As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Anna: an expat who decided to settle in Muscat
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hello, everyone. My name is Anna and I have two professional passions: I am an academic focusing on English literature, and a traditional storyteller. These passions have taken me around the world and have introduced me to many interesting people.
Outside of work, I love travelling (but I am not very adventurous – I play it safe), swimming, dancing, audio description and food (cooking and eating it).
Why did you move to your current country?
I am currently in Muscat, Oman, but this isn’t the first country that I’ve lived in since I left my home. I originally went abroad to get a foothold into academia in countries where the number of universities are increasing and there are more job opportunities. I first visited Muscat when I was living in Saudi Arabia, I came here on holiday and was struck by how idyllic it is.
I only stayed in Saudi for a year, and then moved on to East Asia where my mind would wander back to the Middle East and the beautiful gem of a country that I had visited. I also felt that I hadn’t really experienced Middle Eastern culture and wanted to return.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
I am an assistant professor of English literature. There was only one job that I wanted. I originally got rejected for it, but applied again a couple of years later with more experience and got it! It was a fairly long application process.
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
Unfortunately, no, but this might be because I don’t like to drive. As a result, I am often stuck at home with no way to get out. The expat community is also very professional and hardworking, so even when you meet someone you like, there might not be an opportunity to see them again for months. Having said that, I was just getting involved in the art scene before the Covid lockdown, and that seems to be a lovely crowd.
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
The beauty here is unparalleled. One of my fondest memories is calmly paddle boarding through lake Yiti. Imagine a Norwegian fjord but with bare rocks; the landscape is primal and breath-taking. You can also go hiking, swimming in wadis and sink holes, diving in the sea (we have coral and turtles), sailing, camping etc.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
I would recommend living in Muscat proper. I am on the outskirts and it does make me very isolated. I joined InterNations when I first arrived but I would not recommend it; it was just full of guys looking for a hook-up which made me feel very unsettled. Most events are advertised through Instagram so it’s worth getting an account and connecting in with things.
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
Healthcare is provided through my employer so it’s free and easy to use for me. I can’t comment on its quality as I’ve only seen the doctor about ordinary things.
I feel very safe here. There is virtually no violent crime. Foreigners are overcharged in the market, but isn’t that the same anywhere? You can get a bit of hassle from taxi drivers but they don’t push it. People are generally friendly and helpful to strangers. The only reason I don’t walk alone is that I am nervous of snakes and wadi dogs, but I’ve not actually heard of anyone having any problems with them.
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
Generally the cost of life is quite high. My university pays my rent, so I am not sure about this. Posh parts of town are very expensive but prices are coming down. A colleague in tourism says that Oman has the fifth most expensive hotels in the world. There are cheaper options though, but these might not be very nice.
Buses are cheap and comfortable but they don’t go many places. There are different types of taxis: airport, malls, hotels, and ordinary. The airport and hotel taxis should be avoided at all costs; this can be difficult as it’s illegal for anyone other than an airport taxi to pick you up from the airport. The Otaxi app is cheap and reliable, so if you have data and you arrive in the day, I’d recommend getting a number 1 bus from the airport to anywhere and then calling an Otaxi through the app.
Food is usually expensive, and alcohol prohibitively so, but there are cheaper options. I order a veg box which is the best value for money I’ve had anywhere.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in
There’s not much of a sense of community here. About half the population are expats, so local people don’t make any effort to make friends (why would you, when people were just going to move on again?) and expats are hardworking and don’t have time! Having said that, I have met some great people and I am comparing my experience here to China, where people were very friendly.
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
You can “do” Muscat in a day: Grand Mosque, old market (Matrah souq), opera house, national museum, corniche, ride of a traditional boat (dhow).
However, if you’re here for a weekend, go out to the countryside. I think Wadi Shab is everyone’s favourite: an hour walk then about a twenty minute swim/hike up the river, and then back again. It’s stunningly beautiful.
Did you find Anna’s experience useful? Then check out the upcoming expat interviews in other cities!