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Shehar Bano Rizvi, Doha

Who are you?

I am Shehar Bano Rizvi, born and brought up in a middle class family in Karachi, Pakistan and youngest of the three siblings. I have an educational background in Computer Science and worked as a Systems Manager at a leading bank in Qatar.10 days before giving birth to my first born, I cleared my PMP (Project Management Professional) exam but as soon as I gave birth, my maternal instincts took over my career aspirations and I decided to quit my career to be home with my daughter… and hence the name… The PMP Mom.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

While working in Pakistan, I met Mohsin (my husband), who was also living in Karachi at that time. We got engaged and 5 months before our wedding, he took up a job offer from Qatar and moved to Doha. I moved a week after our wedding with him in Feb 2004… It’s now been almost 13 years and we are still here 🙂

What challenges did you face during the move?

I had no idea where I was going. I had not done any research whatsoever. For me all that mattered was being with my husband. The initial few months in Qatar were very exciting, as we were newly married… making our home together, and a lot of firsts for both of us. But as time went by and life started to get into a routine, l started to get bored. We didn’t have a social life nor was I working. That is when I started looking for work and once I started my job, life was back on track.

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To be fair, the challenges I faced initially in Qatar were not only related to the move but also because of such a huge change in my life – getting married. The M&M – Marriage and the Move together – made it quite a challenging year for me but my work and of course my husband’s support helped me survive it.

Are there many other expats in your area?

When we moved back in 2004, Qatar’s population was 700,000 only. And in 2016 it’s gone up to 2.5 million with about only 300,000 locals – the rest are ALL expats. Qatar has seen tremendous growth in these years including in its expat population.

What do you like about life where you are?

Safety! Qatar is amazing when it comes to safety. It ranks as the second safest country in the world according to the World Economic Forum. Other than this, life in Qatar has other perks… we get to spend a lot of quality family time together because of my husband’s working hours. Also, although the country has progressed and seen unbelievable growth in the last decade, it still has the vibe of a small town where everyone seems to know each other – which I like a lot. The pace of life is a bit slow here, which gives you the opportunity to actually live life… embracing every day of life, making memories with friends and family.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

There are two things that I dislike about expat life… which is more in general and not specific to life in Qatar.

I miss my family… the extended family. I grew up in Karachi with my family and cousins around, spending weekends together at our grandmother’s place, sleepovers and what not. We are three siblings and all three of us are settled and living in different countries. And the best case scenario for my kids is that they meet their cousins once annually and that is what I dislike the most.

Living in the middle east, there is a feeling of being settled but sill not settled. Home but still not home, as you are here until you have a job. The feeling of being in a transit is what I dislike about expat life.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between
your new country and life back home?

Since I moved from Pakistan and am a Muslim myself, moving to Qatar wasn’t very different. Having said that, there were still some cultural changes between where I come from and the Arab culture.

What I found different was that local men and women socialize separately but since it is not imposed on us expats, it hardly affected our lives. The Qatari locals are more internationalized and very accommodating of expats.
The other difference which I felt initially, was the difference in the cuisine. As my taste buds were used to spicy Pakistani food, it took me some time to get used to milder Arabic food, which by the way I have now come to LOVE!
And of course the language, but as I said the locals are internationalized and speak English so fluently, you don’t need to know the language to survive in Qatar. I am a living example of that… living in Qatar for 13 years and only know “Yallah Yallah” (Let’s go!)

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Keep walking… following your heart… chasing your dreams!

What are your plans for the future?

Frankly, as much as I like planning my day to day life with the to do lists and all, I hardly make long term plans. Because I believe that there is a ‘Master Plan’ by God for each of us… we plan something and life throws us in a totally different situation. As my mum always used to quote this translation of the Latin phrase, “Man Proposes, but God Disposes”.

So in a bigger scheme of things, I believe in taking life as it happens. We are on an adventure called LIFE!

You can keep up to date with Shehar's adventures on her blog, Diary of a PMP Mom.

Would you like to share your experience of expat life with other readers? Email scar@expatfocus.com for details.

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