Pros and Cons of Moving to Qatar
Accommodation in Qatar
Depending on where you’ve lived previously, you may find the state of accommodation in Qatar either wonderful or deplorable. Regardless though, rents in Qatar are high, choices may be limited and lots of places may look the same.
Pro: New and convenient
In Qatar, new compounds and apartment complexes are constantly being built, so if you’ve been dreaming of a home with never-been-used fittings and a new house smell, you may be in luck. Most compounds and complexes also have numerous amenities on site, such as a pool, a gym, dry cleaners, cafés and a corner store. Expat accommodation is also generally well-proportioned, with a lot of space on offer.
Con: Limited choice
Accommodation choices are limited to either villa living in a compound or an apartment in a high rise. The most popular locations will likely have waiting lists, making house hunting frustrating, while other places, although having all of the requisite facilities, will be seriously lacking in atmosphere.
Lifestyle in Qatar
Qatar is what you make of it. Despite its Muslim roots and relatively recent interest in developing cultural and entertainment distractions, there are plenty of things to do, if you know where to look, and are willing to make at least a small amount of effort.
Pro: It's easy to make friends
You will have a lot of extra time in Qatar and, for about seven months of the year, this will be glorious. The population of Qatar is still small, and the expat community is quite tight knit; it follows that all you’ll have to do to make friends is take up a sport or start a conversation with the people who live in the villa next door.
This will be made even easier if you have come with a partner and have children, as there is no shortage of mums' groups and activities for kids in Doha. Singles needn’t worry; however, as this could be your opportunity to finally learn a second language or to take up that hobby you’ve been meaning to look into. Qatar also boasts some first rate museums, a beautiful coast line, stunning desert, and many seasonal events, such as film festivals, art exhibitions, conferences and sport matches.
Con: Extreme heat and young social scene
Qatar is unbearable for a large portion of the year, due to the extreme heat, so, although you’ll be on the beach in November and lunching outdoors in January, between June and August (and most of May and October, really) it will be HOT. It’s during this time that a lot of people leave Qatar, making it almost like a ghost town. Most activities stop during this period of the year, as well, so you may be hard-pressed to find many events to attend. And although Doha also has a budding nightlife scene with some high profile restaurants and a fair amount of bars/clubs, what does exist is still a large leap from the level of entertainment that many expats may be used to.
Pro: Mild wintersIn contrast to the extreme heat of summer, winters are long and glorious. You will be able to enjoy outdoor activities from November until April, a fact that almost makes you forget about the scorching summer temperatures.
Con: Lack of outdoor pursuits
Qatar is very much an urban landscape with most people residing in its largest city, Doha. There are wide expanses of (uninhabited) desert, a scattering of coastal reserves and a handful of city parks, but this is as close to any semblance of ‘countryside’ that you will get. For a substantial portion of the year it will be too hot to go outside anyway so if you are a real outdoorsy person, the flat, somewhat barren terrain of Qatar will take some getting used to. The sun shines in Qatar nearly every single day, which may appeal to many people; however, due to the lack of vegetation, all you will see is light blue sky and beige landscape.
Con: Lack of central pedestrian area
There also isn’t any sort of downtown or centre of town area in Doha where you can walk around, window shop, visit cafes, etc., you will need to drive (or be driven) everywhere. Public transport in Qatar is also very much in its infancy.
Safety in Qatar
Pro: Low crime rates
Qatar is a very safe place with low levels of petty crime, and even lower levels of serious crime.
Con: Reckless driving and road rage
The most unsafe place in Qatar is on the roads, people (locals and expats alike) drive like maniacs.
Working and doing business
Pro: Lucrative salary packages
Most people move to Qatar for work, which usually means a more senior position with better pay; this in itself is one of the perks of working in Qatar, and often these jobs come with a tax-free salary.
Con: Slow work culture
Work wise, things don’t happen that quickly in Qatar; there is somewhat of a more relaxed attitude, although it may not purposely be so. The workday is 7am to 3pm; however, many government offices close at 1pm. So really, things need to get done before noon, or people have already started thinking about going home.
Attitudes towards meetings and time keeping are slack, to say the least. Much patience is needed, particularly when you’ve become part of a workforce whose first language is not always English.
No matter how worldly or well-travelled you think you may be, many matters in Qatar will frustrate you, yet be completely outside of your control. You will need a lot of patience. People may tell you what you want to hear and not really what they are capable of. You will see a blatant disregard for many (if not all) traffic rules and a serious lack of order and queue (line) formations. Take a deep breath, relax, and try to tell yourself that it’s not the end of the world, getting aggravated and upset will not get you very far.
Pro: Easy to make friends
The expat community in Qatar is small and friendly and very welcoming to newcomers. A minimal amount of searching for activities and new friends will usually be very fruitful. There are plenty of expat clubs and events on offer in Doha, and even if you don’t engage on this level it’s likely you will bump into someone you know while at the grocery store or walking alone on the Corniche or shopping at the mall. Once the ball is rolling, it is easy to make friends.
Con: Adjusting to Muslim etiquette
Although Qatar is one of the more liberal countries in the region, you must remember that you are still in the Middle East and a bit of prudence and respect will go a long way. Certain guidelines should be followed and, although not illegal, public displays of affection ought to be avoided and women should dress modestly with their shoulders and knees covered. You will see many, if not all locals in traditional dress; white robes for men and black abayas for women. You will also see a lot of Qatari woman with not only their heads covered, but their entire faces as well. If you are male, a Qatari woman will not shake your hand, do not take offence. If you are a female, a Qatari male may or may not shake your hand.
Con: Classist society
The division of class is clearly evident in Qatar. Yes, the country is ranked as one of the richest in the world, but it is an obvious, sometimes overlooked, fact that Qatar was built and continues to run on the fuel of its migrant workforce. From the Nepalese construction workers to the Keralan cab drivers and Filipino maids, there will be someone to carry your clothes to the changing room, bag your groceries and top up your water at restaurants, and many people (locals and expats) have hired help such as housekeepers/cleaners and drivers, for whom they are solely responsible; this is how things are done in Qatar.
Cost of living
Pro: Affordable fuel
Petrol (gas) is very, very cheap in Qatar.
Con: High cost of living
The cost of living in Qatar is high, or rather, higher than you may be used too, but that doesn’t necessarily equate with better quality of goods. Qatar imports 90 percent of its food, so although you may be able to find your favourite brand of organic spinach, this will definitely come at a premium. Staples, such as rice and bread, and certain meats and fish are moderately priced, but in general, food is more expensive in Qatar. Household goods, furniture and electronics are also more expensive, and, sometimes, not that well made. Familiar Western brands (including clothing) can be found in the malls and shops, but because they are imported too, they will also cost you more.
Education and schools
There is a public school system in Qatar, but, with very few exceptions, this is only for locals and taught in Arabic. The majority of private international schools tend to follow either an American or British curriculum.
Pro: High spend on education
Qatar is pouring a tremendous amount of money into education, science and technology and, as a result, many world-class institutions have set up branches in Doha.
The country is also recruiting teachers from overseas, so the quality of education on offer in private schools is not lacking.
Con: Costly tuition, limited space
Private international schools in Qatar are expensive, in some cases as much as 65,000 QAR. Furthermore, seats in the popular institutions are rare, and waiting lists can be long. Advanced planning is often necessary to gain admission.
The only home university, Qatar University, does not offer a graduate programme; hence, students usually leave Qatar to continue their education and many never return.
Pro: Accessible health insurance
Most expats have health insurance provided by their employer. If, for some exceptional reason, this is not the case, residents may apply for a Hamad Card, which will entitle them to highly subsidised health and dental care at Hamad Medical Corporation.
Con: Expats still wary of healthcare
The main hospitals in Doha are modern and well-equipped and the city boasts an international medical community. Having said that though, the general consensus among expats is, if you have the option of having a treatment in Qatar versus having one in your home country, you should opt for treatment in your home country. Finding a doctor/dentist in Qatar who you are comfortable with and can trust is tricky.