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From Wiltshire to Doha: An Expat Cooks

31 October, 2011 09:10  Erin Erin

an expat cook Amanda Barnes – From a small West Country town called Malmesbury which is in Wiltshire, UK and now living in Doha, Qatar.

1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband works for an Oil Service company and it seemed like a good idea at the time (don't they all?). We were in Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia from 2001 until 2005 – moved to Doha, Qatar after several attacks against Western Compounds, including one down the road from where we were living at the time.

2. How do you make a living?

I'm lucky enough in that I don't need to work since becoming an expat. Although I was a Senior Account Manager for an online training company in my previous life. I took expat life as an opportunity to spend more time with my family and just relax. I've been relaxing for the last ten years!

I have been lucky enough to get involved with which is a great community and information resource here in Doha. I'm a 'Contributing Editor' to their dining section 'Dine Out Doha' which basically involves eating out a lot and sharing my thoughts on my experiences. I also blog about my love of cooking although in recent months it has become my ranting platform for all things annoying!

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I speak to my daughter almost every day via Skype. She presented us with our first grandchild in June, so we are trying to keep as much visual contact as possible so that Tilly knows who we are. Judging by her manic grins when she sees us on the screen, it's obviously working. I get the odd text from my son who went to University in September but I Facebook & Twitter stalk him to check that he's still alive!

Facebook is a great way for me to keep in touch with other family members and friends as well.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Doha?
I really enjoy having the opportunity, time and money to be able to do the things I want to do and when I want to do them. I didn't have that luxury when I was 'normal'. It was always about juggling a career with family, with paying the bills, the commute, the stress. Now I don't have those problems.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Doha?
The driving. It is horrendous. I feel like I take my life in my hands every time I get behind the wheel of my car. There are no rules on the roads here. I try to remember a basic rule whenever I am driving – everyone else is a reckless fool, so be prepared for the person in front of you, behind you, the left and right of you, to do something stupid.

6. What do you miss most?    
My children and granddaughter obviously but after them – Decent supermarkets. We are limited to either a French Hypermarket chain who have no regard for quality or an over priced chain that charges ten quid for a box of slightly stale cereal. When I'm home in the UK I spend an absolute fortune in Sainsburys or Waitrose when we go home to visit people. I'm happy to stock their cupboards and fridges, even if I'm not going to eat any of it. I remember being in Tescos a few years ago and shouting '17 types of mustard!!!!' and choking back a sob.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It's all about the coffee mornings. We came here from Saudi Arabia where it was also 'all about the coffee mornings'. You get this must join everything mentality at the beginning but it soon wears off. Frankly, if I see a coffee morning gathering in a cafe when I'm shopping, I take a different route. They are great ways of meeting people but there's only so many times you can do it without wondering if every woman has been fitted with the Stepford Wife chip – Doha Edition. That said, I've met some amazing ladies here, luckily they were not compatible with the Stepford software.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?

I have to be honest, there's very little I find strange here, maybe I've been here too long. I do have an issue with the lackadaisical way of doing things especially in business. Hearing someone at the end of the phone say 'Insh'Allah' is the Arabic equivalent of Manana. They either don't know, don't care or don't care to know.  

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Because it's a Muslim country, everyone is under the impression that we must cover our faces and be subservient to men. However, Qatar is a very progressive country and it's women are some of the biggest influences.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
There's always wine!

11. When and why did you start your blog?

I love cooking. I also like venting my spleen – I've been the scourge of one particular expat woman's forum for years although I like to think I've mellowed. I originally wanted the blog to be a site that other expat women would submit their recipes to but gave that up as a bad idea when the sum total of 4 women sent me their recipes. So, in 2009 I turned it into a blog. It is still supposed to be mainly about food but I can go off on a rant now and again, which is why there will be a recipe for Foccacia followed by a whinging post about idiot drivers.

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?
an expat cooks car
It has given me a release. There are things that really tick me off on a regular basis but it's better for me to have a moan about it online than have a meltdown in the school car park or in the veggie queue in Carrefour.  I am very careful in how I write, I try to be respectful. It's a simple matter of self preservation.

It's also connected me with some lovely people in the blogging world. I would love to say it's improved my cooking as well but my cakes still look like they have been dropped on the floor and shoved back onto the plate with a spoon.

Blog Link


Amanda's blog, An Expat Cooks


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