Allan: Expat in the City
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Oman, etc.
My name is Allan Yasser Abdula, 28 years old. I graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree of Communication Research from the College of Mass Communication. I also studied Journalism for a year at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and studied European Languages major in French from the University of the Philippines. Finally, I also studied Mass Communication in South Korea for a year. I like arts and aesthetics especially the visual arts and arts in media. In 2011, I worked in Saudi Arabia as a Quality Control Officer in the Human Resources Department of a big construction company. After two years, I moved to Oman. In 2013, I was hired by a travel agency in Oman specializing in inbound tourism to Oman. Our market is primarily focused on the European Market such as Germany, UK and France.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It was back in 2007 when I started blogging about my experiences in foreign countries. I was in South Korea for my exchange program. It was my very first out of country experience and everything was totally different for me. There was this huge difference from my own culture compared to others and I thought this will be interesting to share with people. Since then, I got so hooked up with traveling especially backpacking into countries like China, Thailand, Cambodia and UAE. I also got inclined to work in Middle East like Saudi Arabia and now Oman. With every country, there is always a unique learning and experience. And recently, I realized how fleeting human life is. I know that at some point, we will have to leave this world. But I would like to leave something for my loved ones, something that would remind them of how I lived my life.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Oman differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Coming from a third world country, I have been so used to hardships but when I set foot in Oman I felt how easy life is in this country. In the Philippines, pollution in the capital city is too toxic and traffic jam which lasts for hours are a normal part of life. Add to that the fact that everyday you risk possible encounters with muggers, killers and other criminals. You cannot even walk at night without fearing for your life. In Oman, everything is totally different. The country is in touch with nature, traffic jam is scarce (except during rush hour) and it's safe to go around no matter how late it is. And this is why I love Oman, although I have only been here for 8 months.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Oman? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Moving in Oman was pretty easy for me because I have been to Saudi Arabia prior to moving here. I have been immersed in the Islamic way of life and by Islamic I mean scarcity of alcohol and disco clubs in the country, the usual prayers 5 times a day where people literally drop everything to pray, absence of pork and plethora of chicken, lack of nice clothes to purchase. These are really trivial things but are so important for expats like me. Nonetheless, I managed to live with how Omani people live. I guess only one thing comes to mind when I think of a decision which I should have taken before moving to Oman- and that is to learn how to speak Arabic. In Oman, people do speak English but I think knowing how to speak their own language would make me a more effective expat.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We know that all of us have our own peculiar accent when speaking a language and in this case English. I was talking to a client on the phone and he asked for my name so I said it was "Allan" with probably a heavy accent, so he thought I said "Ellen". And we kept on talking and at the end of the call he said his colleague will send me a follow up email. When I saw the email, it was written, "Per my colleague's phone call with Ms. Helen…" and I was like, whoa, I got several names all of a sudden. In another instance, an intern in our office usually receives phone calls. One day, she was so groggy as it was still early morning when the phone rang. The caller asked "Can I speak with the company's general manager?" and the intern quipped confidently, "Yes, this is the General Manager, how can I help you?!" (I almost guffawed when she said that!)
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Oman?
- First, be sensitive to the existing culture of Oman. Although Oman is pretty open to Western culture, it remains attached to its Islamic way of living. By this I mean people are very particular about how people dress, how men and women interact with each other, social activities like parties are allowed but only in certain places, public display of affection is prohibited, etc. The most important thing is to respect and learn how to follow the country's rules and regulations.
- Second, Oman can be quite expensive compared to other Middle East countries so be prepared to spend.
- Third, while in Oman, it is of utmost importance to ENJOY life here. There are so many activities to do in Oman depending on your interest. For example, I am into Salsa dancing and photography. I easily found a group of expats who also share the same passion and have been doing these things ever since.
How is the expat community in Oman? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Oman is a relatively small country and expats are quite well connected with each other. There are not many places to go in Oman so expats brush elbows with each other often. That is why almost all expats are acquainted to each other. The best thing about expats in Oman is that all of them are so cool and awesome, and you can actually enjoy your time with them.
How would you summarize your expat life in Oman in a single, catchy sentence?
Every second spent in Oman opens doors to a whole new different Arabian experience - so don't you dare miss it!