Thursday, November 27, 2008

Advice for someone moving to Muscat.

E mail Query from someone who has just been offered a job in Muscat. What do you think readers? I appreciate a little help on this one, esp living costs.

Dear Undercover Dragon
I'm a 28 year old guy who always felt attracted to Arabic cultures (I studied Arabic for 6 months some years ago) and had always considered the idea of spending some years in the Gulf. However, it wasn't until now that I had a real opportunity to go there.

I would be earning EUR 35,000 a year [equiv about 1400 rials/month - UD] and would like to know if that's enough money to live well-off (flat for one person, daily expenses, travel...). I don't drink any alcohol (not much, at least) but I'm a social animal and need to live in an environment with numerous (or some) leisure and culture offers (theatres, movies, art exhibitions...). Besides, I am gay and don't know if that would be a big issue over there or if there is some gay community in Muscat.

Also, I would like to know if Oman is a place where you can get around in English. I could speak some basic Arabic and if I eventually move there I plan on studying it properly, but I'd need English for my first steps there (finding a flat, buying a car, etc.).

A Reader

First, the salary. 1400 rial/mnth... I'm probably not a good one to ask on this, as to be frank that would hardly cover my bills for oysters, champagne, pets and staff.
But I'd guess a bachelor could live on say... 1000 a month, with the remainder as disposable income?

Entertainment and Culture. Well, if you like forts, I guess... To be fair, there really isn't that much. Movies, yes. And an Opera house is being built. A few good museums. A few local arty-type gatherings. Hope you like camping, and the ocean.

Gay Scene. There definitely is a vibrant one (probably more than 1). How to meet up, I'm not too sure. But there are so few places to go, you could easily visit all of the main pubs and clubs in a month and see where your instincts lead you. Technically illegal, very much a case of don't ask/don't tell/don't get caught.

English, yes, its all English in the coastal areas. But learning some Arabic would help a lot. Even if just to be polite.


  1. Hmmm. My two cents:

    - RO1400 is livable, but not lavish. Rents are coming down from insane heights, comparatively, a few months ago, but you'll still be looking at up to 500 for something basic-to-nice, unless you luck out (not impossible). Try to max your employer out on the hiring package (does it include a car or car allowance? Cell Phone? Housing allowance? All are askable, and you don't get if you don't ask).

    - Not knowing where the correspondent is coming from, it's hard to make comparisons about quality of life. There are an increasing number of cafes and restaurants, better supermarkets than two years ago, and a livelier feeling in general. Things are also more expensive (it's possible to get a filling OR 2 meal of biryani, but in a Western/international place, you're unlikely to get out under OR 10 with tax and service, and its on up from there).

    - Culturally, it's definitely not New York. It's not even [insert stereotypical provincial small town in your home country here]. Three or four art galleries that have a couple of openings a month, half a dozen new or second run English films a month, and if you're lucky and find out about them, one or two diplomatic concerts or performances during the winter months. The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra performs semi-regularly and isn't bad. After that, you've basically got the house bands in three or four nightclubs, and that's Muscat's arts scene (unless you're a huge fan of high school student Indian dance recitals).

    - Race and ethnicity is definitely a factor in Oman. I don't want to sound racist, but I've found that Asians who expect to be treated as first-class citizens are in for a rude surprise. The unhappiest expat I've known here was a Chinese-American who was constantly being pushed out of the way in supermarkets, mistaken for a laborer or waiter, and generally snubbed. If you're tall and blond, you'll have a blast.

    - The gay thing. It's possible, and more so with Arabic. There are a fair number of Jordanian, Lebanese, and other gay expats, some Omanis, and a sprinkling of Westerners. You have to rely on luck to fall into a pleasant circle and build from there. However, there are no "gay-identified" public spaces (bars, cafes, etc.), although there are a couple of well-known cruising areas. Discretion and patience are a must.

  2. 1400 a month to live?

    Rent: 500 minimum for something very basic.

    Car: 250 rials a month - no way to do this without a car. None. Have to have one.

    Food shopping: About 100 rials a month for half decent food.

    Mobile phone: Landlines are virtually non-existant. Everyone has a mobile. If you are expecting to make international calls - look at 100 rials a month.

    Skype is banned here. Some can get it to work but the quality is crap.

    Eating out: 100 rials a month. Most expat friends that you will meet will be on a fair bit more than you. And they will want to eat and drink at Traders Vics or even Darcy's (urrrrgh!)
    Traders will cost you at least 30 rials a head, so on 1500, you will be doing it only once or twice a month.

    Satellite TV - 200 rials for all the gear - then 20 a month

    Internet - 30 a month on Nawras - and 100 for the modem.

    Clothes: about 100 a month, unless you are seriously limited what you wear.

    Water and Electricity: 50 a month

    So we are now at: 1250 rials a month - worse case scenario.

    I wouldn't even take a phone call from the Omanis for any less than 4000 rials a month.


  3. Gay 28 year old European. You'll find your sugar daddy here no problem :-D

  4. oh surely you can have a good life here with 1400! - may be not lavish and luxurious but yes a simple life!
    and jet driver is exaggerating....

    boxster is true! ;)

  5. Bobby - with all due respect.
    This is a European gay male we are talking about here.

    1400 rials a month to an Indian is the jackpot - i realise this.

    But when you consider that the average mortgage on a 500,000 euro house in Europe is almost 3000 euros a month, then you can begin to see how most of us balk at the idea of working for 1500 rials (or 2900 euros) a month!

    It is a completely different world for us mate.
    There is no point in a young European coming out here for any less than 4000 rials a month.

    This is business - it is about the money, and not what we spend; what we save! The profit!

    My general rule with working anywhere overseas is "never spend any of your own money while you are there."

    If you want me in your employment - you pay everything when I am there. House, car, food, bills, entertainment.

    Bobby - go out and become an expert in your field, get a few solid contracts under your belt, market the hell out of what you do when you are there and learn to negotiate harder.

    And in relation to the sugar daddies - yes, that is definitely an option.
    (Said, the cousin we don't talk about lol)

    Just remember that there's a lot more HIV and AIDS among the locals than they would have you believe.
    All the trips to Thailand for "medicals" - hmmm.

  6. This is business...definitely make them pay for more things like housing, food, gas, car. Maybe we are a little spoiled as my husband's company even pays portions of our vacations. But I don't think you should do it for that can get more.

    here is why, if your interests are arts ( I saw THEATRE there)if it were here, I would know by now. It is not here. They put up a big show of building a new place and wanting to be artsy and theatrical, but it will be different than what you are accustomed to when it is in place. They like poetry readings...not theatrical extravaganza's or even stagings. I went to an elementary school talent show and the omani kids did story telling if that is any indication of the entertainment that they like here.

    As for being gay, I can't help but think that if they aren't tolerant of the artistic type then they probably won't be too tolerant of the homosexual. I don't know though. I haven't exactly met any while living here...and I usually do - I'm like a magnet. Of course, I haven't met a whole lot of people...they all like to hide behind secret blogging identities ;) Except for me...I just put it all out there...well almost.

    Good Luck!

  7. Dear all,

    Thanks for your comments --I found them really enlightening and useful.

    Unfortunately, I cannot negotiate my salary. I think I could live one year without much luxury (this is a one year thing and I am young and single; I don't need a big house to live in). However, I should at all times bear in mind that I work for money (unless it is some personal project I really want to be involved with and volunteer) and maybe the environment doesn't make up for the "not-so-ample salary".

    That being said, after some research and reading your comments and blogs I feel I wouldn't mind living in Oman in the future if I were offered a job with better conditions.

    Thanks again,


  8. If you are 28 and have the kind of experience that would make a firm want to get you to move from your country to work for them, then 1400 rials a month is a ridiculously low offer. What are the industries that generally pay good salaries: oil & gas, banking, tourism, health, legal, consulting, etc. All these industries regularly pay 1000+ to locals in the same age and experience group.

    Accept 1400 only if they pay for accommodation and give you a car to get around in. Otherwise you will pay at least 400 to 500 rials on rent, and even if you buy a Toyota Yaris you'd pay another 140 on car installments.

    Keep in mind that very few companies give the kind of benefits that Amber mentioned. Her husband must be an incredibly well qualified expert in his field to get that kind of package. With the current economic downturn, the huge multinationals will start paring down the kind of benefits that they offer to expatriates to get them to come work in this region. In fact, with the economy in Europe and US turning to shit, and probably staying like that for the next 3 to 5 years, more and more expats will want to come work in the gulf even without all the lavish perks and benefits that they used to get offered before. Banks are already seeing a flood of CVs from US and UK bankers looking for jobs.

  9. Dear Reader: This is the Middle East. Believe me, you can negotiate your salary. You can practically negotiate the price of canned goods in supermarkets. Everything is negotiable!

  10. It will be better if you first get the accommodation arranged by your employer, since finding one by yourself will be very tough.

  11. UD said:

    ' First, the salary. 1400 rial/mnth... I'm probably not a good one to ask on this, as to be frank that would hardly cover my bills for oysters, champagne, pets and staff'

    How humble of you. For a person as smart and articulate as you, I surprised you can be so vain and cruel.

  12. All, thanks for the good advice and info for 'A Reader'. I'd say 1400 rials a month (+ airfares?) for a 28 yr old sounds like a fun year, with all expenses paid and a nice line on the CV.

    It's not vain and cruel IMHO - it is however, quite true, and as a result it does make it hard for me to know what it's like to live on 1400 rials a month. And if 28 yr olds don't know that there are people earning a lot more than they do, protecting them from the facts is hardly my job.

    Last month bills:
    Oysters - 100 rial
    Champagne & other libations - 350 rials (at least)
    Pets - 380 rials
    Staff - 370 rials
    Total: 1200 rials.

    No-one's ever accused me of being humble, so no shattered self perceptions on that one. I usually get something more along the lines of 'arrogant son of a bitch'. Ah well. Pass the Moet will you?

  13. UD - you must throw some kind of party...surely you didn't eat ALL of those oysters yourself.

  14. Amber,

    Yes indeed I do. But this was a month's personal bills; a party would be on top of that!

    And to be fair, that included some cocktails... but with 2 people, at 2 rials/oyster, it doesn't take much before it adds up. And it doesn't take me long to scoff a couple of dozen oysters, especially after a few cocktails...

  15. All of your comments are way-off. I am a single European man working in higher education. I can quite comfortably live of my salary (1100 a month). I have a beautiful villa in Al Hail, a decent 4wd and a very large rottweiler. Who pays 4000 rials a month? What kind of employment are you in? There are many expats over here on the lower end of the pay scale (1000 to 1500) who live very well and still manage to enjoy their lives despite their supposed measly salary. Next time I see an expat in their Porsche Cayenne Turbo, I will assume it is one of you.


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