1. Grocery carts are called "trolleys" and you need a lot of upper body strength to operate them. The wheel action is archaic and they are not user friendly. To illustrate this when I push an empty trolley I can push the handle to the side with one hand and the cart will turn all the way around in a kind of haphazard way. This may sound fun, but trust me, it isn't a good thing for getting the cart to go in a forward motion loaded with orange juice and toilet paper. Even though we have been here three years I still haven't learned how to operate them without much frustration and body pain. I'm sure I am still quite a hilarious site to behold at Carrefour as I trudge my way down the ailes and stretch my whole body one way in order to turn a corner the other. If I would only learn not to fill the carts so full, but whenever I go to the store I get as much as possible so I don't have to go back any time soon . . . but that is another story.
2. There are VERY FEW left turn holding lanes here which means that you will be forced to make way too many "U" turns at round abouts and intersections and go way out of your way to get to a certain location. Conserving gas is not an issue here, I guess, and conserving forethought is, at least when it comes to road planning, but to conserve my sanity I usually try and remain open to the option of NOT actually getting to my destination when I am out on the road and just returning to the safety and serenity of my own villa for an impromptu nap.
3. REAL marshmallows cannot be found in this country. I think it has something to do with REAL marshmallows containing some form of pork product. Don't even try to make respectable Rice Krispie Treats with the local marshamllows to take to the Friendship Festival. They will come out different every time and when I say "different" I mean not in a good way. They are rubbery, rock hard, or just nasty tasting. Just bring the good old Western Family brand from the U.S. and save yourself the grief. But then don't make the mistake of getting involved in the risky Marshmallow Black Market here and find yourself trading your precious Libby's canned pumpkin for REAL marshmallows that some Texas oil executive's wife squished into her Samsonite last spring. You might get sucked into the underground licorice trade next and then it will be all over for you!
4. There are many different people here in Qatar from many different cultures. Our first months here were spent getting used to the mannerisms, personalities, and accents of the numerous foreigners. Most of them know English but not the English we are familiar with. For example, if you encounter someone from India, Sri Lanka, or Nepal and you have asked them a question, you might be mystified by the wiggling of their head from side to side (in a bouncy way). This famous head wiggle is an expressive gesture and can mean YES, or I agree with you, or Yes, I would like that - similar to the western nod for agreement. The Indian head wiggle can also be used as a greeting. I have yet to master it, and I might need to have some tutoring from the guards at our compound, but one day I will get brave enough to use it and then these very good-natured people will embrace my blonde, lily-white self as a true sister.
5. Speaking of culture, Qatari culture is very difficult to differentiate from other Arabic culture. The food they eat here is mostly Lebanese, Turkish, or Iraqi. Their homes are decorated with Persian rugs, marble flooring, and ornate, burnished furniture that looks like a golden peacock threw up all over it. Their architectural skyline seems to be a Dubai wannabe and even the excessive use of white Landcruisers on the roads is prevelant in most other Arab countries. We are still trying to find unique cultural markers that are only in this Middle Eastern country, but it might be safe to say that the new internet phrase of "That's so Qatarded!" that came about after the shocking news that Qatar had won the 2022 World Cup bid can only be linked to Qatar. The sore loser countries that didn't win probably came up with the term to make themselves feel better, but leave it to Qatar to be the nerdy newcomer on the recess world stage getting picked on by the World Cup bullies.
6. Turkey Central is not a restaurant featuring Thanksgiving dishes.
7. If you hear someone talking about Sheikah Mayassa in Qatar they aren't talking about their dancing prowess. They are discussing one member of the royal family. BTW, she's very beautiful.
8. If you burn your hand in a simple kitchen accident DO NOT put it under the water that comes out of the faucet. You must use the cold water from the water cooler. Water storage here is outside and therefore, all the water that comes into your villa is heated by the ferocious desert sun. So in the summer we turn OFF the water heater and get hot water on the cold side of the faucet from outside and warm water on the hot water side of the faucet from the water heater - confusing I know.