Qatar, ‘the thumb’ of the Arabian Gulf, is an extremely attractive country for expat workers. Despite being a relatively small country, and fairly new on the world stage, Qatar has grown to become one of the highest per-capita economies in the world in recent decades. With rapid economic growth since its vast reservoirs of oil and natural gas were discovered in the 1940s, Qatar’s growth doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Qatar is already one of the world’s largest energy exporters, and is currently set to become the largest exporter of LNG, liquid natural gas, in the world.
The hydrocarbon industry is, by far, Qatar’s largest source of income. Like the UAE, Qatar offers a tax-free place where expat workers can keep 100% of their income. If you work in the oil, gas or energy industries, moving to Qatar can be an extremely lucrative option. If you’re thinking of moving to Qatar, you’ll be moving to a country rich in culture, history and tradition. However, as with any country around the world, there are a few things you should know before relocating abroad, from the weather and the local culture to how schooling works in Qatar.
Life in Qatar
In some ways, Qatar is more liberal and progressive than some of its neighbours, such as Saudi Arabia where it is still illegal for women to drive. Education is extremely important in Qatar, with the country aiming to become the flagship for education in the GCC. Education City, a 14 square kilometre complex on the outskirts of Doha, is one of Qatar’s greatest achievements in this area. It offers educational facilities to everyone from schooling age to research-level scientists at branch campuses for no less than eight international universities. While there is a free state school system open to expat families, most expats prefer to attend international schools.
In other ways, Qatar is less liberal than some of its neighbours such as the UAE, though allowances are often made for expat workers. Alcohol, for example, is one area where life is fairly different from what you may be used to in the West. The consumption of alcohol is legal for non-Muslims in the country, though alcoholic drinks can only be purchased if you have a personal liquor licence, and purchases of alcohol can only account for a certain percentage of your annual salary. While the cost of living in Qatar is reasonable, alcohol remains a fairly expensive item.
As with several countries in the GCC, Arabic is the official language in Qatar. While English is very widely spoken, official documents are almost always completed in Arabic, so you may require a translator when it comes to visas and housing. The large national oil, gas and airline companies here often offer company accommodation, which can be a massive help when moving to Qatar. The large companies often have housing compounds in the city, where the rent and lease are taken care of for you, along with access to gyms and other luxuries. Apartments in these compounds often come fully furnished, or with an allowance to help you decorate the living area to your own taste. If you aren’t relocating with one of these companies, housing can be more difficult to find, which is why we offer a Home Search service here at Santa Fe.
Expat schooling in Qatar
With an academic year lasting from September to June, and a school day from 7:30am until 2pm, Qataris know how to best avoid the heat during the school day. Like with the UAE, expats in Qatar send their children to one the country’s many private international schools. With a focus on building a world-class education system, these international schools are also popular with the local people. As a result, many schools have a long waiting list, so it’s well worth applying for a position at a school in Qatar long before you move to the country.
As with the UAE, the price of schooling is something that many people moving to Qatar have to bear in mind. Some companies will take this into consideration, so be sure to check your contract to see what exactly you are being offered. If you need any assistance in finding the perfect school in Qatar, we also offer a School Search service for expat workers relocating to the area.
If you have any questions about moving to Qatar, please feel free to contact a member of our local team in Doha. We will be more than happy to talk you through everything you need to know, helping you make an informed decision on your relocation today.