It’s been a while that I have been thinking of writing this up. After 4.5 years my time in Muscat (Oman) as a western expat came to an end; here is a summary of my personal experience in the Sultanate.
Deciding to move to a new country is not easy.
I remember like yesterday they pain in trying to work out whether Oman would be a country where I would be happy to live while considering a move there; I guess this is because I am now back to square one: I am on the move and researching new countries. So many questions arise when one is faced with such a decision and unfortunately nobody can give you the answer to the ultimate question when considering a move to a foreign country: is this the country for me?
I am afraid I do not have an answer ready for you, however I hope that by looking at the aspects that I enjoyed the most and the ones that I enjoyed a bit less you may get an idea of whether these are important factors for you.
Above all, remember that whenever you move to a new country you must be equipped with a positive mindset, a curious attitude and a very open mind.
Change can bring about pleasant unexpected opportunities to those ready to seize them.
Finally this is really about my very personal experience.
What I liked about living in Oman:
- The weather: sunny virtually every day of the year (rain and clouds are an exciting change!): if you exclude the intense summer, the weather is generally gorgeous and you get to enjoy it a lot if you are an outdoor person. After 12 consecutive years of life in the UK this for me was priceless. I was born in the sun and I love the sun!
- Long, large and virtually empty beach on my doorstep.
- Very social lifestyle: lots of quality and carefree time with good friends. BBQs, parties, camping on the beach, gala evenings. We’ve made very good friends from various parts of the world in Oman.
- Muscat, the capital, is very clean
- Big house to live in (we lived in a villa but apartments tend to be big too)
- Open spaces: space, space, space, space for everybody!
- Flowers in bloom when winter comes.
- Beautiful and dramatic landscape that leaves you in awe
- Freedom to camp anywhere: idyllic beaches, nobody on sight and safe
- Overall very safe. Like everywhere I would say that general common sense applies with regards to safety however forgetting to lock my house door or my car on several occasions never caused any trouble.
- Affordable domestic help (for 4 and ½ years I didn’t have to touch a mop or an iron).
- Very relaxed pace of life: you can reach any part of the city easily in your big 4×4, there is always a car parking space, there is never the need to rush (nobody rushes in Oman).
- Open-air and adventurous lifestyle (a weekend could mean going out on our boat along the beautiful coast, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, diving, camping with friends on a beach, driving off-road in the desert or on the mountains, abseiling and climbing, canyoning and trekking in beautiful wadis and swimming in their beautiful blue water: we did them all!)
- The tax-free lifestyle affords you a lot of disposable income for frequent travels and lavish weekends in luxurious Dubai – of course that also depends on your package but in general if your home is paid for there is little to spend on.
- Purchasing power when travelling. As Oman is rather expensive with regards to dining out (western dining), hotels and drinks in bars, when you travel everywhere else seems cheap in comparison!
- The privileged lifestyle.
What I didn’t like so much about living in Oman:
- Hot and boring summers (city becomes virtually empty, open air restaurants and cafes close as it’s too hot) but if you plan your holidays right, you can ride it out easily. Annual leave and public holidays tend to be generous.
- Ramdan affects your daily life for a month even if you are not a Muslim (no drinking/eating/smoking in public – bye bye cafes on the beach, restaurants tend to be closed during the day – or hidden behind panels; no wine with your meals at restaurants; roads get even more dangerous because of sleepy fasting drivers. You have to dress more conservatively).
- Unskilled labour is really unskilled and often doesn’t speak a word of English (they could literally burn down your house if you don’t supervise them very closely).
- Having to think about what to wear in town in case it offends anyone. OK as a woman you don’t have to wear an Abaya and as long as you cover your shoulders and knees while in town nobody is going to say anything. In fact nobody seemed to say anything to some uninformed tourists who wandered around dressed inappropriately for the local culture (but just because Omanis are rather tolerant it doesn’t mean that it is OK) however towards the end I sometimes wished I could have just worn anything I fancied without having to think about offending anyone… for a change.
- Boring shopping (but at least you save more money for travels).
- Ridiculously, randomly priced import products that are poor in quality: e.g. you pay strawberries at the price of gold per weight (sometimes you feel like treating yourself) and when you open the tub at home half of them are rotten.
- Very limited choice of entertainment options in town, even a visit to the cinema needs to be selective unless you don’t mind watching a film that has been butchered by censorship (though I did love life in the open). If you are a city person who likes life in the fast lane then maybe Muscat is not quite for you!
- Bad customer service like I have never experienced before (examples: once I found a shop assistant in “La Senza” who had no idea what a bikini was; to exchange (not even refund) a battery charger that I had bought and didn’t work I had to spend almost 1 hour in a shop waiting for the staff to find someone who knew what to do with me. There is no limit to bad. It can get as bad as DG describes in her letter to Omanair.
- General lack of common sense which becomes very irritating over time.
- Limited and totally non-stimulating working opportunities for me (I am in technology: this sector is very traditional, old fashioned and non-ground breaking in Oman – you don’t come here to rock the boat, resolve the world’s most stimulating challenges or to learn anything new in terms of technology). I used the time in Oman to study, volunteer and work on different sectors to broaden my experience.
Overall it is a beautiful, peaceful and relaxing place to live in.
Insight into the strange expat life of Oman:
- Oman top bloggers award? This is also Oman!
- Top blog followed by expats in Oman for gossip and local news (if it’s talked about in Muscat, it’s talked about here!)
- Useful links for potential expats researching Oman
- Notes from an expat in Nizwa (crazy! why on earth would you move to Nizwa?). When I talk about Life in Oman I actually mean MUSCAT! Be warned anywhere else in Oman could be extremely boring for a western expat.
- Telegraph guide to living in Oman – overall a useful source of information
- Summary of a year in Oman by an expat that I found during my research before moving to Oman.
I have found this video by BP that summarises a bit what life in Oman is like (at least from a western educated expat’s prospective). I though it would be of interest to the many of you who visit this page daily (and you are many. Thank you!)