What Qatar may lack in size, it makes up for in diversity. Expats moving to Doha, the peninsula's capital city, where most Qatari residents live, will discover an emerging metropolis filled with people from every corner of the world. The multi-ethnic makeup of the city's population is reflected in both the social and professional spheres, and more than anything else, expats should be prepared to make allowances for the different ways in which people do things.
In that vein, the ratio of Qataris to internationals is incredibly skewed, with expats commanding an overwhelming majority. This often means that, while it is relatively easy to make friends at work or in the neighbourhood (the compound), the local community often stays away from the transient foreign population.
Still, children can make friends and orientate themselves easily in one of the many excellent public or private international schools in Doha. Expats who engage with Qatari nationals and stay longer than the three-year average find that locals are hospitable and companionable, and open to cultivating friendships.
One of the first things expats notice in Doha is the towering cranes rising in the background of neighbourhoods, a clear sign of the city's race towards expansion. From its transport system and hospitals to parks and housing, the city never stops growing. The waterfront promenade called the Doha Corniche is the perfect spot for a stroll and to take in the coastal views as well as the skyline of high-rises and eye-catching architectural designs.
Expats living in Doha generally reside in housing provided by their employers and, though neighbourhoods are constantly changing, there are several key areas and suburbs to consider. Expats usually find a home in a high-rise apartment building or family-sized villa in walled neighbourhoods.
Regardless of the type of accommodation, the standard of living among both local and expat professionals is generally high, but so is the cost of living. New arrivals should be sure to negotiate an adequate salary package to cover all components of life in the emirate.
From tennis to the cinema, common recreation and entertainment options available in most other metropolitan cities abound – along with many other amenities that expats may not expect. There is so much to see and do for expats who are young, single or even part of a family with children, while annual celebrations and events offer a break from an otherwise long working day.
One of the largest challenges expats living in Doha face is adapting to the extreme heat. Temperatures are high, rising above 104°F (40°C) between the summer months of June and August, and it's no coincidence that most annual vacations are between 30 and 45 days long and scheduled for this period. Making one’s lifestyle fit in with the climate is not simple, especially with children, though what’s key to summer survival is to plan getaways whenever possible.
That said, from October to May the climate is moderate and perfect for dining al fresco or playing several rounds of golf. In the winter, people are often surprised by the low temperatures and the lack of central heating.
Overall, an expat's experience is what they make it. Though most expats move to Qatar's capital city for work, many can find time for fun, as well as embracing the local culture and history. An open mindset ready to take on the challenges and opportunities that this futuristic city brings will make the transition to Doha life easier.
►Moving to Doha with kids? Check out our comprehensive guide to International Schools in Doha
"We’ve enjoyed the hospitality of the Qatari people, and the quality of life is superb." Rima, a Jordanian expat, shares her experiences of life in Doha.
"I work with a few Qatari nationals who are all kind, friendly people who are genuinely excited about sharing their culture." Australian expat Velvet shares her experiences.
Are you an expat living in Doha?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Doha. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Mohana Rajakumar is a writer and educator who has lived in Qatar since 2005. A scholar of literature, she has a PhD from the University of Florida with a focus on gender and postcolonial theory. Her work has been published in AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, and Qatar Explorer.
She is the creator and co-editor of five books in the Qatar Narratives series, as well as the Qatari Voices anthology, which features essays by Qataries on modern life in Doha (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2010).
Additionally, she's written a course for the Global Coach Center and lead the corresponding teleclass on "Living and Working in Qatar".
Catch up on her latest via her blog or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.
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