The main destination for ex-pats moving to Qatar is Doha. As the country’s capital, it offers the most work opportunities and has a big expatriate community making up a major part of the population. The ex-pat community is friendly and very welcoming to newcomers.
Qatar is what you make of it. Despite its Muslim roots and relatively recent interest in developing cultural and entertainment distractions, if you know where to look, and are willing to make at least a small amount of effort, there are plenty of things to do. A minimal amount of searching for activities and new friends will usually be very fruitful.
The majority of ex-pats prefer to use their own cars to commute so as to avoid waiting too long in the heat for public transport. However, plans are afoot for an increase in air-conditioned buses with reasonable fares. Note: both men and women can drive in Qatar. However, be prepared for some manic driving though as it is pretty crazy and dangerous.
Alternatively, taxis are a popular choice. A good tip is to build a personal relationship with a few good taxi drivers soon after moving to Qatar. Taxi drivers are often happy to hand out their numbers and pick you up when needed.
With regard to the climate, winters are mild and summers are hot. Public buildings, shopping malls, hotels, and indoor sports facilities are all air-conditioned to alleviate the extreme heat of summer. Winters are long and glorious, allowing you to enjoy outdoor activities from November until April.
Obviously, accommodation expenses will depend on location and size. Remember though to include possible real estate agent fees (typically about 5% of the rental costs for a year) as well as a security deposit (usually one month’s rent).
According to Qatar’s Consumer Price Index for March 2014, on average, rents and utility costs make up around 32% of expenditures.
When dining out Qatar offers something for all tastes and budgets from world-class restaurants to countless inexpensive options. The same applies to the nightlife which is varied – everything from sophisticated cocktail lounges to typically informal Western-style bars.
In comparison to other Arab countries, ex-pats moving to Qatar will find that their new home is relatively liberal e.g. the sale of alcohol has been tolerated since 1995, albeit in limited quantities.
When it comes to the dress code, it is probably wise to be conservative. Whilst swimwear is acceptable at the beach a good rule of thumb for women is to keep your shoulders, cleavage, midriff and knees covered. Women don’t have to wear an abaya (the full-length black gown usually worn by Qatari women). Although not illegal, public displays of affection ought to be avoided. If you are male, a Qatari woman will not shake your hand but do not take offence. If you are a female, a Qatari male may or may not shake your hand.
When it comes to children’s education if you’re lucky and have time to plan your move, apply for a school place as soon as you can. Many schools only accept applications for a short period each year, typically in January. Given the constantly shifting nature of the ex-pat population in Qatar, school places regularly become free throughout the year.
Couples must be married to live together in Qatar, and you will not be able to bring your children to live with you if you are not married to your partner.
Several denominations have churches in Doha including a Catholic church, an Anglican Church, an Indian Christian Church, St. Thomas Syro – Malabar Church, a Coptic Christian Church, a Greek Orthodox Church and an Eastern Orthodox church. There is also an Inter-Denominational Christian Church (IDCC).
There is relatively little crime in Qatar and in general, Western people say they feel safe and the locals are friendly. There are low levels of petty crime and even lower levels of serious crime.
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 generally 7 am to 3 pm, although many government offices close at 1 pm. So really, things need to get done before noon or people have already started thinking about going home.
Much patience is needed! There is disregard for many traffic rules, a serious lack of order and terrible queue formations. Take a deep breath, relax, and try to tell yourself that it’s not the end of the world.