Do you know Elle McPherson?

Every Australian who has traveled overseas has been asked or told at least one dumb thing about Australia. Do we speak English? Are there really kangaroos hopping down the street? My personal favourite so far  “Do you have the internet in Australia”?

Canadians still get asked if they live in igloos, Brits are offered tea at breakfast because “we know you guys only drink tea”, and now with the announcement of the 2022 World cup bid, it seems it’s Qatar’s turn.

Over the past few days I have read and heard some of the craziest ideas about Qatar. It’s hard not to just see it as sour grapes or racism, but I really don’t think it is. I think it’s just a mix of some out dated ideas and not really knowing the culture, which is then fueled by really irresponsible journalism.

It was hard not to be embarrassed by the Australian Channel 7 news team that came to Qatar shortly after the bid result. Showing footage of a group of boys kicking a beaten up old soccer ball around a dusty and desolate makeshift field, with an over exaggerated low and very serious tone, the journalist said “they’ve got a long way to go”. One has to ask why they didn’t chose to go to any of the 5 enormous stadiums where football is played regularly with boys and girls in soccer uniforms and boots? There was no mention of the Argentina v Brazil game played here a few weeks ago? Talk to any European, especially a Brit and they’ll tell you what a pleasure it is to attend a game in Qatar, it’s cheap, it’s friendly and the fans go crazy, if you like violence at your game, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

I’m not going to spend the next few paragraphs ranting about the dumb stuff I’ve read, it doesn’t deserve repeating, you know what I’m talking about though, the stories about women in Qatar and drinking and terrorists and how I’ll be jailed or whipped or join the Al-Qaeda. Maybe it’s just easier to tell you about my last 24 hours.

Today I am wearing tracksuit pants and a t-shirt, because once again I’ve woken up and said I’ll go to the gym but I haven’t. I drove my children to school and hopped out of the car and was not immediately arrested, stoned or beaten for not wearing a burkha. I also was not arrested, stoned or beaten for driving. Tonight I will attend an event run by women called the Qatar Women’s Professional Network, none of us will be arrested, stoned or beaten for attending. I will listen to outstanding local and expat women tell me stories of their forward thinking projects. Although there will be no alcohol served (because there will be Qataris at the event) it will be completely fine for me to go and buy MYSELF a drink in the bar because I am not Qatari, and you guessed it, no one will arrest, stone or beat me for this. I will probably wear a dress, I will cover my shoulders and it will probably cover my knees because I haven’t shown my knees to anyone since about 1995.

Last night G and I booked the babysitter and went on a date.  We went to see a Media Futurist. I would have never known about Gerd Leonhart or that he was one of the world’s leading futurist if ICTQatar had not funded his visit, he was absolutely fascinating. He talked to a packed room about blogging, twitter, facebook, marketing strategies on line, newspapers and basically anything related to information sharing and gathering. We were encouraged to tweet throughout the event, we were not told what to say, the event was open to everyone and publicized on twitter and in the local newspapers. Upon leaving we were not arrested, stoned or beaten.

My friend Rob gets very cross with how much I go on about what a great place Qatar is to live. I understand why, it has its faults and it’s not perfect, but after living in 7 countries I’m learning that possibly nowhere is. What’s different about Qatar from the rest though, is it’s growing, learning and changing at a speed that is mind blowing. The city is almost unrecognizable from a picture or a story from ten years in its past. It’s a very exciting place to be and there is something happening here all the time.

I cringe every time an American tells me to put a shrimp on the barbie or a Brit offers me a Fosters Lager to drink, I can’t imagine how much the Qataris are cringing at some of the stereotypes right now.

*Here’s a great article in the Huffington post written by an American woman living in Qatar she say’s everything I’d like to say just far more eloquently so I’ll let her do it. Click here if you’re interested.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12124831265480163064 Smudgeblurr

    Hi there
    Well written article and I saw that Ch 7 news article and thought it was wrong. Congrats to you for helping break down the stereotypes.

    W
    p.s. how is the beagle enjoying Qatar?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    The beagle is NAUGHTY, there is no other word to describe that dog. I think she should write a blog about her trip here (she had quite a journey as she was a rescue dog in Texas). Thanks for your comment, very much appreciated. Kx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08992720068722156213 Sean

    Couldn’t agree with you more…. It felt like a re-run of South Africa winning the world cup bid and people stating “They will never be ready” but we were and no there are no lion or elephant roaming the streets, other than in the national parks along the dirt roads created for cars to watch the wildlife. Yes, SA is not perfect and their is crime, but it went pretty well considering all the bad stuff that happens there.
    An Italian friend living in Qatar said to me a while ago, “If not to live in Qatar then where? No country is perfect, but we make of it what we want to. No I am not keen to go back to Italy right now, I am happy where I am.”
    Great post as usual!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    thanks Sean. We have Sth African next door neighbours and they say the same. Your comment has made my day. Kx

  • http://osama.alassiry.com/ Osama ALASSIRY

    Great post!

    I’ve been checking #Qatar2022 on twitter. There seems to be an amazing number of people who never cared about football, then became mad after this.

    I’ve been laughing. I usually feel it’s useless to argue with an idiot, and as they say, people won’t know who of you is an idiot.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02566056053282496532 Mademoiselle L.

    Personally, I always ask fellow Australians if they had a face-to-face encounter with a dangerous spider or snake – just because I’m scared of them! 🙂
    About Qatar – tbh it is weird that such a small country which never had any proper football achievements is going to host such big football event. I hope it’ll work out! x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    Ahh yes, I forgot about the snake and spider questions, kind of like asking a Camadian when they were last attacked by a bear. Yes, Qatar is a small country but it’s also the richest country in the world, I guess we can be assured they won’t run out if money. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08923946532271907920 Steve

    Good post–just found your blog through Steven & Denise. Hope my 2-second cameo in the Channel 7 piece didn’t inadvertently contribute to the stereotypes.

  • tash

    Wonderfully written. It’s time we all recognized the good in each other, rather than the bad; and expect success rather than failure. The beauty a person experiences is only the result of their attitude, not their surroundings. Kirsty, I think you will continue finding beauty where ever you happen to be. xo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09890862541890241422 Raine and Sage

    I’ve experienced this growing up in my own country. i.e. people would question if we had schools or shops in Darwin wh(where I grew up) if I was in Sydney for example, so naturally ignorance only heightens the further afield you go. 🙂

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09890862541890241422 Raine and Sage

    PS – clearly I am related to Elle McPherson, don’t you see the resemblance?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    @Steve – we loved your 2 second cameo, we were watching the news piece and up you popped and we both said at the same time “hey that’s the guy from the Christmas party”!! What I loved was that every person interviewed had a positive response that they chose to completely ignore eg. your comment of “I’m sure the 2022 committee will make sure the fans are accommodated”. You were great! Thanks for the comment. Kx

    @Raine and Sage – yes, your Elle Mcpherson was spectacular as was mine when I referred to the Canadians as Camadians?! Apologies to my Camadian friends 😉

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04729571991002856725 gilly

    I was 12 when we moved to Texas from Scotland. Our new neighbour took my mother in and showed her the taps…asking if we had running water in Scotland! Lived in Qatar 11 years ago…I’m sure I wouldn’t know it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15999271127735997770 Naturally Carol

    Because NZ is a small country the main question I got upon entering Australia was “Do you know…Mr and Mrs So & So..I met them when…etc.” and ” I think they live in Wellington” and I lived in Auckland..just a few million people away! I never did know everybody in NZ, and generalisations or assumptions are never true, are they? You will have a very exciting time if you are soccer fans, now, won’t you? Everybody will be asking you for accommodation and saying they know you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13009715674974259128 So Now What?

    Thank you because I don’t even know where Qatar is. See how ignorant I am? But you just gave me more of an insight than any news story could and will. Thanks and I vote for the beagle blog as well. xx Bern

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14759336965970856540 littlemissairgap

    I think you said it pretty darn fine yourself. Good post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07692191230110585178 rob

    Cross? Hardly. I do however think you can appear somewhat of a Qatar ‘booster’ at times – where’s the critical eye?

    As for the football sorry but it’s a complete farce that Qatar got the right to host. Universally panned as the worst of the five bids it bribed its way to the top. The Cup isn’t just about football it’s about a party. A huge outdoor cross-cultural party. In 2022 it will be a small indoor air-conditioned party – with an absence of street samba in Brazilian costume to boot.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    Rob, if you don’t think they know how to party in Qatar, you so obviously haven’t been to Qatar. I can’t wait to see Qatar prove you wrong. As to the cross cultural, I don’t think you can get more cross cultural than Qatar, as for small, nothing in Qatar is small.

    I love you dearly Rob, you know that, and our banter is always spirited and friendly. I sat through the US and Aussie bids, they just weren’t as good.

    Kx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17165208811776097332 Heather

    I’m ashamed to say I don’t really know anything about Qatar, not even sure where it is on a map. But thanks to you I now know it’s the worlds richest country and people don’t get routinely stonned or beaten to death – which is always a nice thing in a country I reckon.

    In fact the only thing I thought when I heard the world cup was being hosted there was ‘hey, that’s where @shamozal lives’

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08086609796637381025 Dad doing the daycare

    Kirsty, to suggest that bids were selected based on the half hour videos or presentations done at the end of a two year process is fallacious at best. That the bids were allocated on the basis of who paid more is largely unquestioned (outside of Qatar or Russia of course).

    As for Qatar’s capacity to party, well I’m sure it can throw an excellent ‘ex-pats bring a plate piss up’ within the lager that is the ex-pats compound but I seriously question whether an islamist state can provide the beer garden/caprioska festival for 250,000 visitors that is the hallmark of a great world cup.

    Now in the spirit of friendly banter let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good bit of boosterism eh?

    Have you ever really watched a World Cup – do you follow what happens before during and after one or have you been seduced by the computer manufactured graphics of solar powered stadia being shipped to Yemen to solve piracy in the Middle East?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    My site moderator (that’s me) tells me I need to point out that this last comment by “Dad doing the day care” is actually “Rob”. Tomorrow he will be commenting under a new tag of “crazed Aussie bloke who’s really angry we didn’t win”.

    I’m not sure if you’ve seen any of the footage of Qataris taking to the streets after the bid? That was the partying I was referring to. I have no doubt the alcohol situation will be sorted by 2022.

    I’ve been waiting for the “your’e not a real fan” comment, I enjoyed it so much back in July when I wasn’t a “real fan” of AFL because I wasn’t home attending the games and couldn’t recite the team list. You have a point though, I actually didn’t know a THING about the world cup until I LEFT AUSTRALIA!!!!

    I love the world cup because it’s one of the only truly international sports, do I love it enough? Do I love it as much as you? Probably not, but I reckon that’s irrelevant.

    I sincerely hope your sports journo career is in full swing by 2022 so you can tell me how much you enjoyed your visit to Qatar, how friendly the people were, how you were in awe of the stadium and I sincerely hope (for my own sake) that Qatar can provide you with enough beer to make you happy. Please give HP a squeeze for me.

    Kx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11454671322108137234 kooki

    There is something mildly intoxicating about being at the center of the soccer world, if even just for the next few years. No alcohol needed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03924035710478459520 EmmaK

    Really interesting post and thanks for setting us all straight. Yeah there are many stereotypes about Qatar and luckily as you say most aren’t true. Also I’ve tagged you over at my blog – please give me your best Bleats!! xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07692191230110585178 rob

    Yeah I saw the footage of kids in four wheel drives with flags. Inspirational.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

    Great blog Kirsty. I think Qatar sounds like an exciting place to be. x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09646026064261601469 Happy Homemaker UK | Laura

    The British were definitely disappointed they didn’t win it either. But not being a football/soccer fan, I didn’t know who did win the hosting until reading your post. Good for Qatar!

    Your story reminds me of when I lived in Costa Rica, which also rarely makes international news. While I was living there, a Costa Rican swimmer won an Olympic silver medal. The whole country was so elated (if there was a stronger word I’d use it), you would have thought each Costa Rican had won that medal him/herself. It was exciting!

    XO L

  • http://www.morethanjustmummy.blogspot.com/ nmaha

    Thank you. This is so true. Dubai, where I grew up, is still the city I would choose to live in.

  • Lisa in Doha

    Excellent post, made even better by the banter in the comments!

    I think we all need to remember that 2022 is a long way away, a lot will change by then, and it’s kind of exciting to be a part of it all. And while I’m not entirely on the Doha booster wagon YET, like you I do find it relatively easy to live here and much more interesting than I expected based on initial impressions — starting Qatar adventure in August during Ramadan not smart!

    Not sure we’ll still be in here in 2022, but am just hoping that among the more immediate changes will be a pork room at the hypermarket. Then I’ll become a booster for sure!

  • Rabbit of Oz

    Thats the read of the day for me! well done kirst. Nice counterpoint Rob. Not sure we can cope with another 12 years of this? BTW – this post was blocked by my security program???

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03596142995497292286 Bronnie and family

    Thanks for this… You’re right, we get so many crazy stereotypical news over here, it’s great to get the truth. And I vote for the beagle blog as well. xo

  • Lisa in Doha

    Excellent post, made even better by the banter in the comments!

    I think we all need to remember that 2022 is a long way away, a lot will change by then, and it’s kind of exciting to be a part of it all. And while I’m not entirely on the Doha booster wagon YET, like you I do find it relatively easy to live here and much more interesting than I expected based on initial impressions — starting Qatar adventure in August during Ramadan not smart!

    Not sure we’ll still be in here in 2022, but am just hoping that among the more immediate changes will be a pork room at the hypermarket. Then I’ll become a booster for sure!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08086609796637381025 Dad doing the daycare

    Kirsty, to suggest that bids were selected based on the half hour videos or presentations done at the end of a two year process is fallacious at best. That the bids were allocated on the basis of who paid more is largely unquestioned (outside of Qatar or Russia of course).

    As for Qatar’s capacity to party, well I’m sure it can throw an excellent ‘ex-pats bring a plate piss up’ within the lager that is the ex-pats compound but I seriously question whether an islamist state can provide the beer garden/caprioska festival for 250,000 visitors that is the hallmark of a great world cup.

    Now in the spirit of friendly banter let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good bit of boosterism eh?

    Have you ever really watched a World Cup – do you follow what happens before during and after one or have you been seduced by the computer manufactured graphics of solar powered stadia being shipped to Yemen to solve piracy in the Middle East?

  • http://osama.alassiry.com/ Osama ALASSIRY

    Great post!

    I’ve been checking #Qatar2022 on twitter. There seems to be an amazing number of people who never cared about football, then became mad after this.

    I’ve been laughing. I usually feel it’s useless to argue with an idiot, and as they say, people won’t know who of you is an idiot.

    Thanks.