Bahrain is one of the Gulf region's smallest countries, covering an area of just over 760 square kilometers, and with a population of just over 1.3 million. Despite its small size it has plenty to offer the expat medic, and it’s quickly becoming a favourite amongst Western expat workers moving to the region.
If the country is not somewhere you had considered moving to, or if it is and you just feel as if you would benefit from learning more about the country we are here to help. Here’s Odyssey’s guide to 5 things you need to know about life in Bahrain.
The Healthcare Industry - Small, but Powerful
Any medical professional considering a move abroad will firstly need to know about their career prospects in their prospective new home. The healthcare system in Bahrain is one of the most advanced in the world and, akin to neighbouring Dubai, it is becoming a hub for health tourism.
As with almost every system worldwide it is split into both private and public sectors. Due to the country’s compact size, and low population, the two sectors are considerably smaller than in other gulf nations, with just four state and 14 private hospitals in the country - although these are supplemented by many smaller clinics and surgeries.
Life as a medic within the Bahraini healthcare system is far removed from the lifestyle endured by many working in the NHS. Akin to the National Health Service the state system is free at the point of need for Bahraini nationals, unlike in Britain however these people only make up around 46% of the total population. This means that the healthcare system in the country is never stretched beyond its limits.
Funding for the system is also generous, far more so than in most European countries. This ensures that hospitals are not understaffed, doctors and specialists aren’t overworked and a healthy work/life balance is achieved.
Recent statistics show that the healthcare system is benefitting from this investment. Bahrain boasts one of the healthiest populations in the region, and the country only appears to be getting healthier. This is testament to the success of the healthcare sector in the Bahrain.
A Relaxed Lifestyle
Whilst Bahrain is still an Islamic country, its laws are far more relaxed than they are in Saudi Arabia - and even Qatar and Kuwait. Women are free to move around as they wish, and dress codes are far less strict (although people should still avoid wearing overly revealing clothing anywhere apart from on the beach, or in their own home.
On top of this most people speak English, and Bahrainis are notorious for their friendly, relaxed attitude towards expats. Alcohol is legal for non-Muslims in the country, albeit it is only available in hotels, upmarket restaurants and social clubs as well as off-license stores located outwith the city centres.
Bahrain is also the only country in the Gulf region to have a democratically elected parliament and local councils. Despite this the King still holds the final say over everything and so the parliament does not have as much power as it does in most Western locations.
The tiny Kingdom’s open, friendly and modern attitudes have made it the perfect location for people who want to experience the benefits of a move to the Middle East, but without having to deal with an enormous culture shock.
Of course the main factor behind many people’s decision to take their careers to the Gulf region is due to the prospect of more attractive, tax free salaries. Just 1% of an individual's monthly wage is deducted in taxation - and this goes into a scheme to help the unemployed.
The Bahraini Dinar is the world’s 2nd highest value currency, and at the time of writing (December 2016) 1 dinar is currently worth £2.11. As a result of this salary figures may appear far lower than in the UK at first glance. In the country consultants can expect to earn upwards of £83,000 a year (around 41,000BHD) whilst this figure can rise to almost £120,000 tax free in private hospitals depending on experience and your performance.
That’s not all, many hospitals will include accommodation or an allowance to pay for this within their salary package. As well as this there is the benefit of up to 30 days paid leave, shorter working hours and study breaks for research or to attend seminars. Furthermore the hospital will cover the cost of flights to Bahrain and the return journey at the end of your contract.
Given the country's reputation as the middle east’s holiday retreat it comes as a surprise to a great deal of people that the cost of living is actually substantially lower than it is in the United Kingdom.
As with all Gulf countries fuel is dramatically cheaper than almost anywhere else in the world, costing just 27 pence on average per litre. This not only makes personal travel cheaper, but also reduces the cost of public transportation and taxi travel. The cost of essential groceries is also much lower as a result of lower demand, and lower taxes on agriculture.
If improving your financial outlook is something that you consider to be crucial when deciding on a move, Bahrain could be the perfect location.
Of course the simple issue of better weather is often enough to convince people to move abroad, and the climate in Bahrain should suit sun lovers. On average the country experiences just 10 days of rainfall all year, and year round average temperatures are often over 40 degrees celsius.
This does cause an issue for some people, and the intense heat does take some getting used to. Thankfully every building in the country is air conditioned, so the heat won’t be an issue when you are inside, whilst the housing is modern and built to be as shady and cool as possible.
Main Health Issues
Bahrain is, on the whole, healthier than many of its neighbours. However major issues do still exist.
Bahrain has a higher rate of anaemia than many other countries. Research has concluded that roughly 18% of Bahrainis carry the genetically passed down sickle cell anaemia condition, whilst 24% carry Thalassemia an illness which results in abnormal formation of hemoglobin and, as a result, improper oxygen transport around the body. Thalassemia kills roughly 20,000 people worldwide every year.
The country also has the 8th highest rates of endocrine disorders in the world, commonly affecting the hormone system, ovaries and Pineal gland. Endocrine disorders are also related to diabetes making them one of the most widespread medical issues facing people in Bahrain today.
As well as that Multiple Sclerosis is an increasingly prevalent condition - especially amongst women - meaning that death rates from the condition in the country are higher than average.
MS affects its sufferers in many different ways. A loss of balance is common, along with a tremor or double vision. Difficulty chewing food, depression and hearing loss can also be signs of the illness making it one of the most common, diverse and difficult to treat demyelinating diseases in the world.
Bahrain can be the ideal location for many expats looking to work abroad. It offers an ideal mix of Middle Eastern salaries, sunshine and benefits combined with Western comforts.
If you believe that your future could lie in the Kingdom, register on our website for job alerts and start your journey today.