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From America to Switzerland to Qatar: Koo • Ki

12 September, 2011 10:24  Erin Erin

koo ki You can call me koo • ki. My real name is a mess; I never know what to call myself. And since moving to Qatar, all sorts of variations have been added to all manner of legal documents. Note to self: always check which name is on the card before signing.

I’m US American born, Swiss immigrated, living in Qatar, where I (currently) have my permanent residence, but I’m writing this in France.

1. Why did you move abroad?
Why not! One cold January afternoon my Swiss husband asked me if I wanted to move to Qatar. It took me less than a second to answer: “Definitely.” Two seconds later, I asked, “Where’s Qatar?” I didn’t know if it was a country, a city or a fantasy.

2. How do you make a living ?
My husband is my Sugar Daddy. In return I keep our two children alive and, mostly, well-balanced. It seems a fair deal most days.

I’m also a freelance writer. Writing keeps me sane but I’d live in a cardboard box if I had to live off my earnings.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I hate telephones. I hate Skype. I hate green eggs and ham.

Communication with my family is rather impersonal. We mainly keep in touch through FB posts. We live scattered around the world but every two years we cram all 20 of us (that’s just the immediate family & children) into a rented house for a week. It’s a lesson in tolerance, patience and ear plug usage.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Doha?
The ability to re-invent myself. Isn’t that one of the major lures for all expats? The ability to discard reputations and create new ones, as much as your personality allows.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Doha?
Doha is filled with expats. Some days it feels like I live in Disneyland - a fake recreation of a place far, far away.

6. What do you miss most?
I thought I’d miss the coffee yoghurt in Switzerland. I don’t. But I do miss having a local farmer stomp the 80 steps up to our apartment with a delivery of fresh organic fruit and vegetables. & I miss Saturday morning coffee and Gipfeli with my friends. Interestingly, that response shows that, over time, I became more Swiss than American.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Social relations in Doha are incestuous. My husband’s boss is our neighbor. My husband’s work colleagues are our friends. Every time I see them I think how fortunate I am that they are some of the funniest people I have ever met. Laughter makes life in Qatar bearable.

Yoga classes, writing workshops and a local parenting group, Doha Mums, were pivotal in finding my own friends outside of my husband.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Businesses don’t answer phones. Accurate information is agonizingly difficult to procure. Even if someone does answer the phone, they probably won’t know the answer to your question - but will likely assure you that they do. Agonizing!

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?

That everyone is rich.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
Laugh often!

11. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog, Just Kooki, to attract more people to my ‘zine, koo • ki. I had a satisfying number of paying subscribers but thought I could get more. I stopped writing the ‘zine after moving to Qatar. The postal system is still developing which made mailing the ‘zine ponderous. Add to that the expat and local fondness for 5-star, imported institutions and my handmade, hand-written, local, personal commentary, regardless of how entertaining, was no longer profitable. I switched to writing more blog posts, magazine writing and am working on a book.

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?
After I stopped writing my ‘zine, I floundered with the blog for a while. Self-censorship in Qatar is self-preservation. I felt I couldn’t write about the really interesting things happening here. And I can’t. kooki doha

I’ll never be able to detail the ‘job interview’ I had with a Sheikh, who instead of interviewing me for a job I had applied for, he proceeded to chastise me for half an hour because of some things I wrote on my blog. Difficult as it was to sit through that meeting - and come out without a deportation notice - I learned more about Qatari’s in those 30 minutes than I had in my entire year in the country. That meeting would have never happened had I not written a blog. Of course, if I hadn’t written the blog, I might have gotten the job.

Blog Link


Koo • Ki's blog


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