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Tips for British expats: How to settle into life in Qatar


Although moving to a new country can be an exciting experience, adjusting to a culture that is vastly different to what you are accustomed to can be a challenge. If you’re thinking about joining the 22,000 British citizens living in Qatar, here are some essential tips to help you settle into life in the world’s most affluent nation.

Be prepared for the extreme climate

One of the first challenges British expats face when moving to Qatar is acclimatizing to the intense heat. This is particularly hard if you arrive during the summer, when temperatures can reach a whopping 50 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, though, Qatar is well adapted to deal with this. All buildings have air-conditioning which makes life more bearable until the cooler months arrive.

This actually means that it can get chilly when you are out and about, so carrying a light cardigan or jacket is a good idea. What can’t be avoided, however, are the frequent sand storms which are a natural phenomenon, and the heavy rainfalls which can disrupt daily life and make driving treacherous. But again, following some simple tips will help you stay safe and avoid any health hazards.

Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Make sure you have adequate healthcare

Gaining access to good healthcare facilities is, of course, a key priority when relocating to a new country. Fortunately, Qatar’s healthcare system has been ranked in the world’s top five for quality of care. Luckily, expats are eligible to use it; either by accessing free or subsidized public healthcare or buying private health insurance and receiving private treatment. Many expats opt for the latter to access the best healthcare facilities available and ensure they can cover any costs not met through public healthcare. It’s important to know, though, that while most companies include health insurance in their employment packages, you should check that this includes everything you will need. Otherwise, you will need to arrange this yourself.

Remember to dress conservatively

When adapting to life in Qatar, British expats should remember that Qatari society is heavily influenced by Islamic customs, and therefore, the dress code is conservative. While expat men and women are not expected to wear traditional Qatari clothing, they should respect local etiquette and cover their shoulders, upper arms, and knees when out and about.

Qatar even has a modesty scheme whereby short dresses, sleeveless clothing, and crop tops are banned for women, while men are asked not to wear shorts and vests. While some malls and public places implement their own dress codes, hotels and private compounds tend to be more relaxed.

Be aware of the strict laws on drugs and alcohol

For most Brits, drinking alcohol is a normal part of their social life. However, in Qatar, there are strict laws to abide by. For instance, drinking alcohol or being drunk in public are offenses that are taken very seriously. They can result in imprisonment, fines, or even deportation. That said, alcohol is still available at licensed hotel restaurants, bars, and certain clubs and expats should take their Qatar ID or passport to these venues.

Furthermore, recreational drugs are illegal and Qatar imposes severe penalties for possession, use, and trafficking. Offenders can face long-term imprisonment and pay heavy fines, followed by deportation.

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