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Interview with Oliver – a German expat living in Qatar

Updated 26 May 2010

Oliver moved to Qatar more than six years ago, a time when the Middle East was a mere blip on the global screen of lucrative expat destinations. Now married and well-ingrained in life with the locals, he shares his unique experiences in the emirate. 

Learn more about expat life in Qatar in our Expat Arrivals guide to life in Qatar, or read more about expat experiences in Qatar.

About Oliver

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Frankfurt/Germany

Q: Where are you living now?
A: Doha/Al Luqta

Q: How long have you lived in Qatar?
A: I’ve lived in Doha and various other locations within Qatar for a total of 6 years.

Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A: I initially came to Doha alone, but since, I’ve gotten married.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved because a German company was opening a branch and required staff. I’m a Civil Engineer and Project Manager. During the course of my stay, I’ve changed employers twice. And I’m now working as a consultant.

About Doha
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city? How’s the quality of life in Qatar?
A: The sun is always shining. There are a lot of fantastic people around and lots to do – you can go to pools, the beach, restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, concerts or all kinds of sporting events. I do rate the quality of life here very high.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss my friends and family from home.

Q: Is Doha safe?

A: It was much safer six years ago, but I do consider it still very safe, even for single women in the evening.

About living in Qatar

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Doha as an expat?
A: There are many different housing options in Qatar that are attractive to expats, and preference can be largely based on the travel time between home and work. But if I should rank:

  1. The Pearl (apartments, some villas)
  2. West Bay Lagoon (villas only)
  3. Al Dafna (villas)
  4. Al Waab, Al Aziziyah (many villa compounds)
  5. Madinat Khalifa, Al Luqta

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Qatar?
A: The standard of accommodation is improving. Most housing and even apartments tend to be very spacious, but quality is inconsistent and can vary from building to building.

Q: What’s the cost of living in Qatar compared to Germany? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Prices for housing have come down significantly, but nonetheless are still twice as high as in Germany. Expats can expect to pay around 1,500 Euro for a two-bedroom apartment.

Water and electricity are comparably cheap.

Food varies a lot. Imported western items are overly expensive; however, local vegetables from the region are good value for money.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: The locals of all ages are generally nice and hospitable. They tend to be approachable, and many of the younger generation like to join expatriate activities. Men and women are generally still separated when it comes to socialising.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: If you look for contacts, you can find plenty. Be it through work, sports, schools, cultural events or networking pages.

About working in Qatar

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: No, I didn’t have a problem, but success in this area is highly dependent on your sponsor and your passport/origin.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Doha? Is there plenty of work?
A: Yes, there is plenty of working opportunities for all levels and traits.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: Compared with home, everything is slower in Qatar, and decision-making takes longer. People tend to stay shorter abroad and therefore do not 'care’‘ too much about their work.

Communication is a big issue, largely because English is the business language for most people but their native tongue for few. You need to bring a lot of patience and the ability to understand people to be successful.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: No, we were the first three people in our company to come to Doha at that time, and we did everything on our own.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: No, I met my spouse here.

Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: We don’t have children yet.

Q: What are the schools like? Any particular suggestions?
A: Again, very different. Almost every nation is represented with a local international school, or more than one. Qataris send their children either to local schools or the international ones as well.

As a board member of the German School, I would suggest that institution. However, listening to friends with children, there are no schools they would not send their children to.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Qatar?
A: Healthcare in Qatar is actually free of charge if you stay with the public health system. There are private clinics available. Some companies offer private health plans, which include these clinics or hospitals.

The quality is acceptable, always depending on what you have and which doctor you meet.

Qatar is spending a lot of money to improve its system.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Expats should be ready for something different and be ready to take the time to get comfortable with it; while being you, do respect the local traditions and learn from them.

~ Interviewed May 2010

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