As I take in life in Qatar with all the awe and wonderment of a virgin emigrant the wise words of George Orwell regularly resonate in my mind, “We are all equal but some are more equal than others”.
Service is an integral part of the Middle Eastern culture. There are service attendants at the petrol station, a trolley attendance at the supermarket, a wide range of maids, gardeners, pool attendants, nannies and cleaners willing to oblige for very few Riyals. Being from a country that has banished most of these services either by introducing self service, minimum wage, complicated tax and insurance procedures or simply a Euro coin, (a re-useable token for the more self sufficient shopper), I’m a supporter of these services and moreover the direct benefits to me and thus recognise each of these as worthwhile services and thus worthwhile jobs. Worthwhile in the literal sense, the inference being that each year you work at this job will leave you in a more secure position financially.
Another integral part of life as a female expat in the Middle East is the choice to attend a plethora of coffee mornings, mums and babies groups, women’s interest groups, groups supporting women in various cottage industries and a host of support groups to help immigrant women feel worthwhile and integrated in their new environment while the men work. These groups pride themselves on being multi-cultural, broadminded and focus on bringing all women together to share their experiences and benefit from the support of other women. On attending one or two of these such get-togethers, I will admit to temporarily getting a little heady on the diversity of my new found coffee partners whilst momentarily thinking of my grayscale buddies at home. So yippee!, it’s the sisterhood of expats, women helping women, one big happy family, great, yes?
On delving into a deeper conversation with some of these women, i.e. after 10 mins of chat on kids and clothes, It is pertinent to point out that I discovered that over 90% of the expat women in Qatar have maids. It is also pertinent to mention that 100% of that 90% are living in the Middle East due to necessity rather than choice, the implication being that at some point the need arose for these people to “follow the work”, if you like. Not being adverse to generalisation or presumption, I’ll stick my neck out here and presume that all of these people are from working backgrounds and are forced to travel in order to secure employment with longevity with the intention to improve their means and furthermore ones long term financial security.
Note: The monthly salary of a maid working in Qatar (ordered from the Philippines) is QR. 750 ( Eu.150).
A flight from the Qatar to The Phillipines is QR. 1800 ( Eu. 450 )
The cost of a loaf of loaf of bread and a 2ltr of milk in Qatar is QR. 3.50 & QR. 7 resp. ( Eu.70) & ( Eu.1.45)
Not having taken honors maths in the leaving certificate or having completed a degree in economics, these figures would need someone more wiley than I to work, but to hazard a guess, I’d say they don’t read good and certainly would not place someone in a secure financial position, therefore could be regarded as plain exploitation.
My estimation of my colourful friends took a rapid nosedive. Being of the ilk that is anti-slavery and exploitation I found it difficult to overcome the blatant disregard for a portion of the world’s women. With re-kindling fondness I could visualize the colour rising in the cheeks of my Helen’s and Mary’s at home. It appeared that my new found sisterhood had conditions which were not highlighted on the flyer.
Must be privileged, by being born in the right place right time.
Must be well-kept wife to successful pilot, oil expert or civil engineer ( former property developer)
Must be open minded and eager to welcome all newcomers especially well the groomed ones.
- Must remember we are all equal but some are more equal than others.