Here are some pros and cons of life in Qatar. This is not propaganda, even though I love this place and am actively recruiting friends to start a new life here.
Here's a vision of Doha, from the perspective of a female, Canadian ex-pat. My Doha is starkly different from most residents. I work in a creative office. I live in a nice place. I’m a lucky fool-- but you can be a lucky fool too!
Doha the Good
1) Security. The first and most obvious thing drawing people to Qatar is the economic climate. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but we’re kind of in a recession. Wait wait...you might be in a recession, but in Qatar? We be straight chilling.
Qatar boasts the fastest growing and most stable economy in the world. Things are so good, in fact, that Qatar is looking to post an $8 billion surplus at year end. The country's long term growth looks good too -- Qatar isn’t making like Dubai and throwing all of its weight behind tourism or something fleeting. Qatar is the largest liquefied natural gas supplier in the world, an energy source that's seriously in demand. Our banks are solid. We are awesome. Don't take my word for it, do a little Googling. Start here.
2) Jobs. More and more creative, skilled labour and hospitality jobs are popping up every day. There is a serious need for talent. Doha desperately needs skilled eachers, engineers and doctors. There’s a shitload of hotels opening in the next year, presently recruiting passionate and clever people. This country is starving for people who can write well and edit copy quickly and accurately. The opportunities are endless.
3) Good jobs. Qatar is a fantastic place to launch a career. I know this because it’s happening to me right now. Since I started my job three weeks ago, I’ve seen my words in three newspapers on five separate days, I’ve written speeches for VIPs, had my writing translated to Arabic to reach an even broader audience and attended meetings with executives who are fifteen years my senior, or more. Call it a big fish, small pond scenario. This experience is putting me years ahead of my peers, and I’m being paid well to do it.
4) Culture. The country is booming economically and culturally. As I’ve said before on this blog, the royal couple is committed to making Qatar a better place to live. There are new schools, hospitals and museums popping up every year. Political and intellectual leaders meet here for panels, lectures and symposiums. And since it’s still relatively small, there are all kinds of opportunities for people to attend important events and feed your brain. Doha has lots of brain food.
5) Fun. Brain food is good, of course, but what about the night life? You can only drink booze in hotels, and the drinks ain’t cheap. This is restricting, but the party scene is kind of amazing. We have clubs, pubs and lounges where you can get silly.
6) Events. Since I’ve been here I’ve been to the Qatar Open (tennis…Roger Federer yum), Qatar Masters (Adam Scott, oh hai), watched the Orchestra, and attended a Diving World Series, to name a few. It seems like there's some huge event every weekend and they're all either free or dirt cheap.
7) Travel. Qatar's location is sweet. It’s about a seven hour flight to the UK, eight to Asia, and an hour or less to the surrounding Gulf countries, which are definitely worth a visit.
8) Other ex-pats. The ex-pat community rocks. Most people come to Doha knowing one, two, maybe a handful of people. Maybe no one. If you come here by yourself, this strange city can be a lonely place. I would recommend coming with someone you love, or at least knowing one person who can show you the ropes, but that’s just me. The beauty of this place is that if you do come alone, there are thousands of people in the same position. It might sound cheesy, but almost everyone is open to making new friends. It isn’t weird to approach someone at a bar or an event that looks around the same age, and ask them to join you for a drink. I met one of my friends through Twitter. Something I’d do in Toronto? Fuck no. Doha? In a second. The ex-pat community has deep roots here, and holds hundreds of social events for people in that exact position.
9) Moolitcooltoorism. One more thing about people in Qatar – they allow you to expand your horizons. In Toronto, I’d consider my friend wordly if they grew up east of Yonge. In Doha, I’ve met interesting folks from Germany, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, the UK and countless other countries. You meet the whole world in Doha. I know when we all leave this crazy place, that I will have friends to call on in almost any country I visit. To me, this is awesome.
10) Climate. Water and sand and year round heat.
11) More money. Tax free living.
Doha the Bad
1) Compromise. Be prepared to make sacrifices. For one thing, you can’t get pork here (legally).
I know lots of Canadians who love pot and other drugs, which are out of the question in Doha. Possession is highly punished. It’s booze or bust, my friends. And when you do drink, you can’t get loaded and run around the streets.
Though there are many fun loving westerners who call Doha home, Qatar is still a Muslim country. You must respect the beliefs and traditions of the locals and not generally act like an ahole in public.
2) Cars. You must drive everywhere. That isn't a choice. This isn’t a transition for some people, but I am a big walker. I only walk five minutes up the street for lunch every day and when I do this alone, I feel threatened. I don’t feel unsafe, just uncomfortable because of the leers and heckles sent my way. Granted, you never can guess which language someone will cat call you in, which is kind of cool. Ladies, if you’re a natural flirt...tone it down. Even subtle eye contact can be an invitation for unwanted attention.
3) Distance from home. 8,000 miles is a long way from Canada. In case of emergencies, or serious bouts of homesickness, you can’t just hop on a plane and visit for an afternoon. Trips must be planned out well in advance. Sometimes you can feel a little trapped.
4) Stifling heat. I haven’t lived here long enough to know, but apparently the summer is deadly. Most people leave the country because they can’t stand it. You spend all of your time in air conditioning. All of it.
Who Belongs in Doha?
1.) Someone who is adaptable. You are going to have to be flexible. If you must have things a certain way, Doha isn’t for you. Plans change on a dime and time constraints aren’t set in stone. If you can roll with the punches, fly by the seat of your pants, and not throw up at my constant clichés, you will be fine.
2.) Respectful. Can you tolerate people with different beliefs than you? No? Stay where you are, we don't want you.
3.) Extroverted. Must be willing to socialize and meet others.
That's all I've got right now. I know this post was a departure from my usual sewage, but I hope it was helpful. Join me, friends. Beat the recession in Qatar.
**Update** I wrote DKM looking for his thoughts on this post. This is what he added.
Your driving part was more about you getting whistled at and less about the 43 million idiot drivers and the lack of available parking, particularly if you don’t have a 4x4 with which to hop on curbs. Whatever, its all good.
Personally I’d say the food is a pro.
Lack of post bar food is a con.
I really like food.