventually do move back home. I have actually been able to earn far more than i would back home and our expenses are reduced considerably. For us, our combined disposable income has almost doubled by moving out here and is the primary reason we are here (for me at least), although my wife also wanted to have the experience of living abroad. I notice that for yourselves, the financial aspect isn’t the main factor but for us was crucial.

      There are a few agencies here that I could put you in touch with. My concern for you is that the hotel industry may opt for candidates from other nationalities (e.g. the Phillipines, Indian subcontinent or Egypt) as the rate of pay would be considerably lower than you may be used to in Oz, the UK or the US. However, they may make exceptions for supervisory and management roles.

      Because you have kids, if you can get a good package that includes tutoring fees for all your children and your combined income as a family would be comparable to Oz then it would be a fantastic move. Some companies will offer tuition fees for your first child fully paid but then only half for a second or third, so if this is the case it will be a considerable expense for you. Tutition fees per term are around 12-15k riyals for EACH child. Also school places are hard to come by and the quality varies considerably.

      If your wife is looking into roles over here, she should definitely negotiate the package as much as she can. Let me know how you guys get on and if I can be of any help 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Qatar A-Z| D is for…Doha- 7 months in | Dohabitation

  3. Hi Niell. It was my understanding that a male under his wife’s sponsorship was NOT allowed to work at all and that tutoring (for a fee) was also legally NG. Has that all changed since 2012? My husband is under my sponsorship ….

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