Are you planning to settle in Qatar? But what do you know about the Qatari lifestyle? Here is an overview…
Regardless of the country you are coming from, whether the European Union, the United States of American or Asia, it is best to be aware of your new environment and the people's lifestyle when relocating abroad. In fact, living in Qatar can be completely different from what you are accustomed to. Given that Qatar is an Arab Gulf country, proper dressing style and good behavior is essential.
However, Qatar remains rather open and welcoming towards expatriates. It is up to you to adapt to its society in order to avoid hurting local sensibilities.
Culture and religion
As an expatriate in Qatar, you are advised to inquire on local cultures and traditions so as to avoid committing mistakes, or even sins in ignorance. Qataris’ culture is essentially based on Islamic traditions. For instance, Islam has a predominant influence on everyday life in the country, whether in terms of clothes, food, etc. Indeed, Islam is more than a religion for them: it is a way of life that guides them in their lives from one world to another.
Moreover, Qataris are very friendly, welcoming and generous people.
Good to know:
Friday, that is the “sabbath” is considered as a pious day in Qatar according to Islam. Therefore, shops and businesses are closed on that day.
Pork is totally prohibited in Qatar. Pork import is also illegal. In fact, Muslims are forbidden to eat any meat which is not in conformity with Islamic food regulations (Halaal). Alcohol consumption is also quite restricted.
Code of conduct
In general, courtesy is highly valued in Qatar. Hence, men are addressed as “Sayyed”, meaning “Sir”, followed by their full name. As regards women, they are addressed as “Sayeeda” which means “Madam”. Note that Arabic names can often be lengthy, confusing, male names in particular. But you are advised to use the full name, especially during meetings or official communications. Emirs are called "Your Highness" followed by “Sheikh” and their full name.
When greeting someone, you will say, “Salam alaikum”, meaning “Peace be upon you” and they will reply “Wa alaykum as-salam”. “Ahlan wa sahlan” means “Welcome” while “Al-Sabah khayr” means both “Hello” and “Good afternoon”.
You are expected to shake hands with your Arabic friends or contacts both on meeting and leaving. As regards Arabic women, you are advised to be very attentive to their gestures. Most of them do not shake hands with you, but others, especially the most educated ones will.
There are two types of dress codes in Qatar: one for locals and one for expatriates.
In public, Arabic women should dress up according to religious customs, covering themselves from head to toe. This traditional black dress is intended to protect them from others sight. Once at home, there is no special restriction regarding their dressing code. In the case of professional meetings, they usually wear dark colored pants or long skirts and blouses or jackets covering their elbows.
As for men, they generally wear a long white cotton dress and a sort of cloth to cover their head called “guthra”. But they may also wear western style clothes, especially on informal occasions or at the beach.
Foreigners, for their part, can wear western clothes. However, avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless T-shirts in public. The professional dress code for men consists of long pants, a shirt with long sleeves and a tie.
Avoid offering alcoholic drinks to a Qatari unless you are convinced that he does consume alcohol. This could be considered an offense.
Always accept a drink when offered to you.
Avoid eating or drinking with the left hand as it is considered as impure.
Always avoid showing your flat feet when sitting (this could be interpreted as considering the people around you as dirty). Hence, it is better to keep your feet on the ground and to avoid crossing them.
Never refuse a Qatari's invitation to come home as this could be an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the locals.
Always avoid sensitive topics such as politics and religion as your words can seem offensive.
When entering a Qatari's house, take off your shoes at the door (make sure that your socks do not have holes!).
Never visit a Qatari without having informed him beforehand: this might be uncomfortable, especially if women are at home as men and women usually meet separately.
Never try to enter a mosque without first obtaining authorization (you are not likely to be allowed anyway).
Avoid walking on a prayer rug and staring at people who are praying.
Avoid any form of blasphemy, especially in the presence of non-Qatari Muslims who are not always so relaxed and tolerant as locals.
Do not embarrass a Qatari in front of another. The latter will appreciate your action.
Never point at anyone with your finger. Usually, Qataris make hand gestures to call a dog.
Avoid shouting, being aggressive or showing up drunk in public.
During the month of Ramadan, avoid eating, drinking and smoking during the day in public places where you may be seen by Qataris and Muslims.
You are strongly advised not to hug or kiss anyone in public.
Avoid showing your admiration for any object at your host's place. According to tradition, he will have to offer it to you. Moreover, according to tradition, he will expect you to offer him something even more expensive.
Islamic festivities are generally determined according to the moon's visibility. In many Islamic countries, some festivities are based on information obtained from lunar observatories. But the Qatari population prefers ancient methods. Therefore, dates are often inaccurate, especially since it has to be converted into Gregorian dates. Here are some examples:
- Eid Ul-Adha - observed on the 10th of the Dhul-Hijah month - celebrated in January or February
- Muslim New Year - observed on the 1st of the Muharram month - celebrated in February or March
- Ashura - observed on the 10th of the Muharram month - celebrated in February or March
- The Prophet's birth – observed on the 12th of the Rabi II month – celebrated in April or May
- The Prophet's ascension – observed on the 27th of the Rajab month – celebrated in September
- Ramadan - observed as from the 1st of the Ramadan month – celebrated in October
- Eid Ul-Fitr – observed on the 1st of the Shawaal month - celebrated in November
- The Emir's accession - celebrated on the 22nd of February
- National Day - celebrated on the 3rd of September
Note that national holiday celebrations usually extend to two or three days.