Moving to Qatar? Some things to bear in mind…
The United Arab Emirates in general and Qatar in particular have become expat hotspots over the last few years. Expats have cited employment opportunities, higher wages and superior life quality as some of the benefits to moving to the area.
However, expats have also argued that they found integrating in such a culturally different environment difficult, particularly initially, while others were able to embrace the diversity and internationality of the region from the start.
Of course, any move overseas requires a lot of consideration and planning. Researching the area you’re moving to can also help prepare you for the change, and if Qatar is your destination of choice there are several specific points you should think about.
Before moving to Qatar many expats assume the cost of living will be comparatively cheap. But while items like petrol are certainly more reasonably priced then in Europe, there are other things which really aren’t! For starters, food costs are high, luxurious accommodation comes at a premium price and if you want to travel home on an annual or semi-annual basis plane tickets will set you back quite a lot.
Due to the increasing number of expat professionals moving to Qatar, competition for places at the best international schools can be fierce and most will have long waiting lists. Whether you’ve got weeks or months to plan your move, apply for school places for your children as soon as possible and have your child’s education history and school reports to hand encase you’re asked to produce them. As school fees can also be comparatively expensive, you may want to negotiate with your company regarding including a school fee allowance in your expat package.
Although alcohol probably won’t be at the top of your list of concerns when you’re planning a move to Qatar, knowing the local laws when it comes to drinking is important. While there is a zero-tolerance drink driving law in the nation, and drinking on the street or in unlicensed public places is a big no-no, some venues (such as upmarket hotels) will be licensed to sell alcohol. It’s also possible for residents to apply for an alcohol permit so they can drink at home, but it should be remembered that when living in another nation it’s courteous to abide by its customs – so Qatar may not be the place for you if you’re fond of boozy nights out.
While laws do change fairly frequently in nations like Qatar, as it stands if a couple intends to live together and bring children into the country they must be married. Furthermore, only expats earning over a certain amount a month are able to bring their families to Qatar. Check what your monthly wage will be and make enquiries before you commit to anything.
People who have never been to Qatar can sometimes hold a false impression of the way women must behave and conduct themselves there. While the standards obviously differ for local women, female expats can work under their husband’s sponsorship, drive and leave the country as they wish. While it isn’t necessary for women to wear traditional Qatari dress, they should be modestly clothed with cleavage, knees, midriff and shoulders covered.
As the public transport system in Qatar is strained, expats often find that they must drive in order to get around the region. Driving in Qatar can be a bit of a daunting experience at first and it may take some time to get your head round, but many consider it safer than taking a taxi or bus so it’s well worth getting an International Drivers Licence. However, once you become a resident of Qatar your IDL will no longer be valid, and you’ll need to get a Qatari licence. For some nationalities this process can be as simple as passing an eye test, for others it will involve a whole driving test. Defensive driving lessons are also recommended for nervous drivers.