Amongst the Middle Eastern destinations, Bahrain has increasingly become the preferred destination to live and work in, especially for those seeking a great work-life balance. However, moving to any new country can be challenging especially if you have a family in tow. But knowing that your new destination is Bahrain, makes it that much easier, simply because of the compact size of the country and the warm friendliness of its people.
Here’s a quick look at what to expect in Bahrain:
People mix: The current estimated population of Bahrain is 1.58 million, of which expats make for roughly half of that number. While most of the population is Middle Eastern, the country is home to a sizable population from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Egypt and India, the latter forming the largest expat community.
Language: Arabic remains the predominant language in Bahrain though English, Hindi and Urdu are also widely spoken. Hence, expats usually do not face any difficulty in communicating with colleagues at work or in their local communities.
Dress: While it is common to see locals and Muslim ethnicities dressed in their fully covered attires, expat men and women need only dress modestly in public. Which means women do not have to cover their head, face or hair with a scarf but must be respectfully covered from the shoulders to the knees.
Ramadan: Discretion is expected during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Muslims typically fast and it is a common practice to not consume food and drinks in public. Non-Muslim employees however may use designated areas to eat their meals at work.
Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol is forbidden for Muslims but is easily available to others over the age of 18. Five-star hotels and most first-class restaurants serve the same and it can even be bought without license from some specific outlets for home consumption. Westerners often find this a welcoming relief.
Healthcare: Specialized medical services and procedures are readily available in Bahrain. The kingdom’s healthcare infrastructure is on par with the best in the world, with options for treatment in the public and private sectors. While citizens enjoy free health care, expats may also avail subsidized medical facilities at state-funded hospitals. In particular, the Awali hospital with a reputation which is second to none, is earmarked for serving the needs of Bapco employees and their dependents.
Education: Bahrain also has a progressive and highly valued education system. While Public education in Bahrain is free for both nationals and expatriates alike, Bahrain’s numerous private schools are preferred by the expat community for their international educational systems catering to every need, budget, with mediums of instruction that include French and Japanese.
Transportation: The two popular forms of public transport used in Bahrain are buses and call taxis. Many expats prefer to drive their own vehicles, while those without a license use taxis to get around. Though airconditioned and comfortable, buses are primarily used by migrant workers and day labourers who cannot afford a car or taxi. Most expats will find the petrol prices astonishingly low and a reason enough to own a vehicle of their choice.
Social Clubs: Expat societies and clubs are an integral part of the expat community in Bahrain and an ideal meeting grounds for residents with shared interests and backgrounds. They provide that comforting feeling of a home-away-from home and cater to a wide variety of interests including sports, culture, arts or personal development.