Pros and Cons of Moving to Qatar
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As is the case anywhere, life in Qatar is a mix of peaks, troughs, swings, roundabouts, and ups and downs. If expats are prepared for what to expect from the emirate, they are on the way to making the best of living in Qatar.
Accommodation in Qatar
Expats may either find the state of accommodation in Qatar wonderful or deplorable, depending on where they have lived. Regardless, rent is high, choices can be limited and many places look the same.
+ PRO: Houses in Qatar
Expat accommodation in Qatar is generally spacious and well-proportioned. New compounds and apartments are constantly being built, so expats who dream of a home with never-been-used fittings and a new house smell may be in luck. Most compounds and complexes have on-site amenities such as pools, gyms, dry cleaners and cafés.
- CON: Limited choice of accommodation
Accommodation choices are limited to compound villas and high-rise apartments. House-hunting can be frustrating because most popular locations have waiting lists while others, despite having similar facilities, often lack atmosphere.
Lifestyle in Qatar
Qatar is what one makes of it. Despite its Islamic roots, entertainment and cultural attractions are developing. If expats are willing to put in some effort, there are plenty of things to do.
+ PRO: Making friends in Qatar is easy
Expats have a lot of extra time in Qatar, which is great for about seven months of the year. The population is small and the expat community is tight-knit. New arrivals can easily make friends by taking up a sport or starting a conversation with their neighbours.
This is even easier for expats who move with a family, as there are many moms' groups and activities for kids in Doha. Single expats needn’t worry either, as they have an opportunity to take up a hobby or learn another language. Qatar also boasts first-rate museums, cultural events, a beautiful coastline and striking desert views.
- CON: Extreme weather and lack of activities in summer
The extreme heat makes Qatar unbearable for much of the year, especially from June to August. During this time many people leave, making it seem like a ghost town. Finding events to attend will be difficult, although Doha has a budding nightlife scene and some high-profile restaurants.
+ PRO: The emirate has mild winters
In contrast to the extreme heat of summer, winters are long and temperate, and residents can enjoy outdoor activities like beach picnics from November to April.
- CON: There aren't many outdoor activities in Qatar
Most people live in Doha, the capital city. There are expanses of (uninhabited) desert, several coastal reserves and a few city parks, but this is as close to the ‘countryside’ that expats will get. It is often too hot to go outside anyway and there aren’t many plants, so outdoorsy expats may take some time to get used to the somewhat barren terrain.
- CON: There is no walkable downtown area in Doha
Doha doesn’t have a downtown area where residents can walk around, window shop and visit cafés. Expats will need to drive or be driven everywhere, especially since public transport in Qatar is in its infancy.
Safety in Qatar
+ PRO: The country has low crime rates
Qatar is very safe, with low levels of even petty crime.
- CON: Qatar has some of the worst drivers
The most unsafe place in Qatar is the road – expats and locals alike can drive like maniacs.
Working and doing business in Qatar
+ PRO: Salaries in Qatar are relatively high
Most people move to Qatar for work, which often means a more senior position, better pay and no taxation.
- CON: The work culture is very relaxed
There is a generally relaxed attitude to work in Qatar, which includes meetings and time keeping, so things don’t happen quickly. The workday is generally from 7am to 3pm, and many government offices close at 1pm. It is best to get things done before noon, as many people start thinking about going home afterwards.
Expats need to be patient, especially since they will be part of a workforce which won’t always have English as its first language.
Culture shock in Qatar
No matter how well-travelled expats may be, some things in Qatar will be frustrating and outside of their control. A lot of patience will be needed. People often say what they think others want to hear, rather than be direct. There is a blatant disregard for traffic rules and terrible queue formations. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a deep breath – getting upset doesn’t help anyone.
+ PRO: The expat community in Qatar is very welcoming
The expat community in Qatar is small, friendly and welcoming. A little searching for activities and new friends will usually be fruitful. There are many expat clubs and events, and even if expats don’t want to engage on this level, bumping into acquaintances while shopping or on the Corniche is likely. Once the ball gets rolling, making friends is easy.
- CON: Adapting to Muslim culture can be difficult
Although Qatar is fairly liberal, it is still in the Middle East and a bit of prudence and respect will go a long way. Expats should avoid public displays of affection, and women should keep their shoulders and knees covered. Many locals wear traditional dress – men wear white robes and women either wear black abayas or face-covering niqabs. Qataris might not shake hands with expats of the opposite sex either, which shouldn’t be taken personally.
- CON: Qatar has a divided society
The division of class is clearly evident in Qatar. The country is one of the richest in the world but it was built and continues to run on the fuel of its migrants. From Nepalese construction workers to Keralan cab drivers and Filipino maids, expats will have someone to carry their clothes to the changing room, bag their groceries and top up their water at restaurants. Locals and expats hire and take sole responsibility for their housekeepers and drivers, which is just how things are done.
Cost of living in Qatar
+ PRO: Fuel is affordable
Petrol (gasoline) in Qatar is very cheap.
- CON: The cost of living is high
The cost of living in Qatar is high but that doesn’t necessarily equate with better quality goods. Qatar imports most of its food, so although expats might be able to find their favourite brands, this will come at a premium. Staples like rice, bread, certain meats and fish are moderately priced, but, in general, food is expensive in Qatar.
Household goods are also expensive. Imported Western brands can be found in malls and shops too, but will cost more.
Education and schools in Qatar
There is a public school system in Qatar but it mainly caters to locals and is taught in Arabic. Most private international schools follow an American or British curriculum.
+ PRO: The quality of education in Qatar is very good
Qatar pours a tremendous amount of money into education, science and technology, and many world-class institutions have set up branches in Doha. The country also recruits teachers from overseas, and the quality of education in private schools is high.
- CON: There is limited space in schools and the cost of tuition is high
Tuition at private international schools in Qatar is expensive. Seats in popular institutions are rare and waiting lists can be long, so advanced planning is often necessary to gain admission.
Healthcare in Qatar
+ PRO: It is easy to take out health insurance
Most expats have health insurance provided by their employer. If this is not the case, residents can apply for a Hamad Card, which entitles them to subsidised healthcare at the Hamad Medical Corporation.
-CON: Expats are still wary of healthcare in Qatar
The main hospitals in Doha are modern and well-equipped. That said, most expats prefer being treated in their home countries, if they have the option. For many expats, finding a doctor in Qatar they are comfortable with can be tricky.