Recommended Expat Blogs: Qatar?
Christine: Just Kooki
Having lived the expat life for almost two decades and various countries, Christine and her family relocated to Qatar a couple of years ago. In our little interview, she tells us - amongst many other things - about the unusual name that graces her blog and weird, unexpected similarities between nations.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Qatar, etc.
I'm Just Kooki but most people just call me Chris. My first breath was in the United States but in my 20's I moved to Europe. First to Germany, then to Switzerland. Where I married my forever college crush. Moving to Switzerland was supposed to be temporary but almost 20 years later I hold a Swiss pass as well as an US American pass. Paradoxically, we don't live in Switzerland anymore and haven't for more than two years. Our permanent address is now in Qatar and will be so for an indefinite number of years to come. Actually, some people do call me kooky.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My blog Just Kooki morphed from my 'zine, koo • ki • kascht • li, (a mini magazine/print blog) which was sold in a local bookstore and sent to subscribers. I started the 'zine in 2007. As is to be expected no one could pronounce the title. Kookikaschtli is the phonetic pronunciation of the Swiss German word for kitchen cupboard and is arguably the most difficult word to say.
Naturally, my future in-laws put me to the test on my first visit to Switzerland; apparently, no Swiss man is allowed to marry anyone who can not pronounce kookikaschtli. I got it right the first time and decided to own the word. (My in-laws had me perform other tasks they thought would be impossible. I completely failed the Eating Dinner with Fork in Left Hand test. Getting someone from the States to eat an entire dinner with their fork is like asking a Swiss person to eat with chopsticks. I went hungry a lot.)
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
That's like asking me to choose one kind of donut when the Dunkin' Donuts around the corner has that 3 Dozen donuts For the Price of 2 Special. Can anyone choose only one? My blog readers decisively chose Tiger on the Run. I suspect the reason for the great interest in that post was less literary delight and more utmost concern that a tiger was roaming loose in a highly populated neighborhood. As far as I remember the final official stance was that it was a rumor. However, I've personally spoken to people who have personally spoken to people who reported with their own eyes they saw the beast loping across Education City. You decide.
Other posts that get happy vibes are the ones I write about little known spots, like Al Thakhira Mangroves.
If I must choose the post I most delighted in writing it was definitely Insecure Pleasures. Writing it was almost as good as eating a blueberry cake donut on a solitary Friday morning drive on Shamal highway. It felt slightly subversive to write.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Qatar differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
For me it was freaky how much life here is similar to life in the States. Granted I haven't lived in the States for a very long time and my perceptions are dated. But even my children (who have never lived in the States) kept saying things like “It smells like Grammy's house.” (Grammy is their US American grandma.) I can only figure it's the dish detergent.
Also, for better or for worse, English is the common language. I'm a native English speaker but many times I can not understand what someone is trying to say to me. Favorite sign ever: Dead Slow Children Playing.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Qatar? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I would have packed some sweaters. May I be frank? Someone coming to Qatar can never be prepared. Things change so randomly, I mean rapidly. If you prepare for one situation, another will present itself. Always have a Plan B. Always. But since you can never be prepared, you can't prepare yourself for being unprepared. You might want to take up yoga.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I would have to go with the day we discovered camel dung in the compound pool. You can read about that here at Forensic Department Please.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Qatar?
- On urban wildlife: Have a pair of shoes handy for smacking cockroaches.
- On driving: It's not as bad as its reputation. It's not a drive in a park but it definitely isn't like a drive in Cairo. Jump in. But use your seatbelt.
- On focus: Make eye contact with the Arabian Gulf once a week.
How is the expat community in Qatar? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Most of the population of Qatar is expat. If you can't find like-minded expats then you aren't talking to enough of people.
How would you summarize your expat life in Qatar in a single, catchy sentence?
There's a little bit of crazy in us all. Bear hug the crazy and laugh like a mad woman.