Today’s interview is with John, an Australian expat living in Bahrain. He works as a safety consultant for an oil company. He and his partner have adjusted well to the slower, relaxed pace of the island and enjoy socialising with other expats in Manama.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Manama, Al Seef District, Bahrain
Q: When did you move to Bahrain?
A: June 2012
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: With my long-term partner.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: My previous contract expired. I am in the safety industry as a consultant.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Manama, how’s the quality of life?
A: Quality of life is quite good for an executive expat.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: About the only negative is that the island is small with limited access to nice beaches unless one wishes to pay to join one of the many clubs / hotel associations.
Q: Is Manama safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: The city is generally quite safe. There are occasional flair ups of sporadic anti government violence, but we have not witnessed nor heard of any European / Western expats being targeted. The biggest issue for most people is the occasional road traffic headache caused by protests. The local authorities are quick to restore order. Most protests or civil disturbances are published in advance, and any new residents are well advised to check with embassy websites for areas that should be avoided.
Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
Definitely recommend a car. Taxis, while plentiful, are relatively expensive, and often taxi drivers will not take you to or through certain areas, particularly if they need to pass through a military checkpoint. There are local bus routes, but these are primarily for labourers and school children. There are also buses for travel to Saudi Arabia.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Bahrain?
A: It appears to be fine for GP services, but specialists are lacking.
About living in Bahrain
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Manama as an expat?
A: Reef Island in Al Seef District or Amwaj Islands are probably the two top choices. Both are secure and modern with shopping, schools etc close by.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Manama?
A: It ranges from fair to high end, and is priced accordingly.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Luxury goods, or anything that could be considered discretionary spending is expensive – alcohol, movie tickets, western style supermarkets, tourism etc are all relatively expensive compared to other states within the region. Of course, once you gain some local knowledge, you can find things like foodstuffs cheaper.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: We mix mainly with expats, probably due to the work environment.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Yes, Bahrain is quite open and there are plenty of clubs and groups to join, although finding them can be tricky. Again, local knowledge is the key.
About working in Bahrain
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Bahrain?
A: No actual problem, but these things take time. It took about two months.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Manama, is there plenty of work?
A: Expats are generally invited in as labourers, technical specialists or executives. The local population does find it hard to find meaningful employment, although there are government reforms being implemented to combat this.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: There is definitely a results / output based focus, although most people seem fairly relaxed about their job roles. I work for a wholly government-owned business and most Bahraini employees would consider they have a “job for life.”
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: Yes. We had no issues with relocation.
Family and children in Bahrain
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: No, my partner found employment fairly quickly.
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: British School or St Christopher’s seem to be the pick of the Western (British) curriculum schools.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: “Island Time” is the attitude you must take. Don’t be concerned when deadlines aren’t met – there’s nothing you can do to make the system work faster. Join a club or association. Bahrain is small and you can literally drive around the island in two hours.