Sean Ng, 41, once stayed in Bishan and later in the East before he made a choice to work beyond the bounds of Singapore. He left Singapore for a job opportunity in Doha, Qatar in 2010. What started off as a mere plan for working purposes, ended up with this family of four exposed to a whole new world, open to new perspectives.
Sean received much attention from fellow Singaporeans who chanced upon his recent video upload of his two daughters, Tricia and Nicole Ng paying tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew through their own rendition of “Home”. What intrigued GoBeyondSG was how Sean and his family adapted to the cultures of a different country for about 5 years till date.
We started off asking about how Sean adapted with a new working environment.
Doha’s working environment
Sean is currently working for Qatar Petroleum, where the working hours are much more family-friendly. His day at work would start at 630AM and end at 2.30PM in the afternoon. He states that he had never left work on a normal day basis any later than 3pm except for some rare occasions.
He claimed that he has 37 days of leave and he would sometimes take a whole month’s worth of leave to go for a vacation with his family. His weekends are left undisturbed.
“It is an Arab work culture to not disturb employees when they are on leave as well as to not keep them back in office for work. Arabs are rather ‘paisey’ to do so,” he explained.
Apart from the friendly relationships he forged with his Arabian colleagues, Sean felt that the biggest perk of taking up this job would be the working hours which enabled quality time with his family.
When asked about his struggle transitioning from life in Singapore to that of Qatar’s, Sean listed a few issues he had when he first settled down.
Accommodations –He mentioned how his accommodation is directly next to a mosque. One issue that both his family and him couldn’t get used to would be the Muslim prayer call which would echo loudly at 5am in the morning. He resolved this matter by consulting members of the mosque.
Displaying an understanding of the needs of the non-Muslim residents, members of the mosque lowered the volume of the Muslim prayer the next day. He claimed that the Muslim community there were open to suggestions to make the lives of members living in the vicinity more comfortable.
Traffic – Traffic during rush hours can be bad. A journey home of 8 minutes can last 45 minutes when the roads are overcrowded with cars.
Lack of proper building name/number – The only way one can explain to someone how to get from one place to another is via landmarks. For example, Sean has to either describe how to get to his place instead of just giving his home address. Many a times, he had to use Google Map to show where his house is.
However when there’s bad, there’s good too. Sean listed a few perks of Qatar’s that he had at the top of his mind.
Shopping/Leisure – Shopping in Qatar is a plus point for Sean. He shared how normal it is to buy clothes and return it after should one change their mind and not like it provided that it is in good condition and within a week.
Another perk of Qatar’s would be the ‘No Service Charge & No GST’ rule which applies when dining there. The sights and sounds of Qatar, the beautiful, majestic architecture makes it all the more worthwhile to be in Qatar.
- Women are oppressed: DEBUNKED
Contrary to popular belief, Sean shared how women in Qatar are actually given certain rights to act in what they believe in.
One example could be arranged marriages. Sean shared how Arab parents can suggest a probable suitor but if in a year’s time if the bride-to-be objects to the marriage, the process will not go on.
On the other hand, if the bride-to-be agrees, she can come up with a list of what she wants from the marriage and the groom to be has to adhere to all that is stated. This can come in the context of continuing of education and working after marriage.
- All Arabs are Muslims: DEBUNKED
Sean tells how he managed to meet Arabs who are Christians too. He felt that many have sweeping statements of how all Arabs are Muslim.
- All Arabs are extremists: DEBUNKED
Extremism is definitely a sensitive issue to discuss about. Sean felt that the media is too one-sided. He isn’t fond of how the media portrays Islam through extremism.
“You will be happy to hear me say that I used to be like those who used a coloured lens to look at religion. Then I lived with people here, and I realised that the people here are just like all of us. It is unfair to just accuse Islam as the cause of all these problems.”
He shared about how he has integrated into the Arab society where he is able to understand Islam deeper as well as enable Arabs to understand his culture as well. All in all, he thinks that people do not give Muslims a chance and tend to judge before understanding them.
An eye opener
Sean is thankful to be given the chance to see beyond Singapore. He is glad to have taken the leap of faith and bump into good people and opportunities in Qatar.
“Living here, my world view has expanded. I learnt to be humble. My family and I are open to different perspectives and we love staying here.”