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Doha Do's & Don'ts

Qatar Do's and Don'ts

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Essential Do's and Don'ts for Qatar Living

I still remember asking my friend the name of his wife when I was new in Qatar, and being gently remonstrated for it. We learn some things when we go to a country, but there are so many things to learn, and in our early ignorance it is easy to get stuck when wading through the mud of cultural complexity that a new culture invariably brings.

You will find almost all of these tips elsewhere in our site, but we hope that it still provides a handy reference to those who have just newly arrived in the country. We certainly haven't covered everything, so if there are any important points that you have missed do leave a comment, or let us know via our forum.

Also see: Qatar Cultural Tips & Qatar Living: Myths and Realities




Important Do's and Dont's for Qatar Tourists and Residents
Do's Don'ts
1. Talk about football, children and food.

1. Talk about sex, Israel or religion (at least be sensitive when talking about religion). Note that people may bring up one of these subjects - this may, in rare cases, be an attempt to trap you into saying something you shouldn't.

Do not ever, ever say anything negative about Mohammed, or name inanimate objects such as teddy bears after him.

2. Feel happy to say you are Christian, if you are a Christian: you are, after all, people of the Book.

2. Say you are an atheist. It's just not worth it unless you want to be deluged with a constant supply of pamphlets from worried Muslims anxious to save your soul.

3. Women should feel free to leave their hair uncovered; wear shorts (but not too short), t-shirts etc

Exactly what you can and can't wear is a matter of great debate; try going a little conservative to start with until you get a feeling of what is acceptable and what isn't, and remember that just because people don't say anything doesn't mean that they are not offended.

3. Don't expose your stomach, your thighs or wear tight clothing that shows off your body.

Check out our movie Qatar Culture: Clothes for more info.

4. Drink in bars, if you are a drinker, or at private parties - but do hide your alcohol on the way to the parties and when transporting it back from the alcohol permit shop. 4. Don't offer a drink to a Muslim, don't drink in a public/visible place. Don't get too drunk and into a fight - several people have been deported for being drunk and disorderly.
5. Be warm and friendly, and take your time over your greetings - show a personal interest in the person you are dealing with, and that you care about them. 5. Don't be cold/brusque. There is no surer way to make people dislike you/complain about you. Don't get straight down to business - take your time to get to know people and you will have a much happier time in Qatar.
6. Come to work here if you are a woman. 6. Don't expect sexism - to our surprise, given how relatively recent women have been allowed to work as widely as they do now, the majority of women we interviewed felt they had had more experience of racism from Westerners and expats than from Qataris.

7. Do talk to women when it is part of business, when you work with them, when they initiate an acceptable topic of conversation.

This is a difficult area, as it is one which is both changing rapidly, and one which can depend on the person involved and the family/tribe they are from and their background. On the one hand interaction is freer now, on the other hand you should do everything to avoid dishonouring an Arab's family. Again, proceed with caution until you have got a feel of what is acceptable, and with who.

7. Don't initiate a private conversation with a Muslim women. Do not offer to meet a Muslim woman in a private place. Do not initiate a handshake with a person of the opposite sex.

Do not ask a man what his wife's name is. Try asking a man how his family is rather than how his wife is.

Note that while we are advised not to ask Arab/Qatari women for help/directions, in our experience some will volunteer to help when they see you in difficulty.

8. Do expect huge variations in what individual Arabs feel is acceptable, based both on personality, education (at home or abroad), experience, family and nationality. 8. Don't expect all Arabs to be the same.
9. Do accept invitations to people's houses, weddings etc Do show your respects at a funeral - it will be appreciated. 9. Don't expect your visit to be the same as it is in your house - you may not see your spouse (or another woman) until the end of the evening.

10. Ask if you can take a photograph. While in general you shouldn't take a photograph of a woman, there are circumstances when it seems to be acceptable, and women who do not mind. An example might be of a women demonstrating traditional activities at the Heritage Village.

10. Take pictures without asking permission first. Don't even stare at women.Do not photograph official buildings without permission.

Asking first does make it difficult to capture a natural pose. Try taking one photograph when the person is posing, then just keep on shooting, You may be surprised as to how quickly they go back to a natural pose.

11. Do shake the hand of people of the same sex. Women may also exchange a kiss. 11. Point with the soles of your feet or shoes at an Arab; don't put your feet up on your desk. Don't be surprised if you receive a kiss on the cheek from an Arab man.
12. Do expect people to be late. Do interpret 5 minutes as 10, 10 as 20 and so on. 12. Do not outrightly criticise people, or call them a failure. Try to be tactful rather than direct.
13. Understand that there is a social caste system. This is not an egalitarian society, and people have status according to a whole host of factors including race, family, education and so on. 13. Don't expect equality. Salaries, in particular, may depend on race, with some nationalities getting better pay for the same job than other nationalities.
14. Do expect to make friends. This may be a very different society, but people can be warm and caring. Just not when they are in their cars! 14. Do avoid being overly intimate with your spouse in public. Opinions divide on just how much intimacy is allowed, but we have observed some married Qataris holding hands.

Join the discussion on our Qatar Forum