This week we interviewed Penelopi from Manino, who talks about her time being an expat in Qatar and Cambodia.

Tell us about your experience working in Qatar and Cambodia?

Qatar: My working experience in Qatar was one of my best working experiences in my career. I have worked as a Buildings Mechanical Engineer Consultant in Doha and Al Khor city for 9 years with Qatari, British and Australian companies. I was responsible for all the Mechanical works on site and site office.

In addition, in some projects, I was acting as the Project Engineer and the Assistant Project Manager. I was daily dealing with various nationalities and backgrounds from around the world, fact that I really loved it. Moreover, the opportunity to work on very big projects and enrich my working experience as an Engineer was priceless. The difference of working abroad than in my country, Greece, was mainly the career development prospects and the knowledge transfer of my superiors and colleagues.

Cambodia: Regarding Volunteering, it was something different and life changing indeed! I was in a non-profit organisation in the town of Siem Reap. My responsibilities with other 10 volunteers, were included cooking, cleaning and distributing food to local villages around the town for around 700 people. The best moments were the smiles, the thankful gestures and the hugs of those poor people during the delivery time.

Why did you decide to move and work abroad?

Since my University years, I always wanted to travel and work abroad. I am inspired by different nationalities, languages and way of life. I usually get bored when I stay in a place for a long time and I could not imagine keeping staying and living in Greece after my graduation.

I wanted to learn, explore, work in multinational environments, feed my travel bug and develop as a person. I believe whoever has the opportunity to work, study or travel for a while it changes his / her way of thinking and they become more understanding, flexible, educated and mature as a person. The deliberate way of thinking through the world has always been interesting to me.

How did you get your job working in Qatar?

I have worked for the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 – my boss was Canadian. During the Doha Asian Games 2006 in Qatar she was one of the managers and she offered me a position. After the end of the of games, I submitted my CV to various Engineering companies where I have worked as a Mechanical Engineer.

What did a typical day look like working and living in Qatar?

Working: Depending on the project, a typical day on site usually starts at 7 am, attend the morning meeting with the other colleagues where we discuss the various issues on the site. The day continues with visits to the site to carry out all the inspections, return back to the office and deal with emails, letters, review of drawings, the design of works, meetings with contractor, clients and suppliers. Normally every day is different, depending on the difficulties and the type of work. In addition, some days require site visits to other countries, main office and client’s office. During Testing and Commissioning, the schedule changes mainly to site works and Handover documentation, close up procedures and project handover to the client.

Living: Normally the working days ends around 6 pm or at 3 pm. After work, I normally used to go out with friends, cook a lot, swimming and exploring the city. During the public holidays and my vacations, I was always travelling out of Qatar. Fortunately, public and paid holidays in Qatar are a lot (approximately 2 months!)


What were the challenges of living in Qatar? 

First and the most important was the heat! During summer months the temperature can reach up to 50 degrees.

Other than that, Qatar is a Muslim country which makes it a challenge for some nonmuslims citizens, but not so much for me. Other than the religion, Arabs have similar behaviour to Greeks (they speak loud, have pride, they are stubborn and have a great sense of humour), so for me, it was quite easy to adjust. Moreover, another challenge was to work with so many different nationalities, mainly Asians and deal with huge projects.

There are a few trade-offs to living abroad that come with being an expat.

What was the best thing about living in Qatar?

Multicultural, comfort of life and great Shawarma (a traditional pita bread wrap).

What advise would you give those moving to Qatar?

Accept and respect the culture as it is.


How did you find a position volunteering in Siem Reap, Cambodia?

I met the owner of the organisation through Facebook, I contacted her and during my travels, in Siem Reap, I was accepted as a volunteer.

Can you describe a typical day living in Siem Reap?

Normally, the volunteering days were from early in the morning (around 8.30am) up to 4pm in the afternoon. As soon as I was returning back to my hotel, I was resting for a while and afterwards, I was roaming around the city, visiting places, meeting people and photo shooting.

What advise would you give others who want to work or volunteer abroad?

Just go for it without any second thought even if it is for a few months. It is about taking time off from your normal life to discover and experience the world on your own terms. It not just a plan of action, it is an outlook on life that emphasises creativity, discovery, the growth of the spirit and your employment skills.

how to travel the world on a budget

What advice would you give to others looking to teach abroad?

I’d encourage it. What a great way to see the world AND make some money! But if you do, be prepared to have difficulty going back. The longer you are away, the more difficult it is to go back β€œhome” both in terms of employment and culture shock.

Don’t forget to follow Penelope and her travels on her website Maninio and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It’s great to see other ways people can work abroad and travel the world. Thank you Penelopi! Any questions, experiences and comments – leave them below! πŸ™‚

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  1. Ok, I’m sold! Getting paid for 2 months in Qatar for holidays, that’s incredible. I don’t know much about the country, but I can imagine it must take some getting used to. Siem Reap sounds amazing, and very authentic still too. Hope I get to visit soon!

  2. I’m an expat living in the UK for 14years now but have be keen to live in other countries. Qatar and Cambodia are completely different from each other so it is interesting to read about teaching English in these countries. l am loving the whole 2months paid holiday that would be amazing.

  3. That is such an awesome experience! The two cultures couldn’t be more different though. I’m not sure I could handle the summers in Qatar but I’ve wanted to go to Cambodia for a while now. Sounds like you enjoyed both!

    • Thank you Pinelopi!! <3

  4. This is such a cool post; the difference between Qatar and Cambodia must be huge and i think it’s great that you got to experience such different cultures in different ways. I completely agree that people should travel more and not overthink it; it helps broaden our perspective and understanding of people.

  5. These sound like interesting places to visit. I don’t know if I would like the heat in Qatar. It’s great that you’ve had these experiences. If I were younger, I might teach in another country. I currently teach in the U.S. Now I have my family, so I will probably stay put!

  6. I loved reading Penelopi’s experience of both the places. She has experienced a unique mix of cultures. Having live in the Middle East for over a decade earlier, I can relate to quite a few points here. I particularly liked the point of her volunteer work at Cambodia. Cheers!!

  7. What a great, informative post. I’m particularly interested in your experience living and working in Qatar as my husband and I had been considering moving there a couple of years ago but we ended up in Fiji instead – hot, but not quite as hot as Doha! Being an engineer there must have allowed you to work on some fascinating projects! Construction is so advanced over there. Fascinating to hear about your experience and also the contrast with Cambodia too. A great read.

  8. That was such a feelgood post! I think the experience in Cambodia must’ve been so rewarding too πŸ™‚

  9. Living in Gulf as an expat wife, I can totally relate myself with this article. I was not knowing much about Cambodia but after reading this it also looks like a nice option. Exploring different geographies by living there and mixing up with locals is truly a memorable experience. Informative post for those who want to work in expat countries.

  10. That is such an amazing experience! I would love to be an expat one day, it really takes so much courage! Great interview

  11. Working in different cities/countries gives one an opportunity to explore the place more intimately, learn the best and worst things about a place. I agree with you about having difficulties with dealing with getting back to your old life after a long term traveling. One should just assert patience and be open to such issues while considering shifting bases.

  12. Great post! Thank you for honesty. Not many bloggers explain the possible difficulties and inconveniences that may appear when returning home. I’m glad everything turned out great for you!

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