Blog March 29th, 2018
Moving to Oman: a relocation story
Kait Kesküla knew he was grabbing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when he took a job with Nortal in Oman. He’s found that living and working in the country has been a rush in more ways than one.
“We’re genuinely deciding the future of an entire country. Who gets to do that?” said the Estonian, who arrived in Muscat last October packing 10 years of experience in business analysis and a sense of adventure. The project he was there to work on involved introducing value-added tax (VAT) and excise taxes to a nation that has never had either.
“My mission is to understand how our client, the local tax authority, should manage these taxes and what kind of system they’ll need to do it,” he said.
The solution Kesküla and his colleagues are building will ensure maximum accrual of VAT and effective collection of the tax with minimum administrative burden and costs while creating a fair business environment and user-friendly services for all taxpayers. The implementation of value-added tax in Oman is part of an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council states to implement VAT in all member states. Nortal was selected by Oman as a partner to provide the necessary technical solutions and establish the infrastructure for the implementation of effective tax collection in Oman.
One of the aspects of the project that has surprised Kesküla most is how similar the work is to what he was used to back at home in Estonia, despite the wrinkle of having a client with absolutely no background in the matter at hand. “As they haven’t done this before, it’s difficult for them to be as precise as a typical client would be. Luckily, our team has experts on board to guide them.”
What took Kesküla more time to get used to was the roads. Warned about Oman’s car-centric culture, he managed to earn his license just prior to moving here.
“Oman was actually my first solo driving experience,” he said. Now he can tell you all about cruising through the capital in his rented Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy, or whatever rental he’s picked this month.
“It’s completely doable and a total thrill,” Kesküla said. The fuel is cheap, and the road infrastructure is ultra-safe, but the key difference is the speed. In Tallinn, the basic upper limit is 50 kph (31 mph). “Here, the limits start at 50 and goes up to 120 kph (75 mph) – and that’s when you’re still in the city.”
The little, everyday things
For Kesküla, who had never traveled outside of Europe before, starting this job and adjusting to living and working in Oman has been far easier than he imagined. His media-spun preconceptions about the Arab world turned out to be far off the mark.
“Oman is a beautiful country, and Muscat a beautiful city,” he said. Oman is a religious country full of traditions, he noted, but it’s fairly liberal compared to its neighbors. It’s also quite modern, and everything works, so a Westerner can fit right in.
For Kesküla, though, what makes life here exciting is how much it diverges from what he’s used to – not only is the climate and geography radically different, but so is the architecture. Kesküla says he’s still in exploratory mode, touring new parts of Muscat and heading off with colleagues for weekend trips to nearby cities and nature spots.
The novelty doesn’t stop during the work week either, since it’s then that the local cultural nuances come to light. “My stories about the cultural divide are mostly about the little, everyday things,” he said. At meetings, for example, there’s usually a person there to take everyone’s coffee and tea order about 15 minutes into the meeting.
Attitudes are also something that may take getting used to, according to Kesküla. “The people here are super relaxed and don’t get rattled. Generally, that’s a good thing, but it means that things might not happen as quickly as you’d expect.”
Kesküla is always ready to share his thoughts on bridging cultural gaps as well as working on large projects, but to hear them, you’ll have to catch him first. He says he’s about to swap his Hyundai Sonata for an SUV so it seems his adventures in Oman have only just begun.
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