Tim Hortons Etiquette 101 ... Lessons on how to order a Timmies in the ME ...

Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee and donut chain, venerated by Canadians more as a community gathering place than as a coffee shop.

Tim Horton's Menu in Arabic ...

Some would argue that life's greatest lessons are learned not at home, nor at school, but at the local Tim Hortons.  This Canadian institution is in fact where many key curriculums are covered, including but not limited to:

  • Vocabulary:  Tim Hortons is rumoured to have coined the phrase ''double-double''
  • Maths:  What are the odds of bringing home a car in the ''Roll up the Rim to Win'' contest?
  • Science:  What chemical properties in Tim Hortons coffee render it so addictive?
  • Social studies:  What is it about Tim Hortons that causes strangers of all ages, races, religions to be willing to share a table and exchange life stories over a steamin' cuppa?
  • Innovation and sustainability:  Tim Hortons invented the Timbit, thus reducing waste by creating a whole new donut from the donut hole traditionally discarded by less progressive bakers.
  • Time management:  Tim Hortons drive thru's have mastered the art of efficiency.  No faster can you say ''I'll have an extra-large double-double with an everything bagel, buttered on one side only, and a french cruller'' than it will be all packed up and delivered through your driver's seat window.  Mind boggling.
  • Finance & Economics:  Where else can you still get a soup, donut and coffee for under 10$ Canadian.
  • Meteorology:  EVERY Canadian blizzard is immediately followed by weather enthusiasts who congregate at their local Timmies to resolve once and for all how much more timely snow removal would have been if the city had only invested more in dump trucks and salt.

All of this, coupled with the fact that it is Canada's largest food service operator, surpassing even McDonald's, tells you that Tim Hortons is no flash-in-the-pan franchise.  It is indeed an industry unto itself.

Needless to say, Canadians in Qatar were thrilled beyond belief when it was announced that Tim Hortons would finally be piercing the Doha market back in 2013.  For years we'd gracefully swallowed Turkish coffee.  But there was no hiding it - the year Tim Hortons opened its franchises in Doha is the year a Canadian pulse truly started beating in this desert city.  

We were willing to live with the fact that you couldn't get a proper BLT sandwich (just not the same without pork bacon), and that the shop name carried a ''Cafe and Bake Shop'' suffix (just sounds a bit posh for the likes of the veteran Timmie's crowd).  But there are some offences that Canadians are still struggling with about the Doha Tim's rendition almost two years after it first set up shop.

I've listed a few of the more glaring ones below.  And I swear to you that I have personally been witness to every single one of the following Tim Hortons etiquette breaches.  Canadians, be warned, you may find this offensive, and may choose to not read further.

Patron:  ''Hi.  Do you sell Krispy Kreme donuts?''  (Blasphemy!)

Patron:  ''Can I please have the iced cappuccino, but please don't make it to cold.''  (????)

Patron:  ''Yes, I would like the Canadian Maple donut, but without the maple please.''  (Seriously ... Canadian WITHOUT Maple?  That's like expecting yin without yang.)

Patron:  ''Do you have Turkish coffee?''  (Uhmmmm, nope.  No falafel either.)

Staff:  ''No, I'm sorry Sir, we only have American coffee.''  (PARDON ME????)

Patron:  ''Why don't you write my name on the cup?  Starbucks always writes my name on the cup.  Yalla, please write my name on the cup.''  (No one would EVER dare try this in Canada; you would risk being barred for life.)

Staff:  ''Ma'am, we're out of Canadian Maple donuts.  Would you like to try the croissant with Zaatar?''  (Deep breaths, deep breaths ...)

Staff:  ''I'm sorry Ma'am, the coffee machine's not working.  Would you like some iced tea instead?''  (I think I might have to slash my wrists now.)

Staff:  ''Ma'am, do you want your iced cappuccino cold or warm?''  (There is NO SUCH THING as warm ice, people!)

I mean, just how Canadian do you expect your Canadian Maple donut to be if you take the maple away folks?

International Community, please take me seriously.  Tim Hortons is the java beast icon of Canada.  

It is the only supplement we need to get us through -50C winters and 8 feet tall snowbanks.  

It has sustained many a university student through final exams, mothers through their child-bearing and rearing years, and fathers through double shifts at the plant.  

It has helped heal international rifts, paving the way for peace negotiations.

It has helped economically disadvantaged children develop lifelong skills that help them bring a positive attitude and commitment to their lives and their futures. 

It cannot be treated as just another commodity.  Many would argue that Tim Horton's is the heartbeat of our Nation.

I beg of you - the next time you're at Tim Hortons in Doha, simply treat the shop with the simple reverence it commands.  Don't overcomplicate things or try to pull an ''elongated double java iced frappe latte with caramel sprinkles''-type manoeuvre on the hapless staff.

Simply walk up confidently to the cashier, order a large double-double and a box of Timbits, ask the cashier about her mom's health, take your tray, go sit next to a lonely patron, offer up some Timbits, and start up a conversation about the weather.  

And do NOT - EVER - again make mention of Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts while inside a Tim Horton's establishment.

It's that easy.

PS We even write songs about Timmies.  That's how seriously we take it.  Click on the link below for a glimpse into how the average Canadian feels about his/her   ''T-I-M     H-O-R-T-O-N-S'' (song by Johnny Reid).

Gypsy in the ME goes social with her first BloggingMEetup ...

Today was a small step for me, a giant leap for GypsyInTheME.  

''I'', ''me'', aka ''Gypsy the antisocial blogger'',  attended a BloggingMEetup, hosted by the incredible Kirsty Rice and Sarah Derrig at Blogging ME.  If you haven't heard of these two ladies, chances are:

  1. you're missing out because you haven't yet checked out 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle
  2. you're missing out because you haven't yet checked out Lady Sadie's Emporium
  3. you haven't been checking out the New & Newsworthy section on iTunes or you would have seen that Two Fat Expats is rockin' the charts
  4. you're missing out!  Click on those links peeps!

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand.  You see, I'm not a social butterfly; not in realtime, not virtually.  I am the epitome of the kid playing ''the tree'' in the school play; swaying in the wind in the background, happy to be a witness to the action, but perfectly content to be a part of the backdrop.  


Much like that tree in a play, I like to think I'm a part of the bigger Qatar blogging community, an element that contributes to the star quality that is out there, that brings a bit of colour and movement to the set, but that wouldn't be sorely missed if ever the show had to carry on without it.

I revel in my semi-anonymity; it brings me great comfort to write, and that's really more than I'd ever hoped to achieve from starting up this blog.  As I told one lady I met today, my blog has actually pushed me to delve deep, deep, deep into the good and the bad of living in Qatar as a Western expat female, and it's shown me that if I delve deep enough, I'll always find something good.  If someone finds my blog and they like it, bonus.  If no one ever reads it again but it continues to provide release, good enough.

I'm afraid to be discovered.  Not like I think I'll be ''discovered'' like some hidden miracle writing talent; ''discovered'' as in ''found out'' for the really amateurish, elementary, and ''not-a-clue-what-she's-doing'' blogger I am.  

The reason I went to the meet up was partly to get to meet my fellow Doha bloggers, but mostly to support Kirsty, who I know socially, and Sarah in their incredible initiative to connect Middle East bloggers.

I was terrified to even share the name of my blog when I arrived at the meet up venue this afternoon.  I sat there with the likes of A Girl and Her Passport, and Only in Doha, who write with such relevance and are so connected to what people actually want to read.  There were numerous other ladies who are in the developmental stages of their blogs.  The latter are hard at work developing very professional pages that are tailored to their audiences and have a theme, a niche, a following.  All these talented bloggers have put such care and thought into colour schemes, backgrounds, borders.  They've got logos. Most if not all have very active Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages associated to their blogs.  

And then there's me.  I'm the one who went with Squarespace ... because it was easy and I didn't have to worry too much about the look and feel.  I just had to write and post photos displaying my piss-poor photography skills.  I rarely, if ever, think about whether I'll be pleasing an audience.  If the code for superscript is too much of a headache, I just go with italics.  I don't have a niche because my theme (living, breathing, working, driving in Qatar) is so broad as to include the 2.5 million people living in Qatar, yet boring and overdone enough so as to attract only about 4 of the total population (and that would include Smilin' Vic).

But you know what?  This awesome group of talented ladies made me feel so incredibly welcome in their midst, and as I listened to the lady from Texas tell me about her 80-year-old mom setting up to record a podcast I couldn't help but feel inspired.  

After all those gathered on how great her fashion images were, another blogger talked about the humiliation she sometimes has to put herself through to get the perfect shot or selfie.  

As I listened to them talk about what motivated them to always get better at their craft, I was motivated to try a little harder.

It was so nice to put real-time faces to the blogs.  One of the girls told me she had pictured me in her mind and was happy to finally put a face to the blog.  When I asked her if I was what she'd pictured, she told me she'd imagined someone a bit more relaxed.  Yup, I am THAT awkward in social situations! 

So for her, and for the lady who stands in her front yard taking selfies where the light hits 'just right' so she can get ''the perfect shot'', I took this selfie with Kiddo tonight ... to prove to them and myself that I CAN take a selfie, and I can be relaxed when the mood is right and I'm home alone in my onesie!

Thank you BloggingME, for infusing the social into the gypsy, and for inspiring me to go just a tad beyond my limits :-)

A pretty typical Friday in Doha ...

Life in Qatar is often much like life elsewhere.  We're always happy to see the weekend roll around, and one weekend often seems much like the other.  For some without kids, Fridays and Saturdays may be filled with intense gym sessions, brunches and spa packages, but our weekends consist mostly of leisurely breakfasts, a family outing, catching up on sleep, and grocery shopping.  It's a pretty ordinary life.

This was a pretty typical Friday in Doha.  We got up, puttered about, and I made Kiddo the little piece of deliciousness pictured below.  Weekends call for yummy breakfasts, no matter where you are in the world.

Even though I couldn't have the pan-seared buttered bread (left over from a Tim Horton's chill meal on Wednesday), I did steal a tiny piece of the bocconcini with pesto and a sun dried tomato.  Typical mom - I'm always there to help out when Kiddo starts to get full.  Thank goodness she has a good appetite and usually finishes her plate, or I'd be ginormous ...

We decided to head down to the Corniche.  It's a great place to hang early on a Friday winter morning.  Traffic is practically inexistent in Doha before Friday's noon-time call to prayer, and the hordes of picnickers haven't yet settled in along the 7 km stretch that partly encircles West Bay.  We got there before the air got too dusty.

There were already quite a few people out, strolling along the waterfront, taking in the glorious combination of warm sun, salty air, and coolish breeze (it was actually more of a gust ...).

We parked at the 5 km marker near the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) and hung out for the 30 requisite minutes it takes Kiddo to don her elbow pads, knee pads, shin pads, wrist guards, sunscreen, bug repellant, helmet, ear plugs, light reflectors, radiation shield, and (finally) roller blades.  For just an instant, I wondered if perhaps I'd turned my child into a sports wimp.  But that moment evaporated as I saw her struggle to get to her feet and slowly and shakily move forward.  Watching her wobble along the cobble, I knew there would never be such a thing as too much protective gear for my child.

I was quite proud of her as she skated a good 3 km down the walkway before finally asking if she could walk the rest of the way.  We continued on towards the Sheraton Hotel, stopping at Costa Coffee at the 5 km mark to enjoy a small salad and a brownie.  Even though it was really windy, the sun was shining, the temps were hovering around 23C, and the tables outside were packed.  We found a little spot on the grass outside and enjoyed our quickie meal.

Kiddo then made it all the way back to the car without uttering barely a peep of complaint.  I later found out she'd been motivated by Smilin Vic's promise of a treat from MegaMart at the end of the trek.  At the end of the day, she'd clocked almost 10 km.  Without much dissent.  Not bad for a 9-year-old.

Mission accomplished, legs sore, we headed off to MegaMart to re-stock for the week.  The only thing really critical on my list was garlic salt and non-stick cooking spray.  If you've read any blog about Qatar, you'll have heard of mysterious and sudden specific food shortages.  In the past, we've seen Heinz Ketchup, HP sauce, chicken, Hillshire farms turkey franks, buffalo mozzarella, and a slew of other products simply vanish from the shelves.  This month, it seems to be garlic salt.  

Alas, there was no garlic salt to be found.  Fourth week in a row.  I'm wondering what the garlic salt gods have done to lose their place of privilege on the spice display shelves.  I know it's not powdered garlic per se that's being shunned, because we managed to find a jar of garlic pepper.  Who in the world uses garlic pepper?  Except Smilin' Vic, that is; he claims it's his new favourite spice.  It's NOT a spice Smilin' Vic.  It's just a cruel joke.  A ''Wannabee''.  Garlic salt is where it's at.

Nor could I find the cooking spray.  I'm close to desperation; my last can is half empty.  What gives????  I have a serious beef with the 'guy' who sits there deciding which Western convenience will not be imported to Qatar this week, this month, this year ...

We did, however find these eggs:

We argued for a while over the purchase of these 15 ''Big Beautiful EGGS''.  You see, Smilin' Vic is convinced that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.  My extensive Google searches would indicate the nutritional value, if any, is so slight as to be negligible.  And considering that I can get 30 white Saudi eggs (which is how many we go through in a week) for 21 QAR (+/- 6 $), I don't see why I'd pay 15 QAR for 15 brown ones.  Is it because they're ''freshly laid in SUNNY UAE''?  Like it's not sunny in Saudi?  Or is it because, as per the packaging, these are ''vegetarian'' hens?  As opposed to what?  A delinquent bunch of flesh-eating, carnivorous hens? Obviously I lost the argument, hence the rant.  I've decided Smilin' Vic is staying home next time I go egg shopping.

We caught sight of these guys doing some sort of desert sailing on the way back from the shop.  Not sure what you call this sport, but they were moving at incredible speed.  I love Doha days where you see people out and about taking advantage of the great winter weather.

It was a good Friday.  Pretty typical.  Good.