Being a Muslim country, local traditions and practices still prevail and foreigners are expected to be considerate of the culture. Commercial Bank is happy to share a few tips on culture and etiquette as you make Qatar your home.
Doha is a safe, family friendly place to live, with a low incidence of violent crime. Single women don’t need to be particularly concerned when moving around the city late at night. However, common sense always applies. In turn, public drunkenness, obscenities, lewd hand gestures and public displays of affection, can land you in serious trouble.
Expats are expected to dress in a style appropriate to the Islamic culture. Women don’t need to wear the Abaya (a long black robe which covers the clothes worn underneath.
The general rule is that when in public a woman's clothing should cover the shoulders, upper arms and knees. The dress code in hotels or private clubs is more relaxed. In a country where men far outnumber women, dressing conservatively will definitely keep away unwanted male attention. For men, long trousers or long shorts and a shirt are fine. Qataris don’t take offence when a non-Qatari wears the national dress; a long, flowing white garment called the thobe and the headdress called the gutra. It’s very rare to see non-Arab men wearing the national dress, but it does happen.
The expat community is diverse. The office, social media, bars and private clubs are good places to make new friends. There are also clubs for a range of interests such as scuba diving, Latin dancing, yoga and a lively art, music and film scene.
Qataris are curious about other cultures and they do socialise with expats but take their time becoming familiar with you. Especially in business, Qataris prefer to deal with those they know.
When it comes to greeting, not all Arab men will shake hands with a woman so wait to see if he extends his hand first. A hand on the chest is another form of greeting. You may see Gulf men rubbing their noses when they see each other, which is like a traditional code among the Bedouins. Family takes a high priority in Arab culture and asking after a Qatari’s family and children is good. Just avoid asking after a man’s wife or sister directly. Religion and politics are sensitive topics. Qataris will not tolerate criticism of their Emir, which is punishable by imprisonment.
The work pace is slower than what Western expats may be used to. Life in Qatar is never rushed and you should never appear to be hastening anyone.
Plan how and when you take care of your banking or Immigration affairs as Government ministries and banks work shorter hours. Many businesses work two shifts and are closed between 1 and 4pm.
Women are allowed to drive and you will quickly learn “the real rules of the road”after a few weeks behind the wheel. It’s part of the fun of living in Qatar.
Qatar follows Shariah Law, so alcohol, pornography, pork products and narcotics cannot be brought into the country and your luggage will be searched on arrival. During the Muslim festival of Ramadan eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims. Non-Muslims are also expected to refrain in public although a number of five-star hotels cater to non-Muslims during those times.
There are restaurants for every taste in Qatar. Not all add a 10% service charge to the bill. You can judge whether or not to leave a tip but service and hospitality staff are not well paid so the tip will definitely be appreciated.
Arabic is the official language of Qatar while English is commonly used. A Qatari will note your effort in trying to use some Arabic words like “Shukran” (thank you). You may hear the phrase “Insha ALLAH” or ‘God willing’, used a lot. It sometimes, to the dismay of the listener, conveys the speaker’s intention of not seeing through with an action.