Heather Duncan - Expat in Muscat, Oman
We’ve had the chance to talk to Heather Duncan, 29, a British expat who has moved to Oman with her family. Mrs. Duncan who has been living there for over four years, now works as a blogger, vlogger, mom and wife.
Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.
Q: Where are you from originally?
A: Originally I am from Aberdeen in Northern Scotland, UK
Q: What made you move out of Scotland?
A: Back in 2012 my husband was working within the oil company on a rotation basis splitting his time between the Middle East and returning home to Scotland for time off. Gradually the work demands grew more and more and he had less time at home. The company offered him a live in position in Oman so he could be based closer to work, he accepted their offer and thankfully brought me along for the ride!
Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: At present, we are living in Muscat, the capital city in the Sultanate of Oman. The company placed us here rather than giving us a choice but I couldn't be happier with the location and opportunities it has given us. Often described as "The jewel of the Middle East" I can completely agree with that.
Q: How long have you been living in Oman?
A: We have been living in Oman for over four years now.
Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: My husband and my 3-year-old son, Spencer, live with me in Muscat. My husband thrives in new cultures and experiences so very little adaptation required from him. My son was born in Muscat so he doesn't know any different in life.
Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: Feeling homesick is inevitable, no matter how much you love your new life there will always be something that tugs at your heart strings whether its memories of people, traditions, even the foods you crave. For me, birthdays and Christmas are always the hardest times to be so far from the ones you love. On regular days I don't let homesickness overpower the great opportunities I have in life.
Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: The local Omani people are amazing, warm and hospitable people that I feel privileged to spend time with. They invite you into their home and want to know everything about your life and how you chose to end up in their little corner of the globe. I find that many of them are passionate about learning English so they will chat with you as much as possible to practice
Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Oman? How did you manage to find a social circle there?
A: For me, I found in order to make friends you have to put yourself into social situations, sometimes even when you really aren't feeling keen to do so, because you have to do this for yourself and no one is going to come seeking you. In general making friends is easy when you find someone who speaks the same language as you, you already have the Expat connection in common. I find that it is keeping friends, is the problem as the Expat life is so transient you tend to meet amazing people that you want to spend more time with and suddenly their job contract is up and you are already throwing a farewell party for them. But who knows, at that party, you might just find your next Bestie replacement.
Q: How does the cost of living in Oman compare to your home?
A: In comparison to the UK I would say the cost of living and grocery shopping in Muscat can be quite expensive, you have to search around several different shops for cheaper and better quality produce. The market is limited on imported items so the price is driven up and if items aren't Halal they aren't stocked at all.
- Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: The cost of a medium coffee in a known coffee chain is 1.7 rials = 4.4 USD.
- Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: The cost of an inexpensive meal per person is around 7 rials = 18 USD If you play it smart and shop around you can save some money, for example, alcohol is expensive as it can only be purchased in limited establishments that hold a permit so that is guaranteed to be expensive.
Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Oman?
A: Sorry, my husband dealt with all the finance side.
Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: Official documents and procedures in Oman are expected to be lengthy, don't expect anything to be done in a hurry. Be patient, don't expect too much and it's advisable to have a translator accompany you sometimes just to speed up procedure.
Q: Would you say that healthcare in Oman is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: Healthcare is of a very high standard in Oman, for the locals they are provided government care but all Expats are required to pay or use medical insurance, to cover the costs. The cost of the healthcare if you are paying out of your own pocket can become very costly. My son was born here by caesarean in Oman at a private hospital, the quality of care was excellent – straight forward, no nonsense approach to a high standard of care. Compared to what I could have received in my home country I was very pleased with the experience on a whole.
Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Scotland or Oman? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: Our company provides us with a general level of health insurance and I am extremely grateful that they do, it has covered us for many hospital and doctor visits that would have been extremely expensive otherwise. There are basic packages available that cover from emergency care and X-Rays all the way up to the highest level of care, one thing to watch out for is the maternity clause if you ever plan a family abroad as not all insurance policies will cover the pregnancy -related care and birth costs.
Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Oman? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?
A: Between signing the new work contract and my husband being expected to be starting the new contract there was only a 3-week time frame - the biggest challenge was that we were not yet married and this was essential if we wanted to live together in an Islamic country. So whilst he was still working in the Middle East I was in Scotland frantically planning a wedding in 3 weeks with little savings. Once the wedding was complete my husband left 3 days later and flew back to Oman to begin his new contract and I joined him a week later - talk about a whirlwind!
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: No matter how beautiful and amazing your host country is, it will never be "home". You will never have the same rights and appeals as a local and in some ways, you will always be an outsider. Sometimes the sense of where you belong becomes skewed and you leave your heart in many countries, not just the one you were born in.
Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Oman?
A: Positives; Safe environment to raise a family, rich culture, and traditions, No tax, Amazing scenery and winter weather, Fantastic sporting opportunities.
Negatives; Summer heat is brutal, it’s a man’s world where women have fewer rights than men, lifestyle can be expensive.
Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: Oman offers an amazing and diverse outdoor life it really does have something for everyone; Climbing the mountains of Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar, desert camping under the stars, scuba diving around the coral at the Daminyat Islands, dune bashing through the Wahiba Sands, Exploring the hidden cave of Wadi Shab - there is so much to do and almost everything is free to visit and easily accessible.
Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: For us, we don't have any plans to move on just yet but the oil industry is temperamental so who knows where we will be by next year, I certainly hope to have another couple of years at least in Oman. Long term, I would like to return to Scotland by the time my son is a teenager to give him the same upbringing that both myself and my husband had.
Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: My best advice would be for people to be open to new experiences and arrive with an open mind. This opportunity will be what you make of it, grab it with both hands and enjoy.
Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Oman?