Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Qatteri and Kuwaiti Gazingas

We’ve lived in so many different places and dealt with so many currencies, you’d think we’d be used to it by now, but there is always that confusing time at the beginning, when you are mentally trying to multiply and divide and figure out how much things cost. Generally speaking, we call it the gazinga problem, gazinga being our family generic term for whatever currency we are currently using.

00CashMachine

I think the cost of food in Qatar is cheaper, but to figure that out, I have to think what it costs here, translate that from Qatteri riyals to dollars, and then to translate that to Kuwaiti dinars. For example, the Vanilla Caramel coffee stuff I like is 2.250 in Kuwaiti dinars (when I can find it) which is about $8.25, and in Qatar, it is QR 15.50, which is $4.25, a significant difference.

Life in Kuwait became much simpler when my Kuwaiti friend told me “Just think about a Kuwaiti dinar being roughly equivalent to the dollar. Otherwise, you will go crazy.” He was right. When I would go grocery shopping and just think of it in dollars, life became much simpler. Every now and then, when I would multiply by 3.65 to figure out the cost in dollars, I would gasp and put the item back on the shelf. Life is simpler if you just go with it. Mostly, I would look for locally produced vegetables, eggs, etc., and that kept grocery costs down. It’s the imported stuff that gets crazy.

So, irrationally, when I have 500 riyals in my pocket, I feel RICH. I feel secure and protected. (500 riyals {$138} is approximately equivalent to 35KD {$128}). I can’t tell you the number of people who come into town in Qatar and offer to take us to dinner (we’ve learned – we always carry extra cash!) – and then when the bill comes, they are stunned – and embarrassed – that they don’t have enough riyals to cover the bill. It’s not that the places are that expensive – although some of them are – but that it all adds up so quickly, and a couple hundred gazingas may not cover a dinner for four.

In both Kuwait and Qatar, I make it a point to quickly learn where all the cash machines are, the ones for my bank, and the ones that you can use your US credit card in and get cash. You just never know when you are going to find something in a shop that doesn’t take credit cards, or find that you are low on cash and still have a couple stops before you get home. Like knowing where the clean toilets are; it’s a matter of survival. 🙂

In Qatar, 100 Qattari riyals is about $27.50, so when doing rapid calculations, I figure it is around $25, then I add a little.

We are working on getting rid of the pigeons. It took a while – when AdventureMan went to the management and said he wanted the pigeons gone, they didn’t understand him. We say “pijjens” and they say “oh! pij-ee-owns!” The cleaning crew came and cleared out the awful nest yesterday, and only one pigeon came to try to spend the night. I threw pencil erasers at him (I had to gather them all up this morning) and then clanked a big stick. Today I am going to buy a water pistol.

The cleaning crew asked if I wanted to have my windows washed, and oh, yes, I did. It really helps to have lived here before. I know that if you want your windows washed, you can go to the desk, they will schedule it and they charge you around 500 riyals – still a bargain, by stateside standards – about $128 for a two story house with some very hard-to-get-to windows. But if you ask the cleaning crew on the compound, they will come during their time off and charge about half – and all the money goes to the guys who clean the windows. I now have bright, shiny windows – I don’t think they had been washed on the outside since I left over three years ago. Now – they sparkle!

Banks in Kuwait and Qatar are way ahead of banks in the US with their use of technology. When I took money out of our bank account yesterday, AdventureMan called me immediately and asked if I had just taken money out of the account. They had SMS’d him what had been taken out and what was left!

My household goods were delivered two weeks ago today. There are still a few remaining little nests of things that need places, but – not much! We walk around the house with that satisfied feeling of knowing things are in their place, where we can find them insh’allah, when we need them, and there are no more boxes, no more piles – it looks pretty good! Even AdventureMan got his room all in order – Now he walks out of his room and says “Oh! It feels so good to walk in and everything is put away!” and he has a huge grin on his face.

Little Diamond arrives tomorrow night. We can hardly wait. 🙂

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July 13, 2009 - Posted by | Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Food, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Language, Living Conditions, Moving, Shopping

12 Comments »

  1. Money in foreign countries — yes it can be a real trick to figure out how to deal with the exchange rate. In some countries you get thousands of the local unit per 1 dollar, and all in paper, that is often filthy. In Ghana they’d give you the bills in smelly bundles precounted and tied with a string (often with a bill or so less than there should be). I would go to the bank with a plastic shopping bag because if I needed a lot of cash for something it wouldn’t fit in my bag and I didn’t even want it in my bag. For daily use I’d take smaller amounts of the paper and put it in a plastic sandwich bag.

    Still, I love Ghana!

    Miss Footloose
    http://www.lifeintheexpatlane.blogspot.com

    Comment by Miss Footloose | July 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. To convert Qatari Riyals , Uae dirhams or saudi Riyals to Kuwaiti dinar i used to divide the price tag by 10 , much easier . BTW when will the states go metric in measurements as your currency is already metric ???

    Comment by daggero | July 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. I went to the States at the age of 18 and it was my first time ever in paying groceries, phone, electricity, clothing… etc that I got so used to relate to the USD! When I come back during Xmas and breaks I would still convert things in my head to dollars although I am home, in Kuwait! My mom and dad would laugh so much about it! I even wanted to tip in restaurants 15% and 20% but then I was told its not the same… 10% here is very acceptable and I now feel comfortable with my own currency!! LOL

    Comment by ansam518 | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Ms. Footloose – I can imagine that Ghana was a real revelation, but oh! those bags of dirty money! I can’t imagine! Fortunately, I’ve never lived where the currency has been so inflated, but I have travelled in Italy – and been cheated by my inability to quickly calculate, or to recognize that I was given the wrong change, sometimes significantly.

    Yeh, Daggero, the divide by 10 thing works approximately – when it comes to money, I like ACCURACY! I just think it’s funny that I would rather have a couple hundred gazingas than a smaller number of gazinga y that equals the same amount. It’s all in my mind, but I feel like my money goes farther here. On the other hand, some of the grocery bills are stunning – a few hundred rials! As to when the US goes metric – I think it is happening, slowly. I know they teach it in the schools, and many places in the US use a dual system with things like weather . . . eventually, I hope, it will reach a tipping point and fall over to the metric side. 🙂

    LOL, Ansam! This is where I think Kuwait does a really smart thing, sending the young out to be educated in other countries. It doesn’t matter which country, paying your own bills and finding our how to survive is a SKILL, a life skill, and Kuwaiti young people come back with a bigger picture of the world because of it. And YOU learned to cook! Wooo HOOO! Can you do your own laundry? My first letter from my Mom started with “Oh! I forgot to tell you how to do laundry. First, you separate the light clothes from the dark . . . ” and it was already too late; all my whites were pink from the red sweatshirt I had washed with them. 😦

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 14, 2009 | Reply

    • LOL yeah I am glad I went! learned a lot, but cooking was in me since I was a kid! I will always play around in the kitchen and “invent” recipes that were not all edible! LOL
      As for laundry I learned that too but dont like to do it, nor ironing! hahaha

      Comment by ansam518 | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. “I can’t tell you the number of people who come into town in Qatar and offer to take us to dinner (we’ve learned – we always carry extra cash!) – and then when the bill comes, they are stunned – and embarrassed – that they don’t have enough riyals to cover the bill.”

    Why can’t they use credit card to pay for restaurant bills? Who really uses cash for that anyway…?

    Comment by Abid | July 15, 2009 | Reply

  6. Abid, even in Kuwait, at the Eid, we watched a very embarrassed Kuwaiti suddenly learn that the credit card machines weren’t working (signs were posted everywhere) and this was in Tumbleweeds, a western, credit-card accepting restaurant. Fortunately, he had generously given Eid moneys to his family and everyone pitched in to cover the bill. Many restaurants in Doha still don’t take credit cards. Most of the more expensive ones do, and the hotel restaurants – and that is not always where we are eating. We carry cash, and watch for cash machines. We also carry credit cards, but we prefer to pay cash.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 15, 2009 | Reply

    • This only just occurred to me, but back in the early 90s, when we lived in Kuwait, everything required cash. I don’t remember being able to use a credit card – but I’m sure you could?! I honestly don’t remember! We just always carried cash. I remember my mom commenting during our summers in the US how strange it was to write a check.

      Comment by globalgal | July 16, 2009 | Reply

  7. We seldom used anything but cash in Palestine, Ghana and Armenia, although paying with a credit card was possible. Then when you go back to Europe and the US it does feel strange to use the credit cards again. It’s very convenient, but easy to loose track of all the money you’re sliding and clicking away!

    http://www.lifeintheexpatlane.blogspot.com Tales of the Globetrotting Life

    Comment by Miss Footloose | July 16, 2009 | Reply

    • The last time I was in the US I was pretty freaked out by all the self-swipe thingys at the cash registers. I would just look at the cashier confused and she’d take my credit card and swipe it for me. Technology!!

      Comment by globalgal | July 16, 2009 | Reply

    • We are not big credit card users, normally, Ms. Footloose, but I find that because of difficulties accessing our stateside accounts, it’s often more convenient to use the credit cards and keep a pile of cash on hand for when we need it. It’s funny how circumstances change your habits!

      Comment by intlxpatr | July 16, 2009 | Reply

  8. GG – you would find Kuwait a different place now, GG – credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, even in the Co-ops and other grocery stores. There are also cash machines everywhere, although – like cash machines in every country – they often run out of cash just when you need it the most. 😦

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 16, 2009 | Reply


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