Bajan gal in Qatar

Charmaine Gill’s dream leads her to the middle east

From Barbados to Qatar! Charmaine Gill never imagined that at 25 years old she would be living and working in an Islamic country –– away from her family and friends.

Charmaine Gill
Charmaine Gill

But sometimes, as she readily admitted, you have to do what needs to be done to follow a dream.

From her school days at the Alleyne Secondary, Charmaine had an interest in the tourism and hotel industry, and always dreamt of working for an international brand.

“From at school, I was always interested in different cultures and different food, and I always had an interest in working for an international brand like Fairmont,” she said.

With this dream at the forefront, Charmaine, who holds a degree in tourism management from the University of the West Indies, took the necessary steps she knew would lead her closer to what she so earnestly desired. And it was simpler than she expected –– so much so that when the opportunity presented itself, she thought it was a scam.

“I did some research on their [international brand] websites and I found that they had some job opportunities online. I sent the application, and maybe two or  three weeks later I got an email from the HR manager on a Sunday at around ten in the morning. I’m saying this has to be a scam because there is no way in the world HR opens on Sundays –– except for the Middle East, of course.

“They are seven hours ahead; so by the time I responded, the manager would have left for the day. So I was thinking, ‘Yea it really was a scam!’ –– until the Monday when she replied. Then I had a television interview the Wednesday and a Skype interview the Thursday morning, and I was informed Thursday afternoon that I was successful.

“And they requested my passport details, and I got the visa maybe four, five days after; and that was it. They actually wanted me to come in December last year; but because it was really soon –– and especially soon for me to tell my family that I had to pick up and move to a whole other country –– I prolonged it to January; and then I went off,” Charmaine told Barbados TODAY in a relaxing interview while on holiday in Barbados.

Yes, she was off to become a food and beverage specialist in Qatar, a country whose culture is much different from what she was used to.

And while being in an Islamic country would be daunting for some, Charmaine was up to the challenge. She said she elected to go to Qatar because of its rich and interesting culture.

Charmaine riding a camel in the Qatari desert.
Charmaine riding a camel in the Qatari desert.

“I chose Qatar because their hospitality industry is now growing, their appreciation for it is getting better, and they have the money for it. So it’s going to develop faster. And I know it will be bigger than the Caribbean. Theirs is more business than leisure, and it is something I wanted to explore.”

And Charmaine did just that: explore! It was as though she went with a clean slate ready and willing to learn all things new. She told Barbados TODAY she was determined not listen to others’ opinions about Qatar.

“I didn’t have any expectations going there. I’ve lived abroad already, but I was going to a whole new part of the world. I really didn’t want to listen to what people had to say and what people wrote in the magazines,” she explained.

She even took on the challenge of learning Arabic. She admitted it was not and still isn’t easy.

“I didn’t have to learn the language; but I chose to because I found it quite interesting . . . . It’s very difficult to learn. Even speaking it sometimes I still have a challenge, because I’m not accustomed to it. Writing is okay, but speaking is very challenging. I took a three-month course for beginners in Arabic, and I plan to take an advanced class,” she said.

Charmaine told Barbados TODAY that being so far away from home, in a completely different hemisphere, had taken some getting used to –– especially having to work on Sundays.

“When I got there, the first week it took a lot of adjusting. The food, the time, the culture. Their weekend is Friday-Saturday; but I’m still in a Saturday-Sunday mode. So having business places open on Sundays was very strange. Nonetheless, I went there with a plan in mind. I focused. I had to concentrate.

“I had to call home frequently, but I was determined to make it last and to make it work,” the bubbly Charmaine said.

She explained that while their laws, in terms of dress and the role of a woman, were a bit frightening at first, she got used to them.

“They [males] do have more say, but that is their culture. I understand that. If you are going there, you have to accept that also. There was never a situation where I felt disrespected, although women don’t get the respect they deserve. I’m not from their country, so they tend not to really take it out on me more or less. So its kind of normal for me.

“I go about my business normally. I’m in their country; I respect their laws.”

But to Charmaine, an avid race car lover, seeing how the Qataris “roll” was quite exciting, and a welcome  surprise.

Striking a pose in a luxury car.
Striking a pose in a luxury car.

“It’s amazing, when you can be in traffic and you look to your left and see a Ferrari, or you look to your right and see a Maserati or Lamborghini! It was a bit overwhelming coming from a small Caribbean island. I’ve got into it now.

She said however that the weather “is a whole different situation”.

“It’s either very hot or very cold. There is no in-between. When I went, it was about five degrees Celsius. For some parts of the world that may not be cold; but, for someone who is from the Caribbean, it was freezing.

“In April going into May, it was 37 degrees. Outside was super hot. That took some getting used to. You try to put it behind you and do what you have to do,” Charmaine said.

And coming from a country where they aren’t that many dress code rules, if any at all, to one where women have to be covered at all times, Charmaine said with a chuckle: “It’s their country; so you have to respect their laws.

“The shorts thing is definitely a no-no. It’s an Islamic country; so showing of the skin for a woman is very offensive, especially around Ramadan time. That’s their holy month; so you can’t wear certain things. There a guideline on what you can and cannot wear, because you could be arrested.

“They don’t want us [outsiders] to come in and corrupt their local people,” she said on a more serious note. And as the saying goes, “everywhere you go you meet a Bajan”.

Charmaine found this to be quite true because she was not the only Bajan roaming the streets of Qatar –– although meeting them didn’t happen right away.

“It took some time for me to meet Barbadians. The tennis coach at the hotel I worked at is Jamaican and he was training someone who is Barbadian. Her husband is a geologist for SOL –– that’s how she arrived there. And then I met the reggae band Bougie.

“Meeting them, we had our macaroni pies, and baked chicken, fishcakes. It still wasn’t the same, but the friendliness was there. If there was anything I needed, I could always call on her for advice. She was there for three years. She has now moved to Australia. So they knew the place. It was good having someone like that there.”

Charmaine believes she has found what she loves and intends to continue with it until she is ready to do her Master’s. At present, her career is her main focus. Settling down is still a way off for the Bajan beauty.

“The culture of the Middle East is that they work very hard and very long. So there’s no space for me to settle down; and at this stage of my career I’m not really ready yet. I want to do my Master’s in two years after this work experience. And from then I would like to go preferably to Europe or the US.

“So I wouldn’t see myself settling down until another four or five years –– even if I wasn’t there,” she said.

But for Charmaine, no matter where she ends up, Barbados will always be home.

“I believe home is where the heart is; so definitely there is no place like home. There is no place like Barbados,” she added.    

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18 Responses to Bajan gal in Qatar

  1. Kim Ramsay
    Kim Ramsay October 31, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Beverly Drakes

  2. David Gibson
    David Gibson October 31, 2014 at 11:58 am

    very brave woman ,cal me ignorant but i would not feel comfortable working or living in any islamic state..and that was before isis..and i wud definitely not want any female friends or family to go either. the muslims in barbados are a whole lot more different in terms of tolerance and attitude n treatment of women than many of those places…but yes call me ignorant cuz i’ve never been to any of those places but still…no islamic state for me .

  3. Beverly Drakes
    Beverly Drakes October 31, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Thank you Kim. We haven’t connected as yet but i’m sure we will 🙂

  4. Toya Beck
    Toya Beck October 31, 2014 at 11:58 am

    congrats Charmaine n i wish u all the best………….u go girl

  5. Gail Holder
    Gail Holder October 31, 2014 at 11:59 am

    How wonderful!

  6. Shannon Clarke
    Shannon Clarke October 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I’ve been in Amman, Jordan for the past 3 months and I have experienced the complete opposite of what David Gibson fears. There are customs and traditions like what Charmaine mentioned but little to fear that is not everywhere else in the world – including in Barbados. It’s best to experience for yourself

    • David Gibson
      David Gibson October 31, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      i take ur point but i still wuld’nt go.

  7. Beverly Gerber
    Beverly Gerber October 31, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Good for her You go girl BUT you will come back to Barbados!! Heaven !!

  8. Janice Taylor
    Janice Taylor October 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    What an awesome story, best of luck to you.

  9. June Parris
    June Parris October 31, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Great to see Bajans moving to other places, it is good exposure, when in Rome, just do as the Romans do. I spent a lot of time in Dubai, and I love it there.

  10. chris October 31, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Yeah I know how it feel,i am a bajan man who live in Africa for 5 years in Abuja, it took sometime getting used to, we now live in india with my wife work,a very long way from home,i haven’t met a bajan here as yet but hey bajan are all over,only just last week I met a bajan girl in Cambodia,i was very excited because I haven’t met a bajan in a while, we are posted in Chennai india….

  11. Gale Clarity
    Gale Clarity October 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Fabulous!! An amazing story!!

  12. Charmaine Gittens Medford
    Charmaine Gittens Medford October 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Congratulation to her, Living Life and Travelling is Education that you can’t learn in reading a Books. Nothing beats Experiencing different Cultures.

  13. Charmaine Gittens Medford
    Charmaine Gittens Medford October 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Congratulation to her, Living Life and Travelling is Education that you can’t learn in reading a Books. Nothing beats Experiencing different Cultures.

  14. Abraham Millington
    Abraham Millington October 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Well done says a lot. Someone staring into. … or relaxation so much it says

  15. Rachel Gibbs
    Rachel Gibbs October 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    sweet….she might get arrested in those clothes…. my sister – a bajan – was working there for 2 years in Doha, Qatar…. construction industry

  16. Robert Holloway
    Robert Holloway October 31, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Good for her and her ability to know how to live in a Islamic country especially as a women. Enjoy but keep a low profile, running afoul of their laws regardless of what we might call an innocent mistake can cause one to be in deep financial and legal trouble, The company itself would wash their hands of you . Having said that, you will come back with enormous valued experience

  17. Elaine Crichlow
    Elaine Crichlow October 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    No mater where in this world you go there will be rules, customes and so forth.. Always knoe that you are in someones eles country..


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