Saturday, 21 December 2013

Where are you, creative, intelligent people? Sadly, not here.

I have realized something, after having lived in Qatar for almost two years now. Quite sadly for Qatar, for whatever reason, it seems to attract a lot of very stupid people. 

I am not sure what that reason is. I have been wondering whether Qataris, despite the notorious generosity, are not particularly keen on spending more on professionals of a higher calibre; opting for cheaper people instead. But then, of course, you get what you pay for. And you end up with a lot of useless, stupid people working for you.

At first, I thought everyone around me was lovely, especially the smiling Philippinos. When we just moved to Doha, I was shocked when a British mum from school, visiting us for a play date with her daughters, got openly annoyed with the waiter in our clubhouse restaurant. She ordered three ice-creams, and was irritated when it arrived in one bowl.

'We have three', she said slowly and loudly, pointing at the girls, 'TH-REE children! I ordered THREE ice-creams! Why do you think I would want all three ice-cream scoops in one bloody bowl???'

Oh, how shocked I was! How quick to judge the woman and label her as a racist, arrogant bitch!
Those poor guys, what if their English was not that good? It was such an innocent mistake to make!

But now I understand. I know how she felt. I know, how every day, from the second you step out of your door and until you return home, you will, undoubtely, deal with a huge number of idiots at every corner, wherever you go. It starts on the roads where stupid people drive in the most moronic ways imaginable, and it continues in shops, pharmacies and hospitals. It is everywhere. And it is exhausting.

At a pharmacy, I was looking for a Vitamin D supplement. I am not a medically trained person; however, having looked quickly on Google, I knew roughly what I should be taking. A pharmacist in the UK is often as good as a GP when it comes to giving you an advice on medicine. But is a different story. 'Here, ma'am' said the pharmacist picking up a 50,000 i.u. dose per capsule bottle.

'That is not a daily doze', I said, thinking that I could still buy it and use weekly…But he kept insisting. 'No, ma'am is ok. Ma'am take daily, is ok.'

Come on, I said, pointing to a line written on the bottle. It read, very clearly, in black print Not for daily intake. How hard is it, if this actually is your job, to read the printed instructions on the bottle? I am not even asking for him to go online.

Next stop- an ELC shop. Would you like it wrapped, ma'am? Big smile, kind eyes. Yeah, sure, I say. You have christmassy paper? Yes, ma'am. Oh, great. We look, we choose the pattern. OK, I say. I am going to do the groceries shopping now, and will pick it up on the way back, ok?

OK ma'am.

On my way back I stop to get the parcel. It is unwrapped. 'I thought...' I say very politely, 'You were going to wrap it?'

-You want it wrapped, ma'am?

-Yes. I. Want. It. Wrapped. Please.

Or there was a day when I was in another shop, looking to buy a bike they had on display, only in pink. One assistant asks another as he is going to the store, to check if they have any more pink bikes left. He comes back.
-Did you check if there were any pink bikes like this left in the store?
-We have?
The guys stare at each other. The end of the conversation. No bike brought to the shop floor.
He checked, you see? But he never brought it to the shop. Why, nobody asked him to bring it. He was only asked to check if they had any left, and he did.

If only we had to deal with silly little episodes in shops or pharmacies, it would not be such a big deal! However, it is not just the servicing personnel, shopping assistants and pharmacists that are so useless. It is professional expats, too. In our search for a good doctor or a dentist or a specialist at any level, we go through dozens of people, looking, trying, discussing on local forums, with a hope to find the best. The best teacher, the best school, the best pediatrician. And, after two years here, you realize. It is not the best you are looking for. It is semi-decent. Someone more or less professional. Someone you can hopefully trust.

I laugh as I remember the email I had received from someone who was helping me make up my mind about moving to Doha. 'It is becoming a very exciting place to live', he claimed. 'Because it attracts some very creative, intelligent people'.

Ha-ha! Are you kidding me? Intelligent? Creative?? Where are you, intelligent, creative, knowledgeable professionals that are supposed to be attracted to this exotic country?

Perhaps, Qatar is not alone in this unfortunate position. Maybe this is just the overall quality of the expatriates all over the world these days. I am looking back at my years working for BP back in Azerbaijan in early 90s and think- were the expats better? More professional? More creative? More interesting? Or was it me, younger and less experienced, thinking that everyone with western education was smart? Was it that my own standards were a lot lower, or did we actually get much better people working for us back then? But, if the latter is the case, what the hell happened since then? Are the overseas packages no longer that attractive to bring in better specialists? And, due to the Financial crisis so many western countries are in, there are more desperate people who would agree to come and work abroad for a lot less? Desperate but not actually any good?

And so, this is the mix of expats you get here. Uneducated Indian labour and drivers, silly giggly Phillipino shopping assistants and some professionals, like that useless Egyptian ophthalmologist to whom my husband had to patiently explain what stem cells were…Mixed beautifully with the worst expats ever-The westerners, who are also often stupid, boring and quite common, yet convinced of their superiority and importance over everybody else. Creative, intelligent expats? Ha and ha again.


  1. The average IQ of Qatar is reported in Lynn & Vanhanen's _IQ and Global Inequality_ as 82 relative to a British mean of 100.

    (No direct data is available for Azerbaijan, but it is estimated at 87.)

  2. Terry Fying, the Anglo-American Asian Expat.22 December 2013 at 07:05

    Lovely writing as usual, Scary. I'm afraid it's the whole world going to he'll in a handcraft. Don't worry, we will bring all the intelligence and wit you need for the holidays! See you soon.

  3. Maybe you should think you you've been having the "luck" of getting across that knid of people. Don't lose faith!

  4. that just shows skyscrapers and shopping malls are not enough. I am based in Switzerland and wherever I go, be it a pharmacy, bakery, school or hospital I see intelligent, adequate, professional, genuinly friendly, polite and happy people. Driving is a pleasure ad well. These are the things that define the "quality of life".

  5. Digging into my memory I remember I often felt like you describe when living in Egypt. What I would like to add, is that I believe common Egyptians were kept ignorant on purpose by a dictator. Education was never a priority and it kept him at the presidential palace for 30 years. One of my favourite examples is where people are frantically trying to keep the white line in the middle of the road under their car. If you indicate you want to pass by, they will make way but only to go straight back to where they were. What made me feel very sad, was when somebody told me they were actually taught so in (public) schools...

    As for the expats, I've seldomly seen a more arrogant and superficial bunch. In spite of me being one myself, I felt like they only went abroad for two reasons: 1) to make a lot of money, fast and to adopt a lifestyle they couldn't afford at home. 2) to feel superior.
    Prices of booze and foods hard to get by seemed to mean more to them than culture; many of them never made it past the pyramids of Gizah.

    I can tell you tons of stories on the stupidity of Egyptians or the arrogance of the expats: I'm not going to, you have most likely seen it all. You and I differ in one way though: I went back home. Returning after 4 years abroad was a bit of a shock as well. First of all, I came back in the middle of the financial crisis. I've often wondered if that might have had an impact on people's attitudes. Cueing up at H&M (or any other high street shop) could easily end up in the sales girl closing up the till right in front of my nose: sorry, lunch time... People have become very self absorbed, don't seem to find honour or pleasure in what they do that it is actually seems scary to me. I see it mostly at work: I am a teacher and I genuinely believe pupils and parents changed in the course of 4 years. According to a colleague, it's a generational thing.They're more self-centered and less agreeable. It sounds logical enough that people change over the course of generations.
    Still, I have found no better solution than to try and set an example. I try to behave the way I want to be treated and steer clear of negativity. I do believe it works (till a certain extent), but I can tell you it isn't a breeze...


  6. Im glad to read you again. Thanks for this post.
    Best for you Buddy!