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No Santa, no Irish boozers and no regrets: life in Qatar


Doha is more conservative than Bahrain, and probably close to the UAE, except you don't notice in Dubai because there are only 50 Emeratis in the whole city. Think of it as Dubai 10 years ago - basically half building site with new and exciting unannounced diversions and road closures every week.

The highways agency equivalent, actually the whole of Qatar government, has not grasped this concept of letting people know about things in plenty of time so they can plan. This, the bad driving and the Middle East's fetish for grouping things like schools and industry together (Bahrain goes a bit meta and has 5 malls within 2km), make for some most excellent traffic jams. Live close to work if you can, although you then run into high rents because of Qatar's "shortage of office and residential space". Patently nonsense of course - the 30 floor tower next to my office has been finished and empty for over 2 years, and two residential towers nearby are only 1/3 full since the locals would rather have them empty than drop prices.

Other downsides include deeply prevalent racism, a visa system that slaves you to your employer, bureaucracy elevated to an art form possibly because government jobs are essentially the social security system. The Ministry of Skhoolz is mental and the schools are wildly oversubscribed so stay away if you have kids. There is also the chance of being flattened by a land cruiser or dying of some unspeakable lung disease caused by the dusty air. The legislature and judicial system here is bollocks, and you will get a raw deal if you ever get caught up in it (never got that feeling in Bahrain or Oman). Accept that everything in Qatar is set up to cheerfully rip expats off, which I would probably have done if the tables were reversed. Car parts and electronics at 150-200% US price type rip-off. It's like they don't know we have the (generally too expensive) Internet. A note on being linked to your employer - push for an NOC at the dissolution of your contract being written into it or you can get stuck with one company since most won't on principal.

Across the gulf it will probably be the little things that wear you down. Like handy men almost certainly won't be qualified or often even knowledgeable. You probably need 2 trips to get any government stuff done, the first being a sighting run, and despite being glitzy there is a lot of rubbish construction and head-slap fitting out. For example, the balcony peeled off our house in Bahrain (after the fuzebox caught fire) in the rain, and one house we looked at in Qatar had no sockets in the kitchen.

On the plus side, salaries for westerners are generally good, (yay tax free!) and the quality of life is great except for July/August when it's just too damn hot and humid. Don't miss anything from the UK except friends and family. Mobile coverage is generally excellent, certainly better than the UK, and seems to be reasonably priced.

So Doha's ok but I would rather be in Bahrain (except that's died) or Oman (Canada of the Middle East).

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