Expats make up 85% of Qatar’s population, therefore, there is no single business culture. The way business is conducted varies depending on the people and culture of the organization you are dealing with. Therefore, you will need to be flexible, adaptable, and open-minded when doing business there.
That said, there are some important things you should know as an expat working in Qatar.
1. The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday
Working hours in Qatar are quite different to western countries, which may take some adjusting to as an expat. Most public and private sector offices work from Sunday to Thursday and private companies normally operate from 08.00 to 18.00.
The maximum work week is 48 hours, or 60 hours if overtime is paid. During Ramadan, Muslims work a maximum of 36 hours a week. It is also important to know that flexible hours or remote working is not common practice in Qatar.
2. Locals and expats are often treated differently
In some organizations in Qatar, an ‘us and them’ culture exists between locals and expats. For instance, Qataris are often prioritized for promotions and training budgets will be weighed in favour of nationals. This is largely due to the government’s Qatarization policy (part of Qatar National Vision 2030) where companies must recruit and develop local talent over expats.
In the office itself, expats are generally treated differently, according to their nationality. Western expats, for example, typically command higher salaries than their Asian colleagues.
3. Business meetings are generally informal
One important cultural things to be aware of is that meetings and office environments in Qatar tend to be fairly relaxed and informal. For instance, meetings might not have an agenda, or someone taking minutes. They might also start later than scheduled and there may be several interruptions along the way, such as phone calls.
While this might feel somewhat frustrating as an expat, it is best to just go with the flow when it comes to business meetings in Qatar.
4. Politics, religion, and the Royal Family are taboo subjects
While locals enjoy small talk and a good chat, discussing local politics, religion, or the Royal Family are definite no no’s unless you are invited to comment, which is rare. That said, locals are used to dealing with expats and you are unlikely to cause any offense if it is clearly unintended.
However, there are faux pas to be avoided. For instance, you should never show the soles of your feet, openly argue a sensitive point with your host (especially in the presence of others), or raise your voice.
5. Business networking is a sociable affair
The lines between business and pleasure are often blurred in the Qatar expat community. Entertaining might extend to a round of golf, a Friday brunch, a bar, or a social club.
Companies in Qatar might also organize team-building exercises outside the office to create opportunities to socialize. Doha, in particular, is a business-minded city, and therefore a lot of networking happens there. Luxury hotel lobbies are awash with suited businesspeople chatting over a cup of qahwa (traditional Arabic coffee).
How To Adapt To The Culture In Qatar
The culture of Qatar is very unique in that it’s a melting pot of the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. There are many different types of people that call this area home, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and even Gypsies.
Working abroad can be challenging, but learning the people’s culture may help you settle down in this new environment.
That being said, here are the following tips to adapt to the culture in Qatar:
Respect Religious Beliefs:
One strict observance in Qatar is Ramadan. Ramadan, or ‘fasting month,’ is a time when Muslims from all over the world are asked to observe the day by way of fasting. This means a person is supposed to eat a small amount of food, drink water, and then avoid eating or drinking anything else.
During Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to do some charitable acts in order to help their community or country, which you can take part, too. In addition, they’re required to perform prayers and spend this special time with their families and relatives.
Immerse With The Locals:
Qatar is a very diverse area, so there are many different cultures to learn about. By immersing yourself with the locals, you can easily learn all of the different cultures in this region. This way, you can better adapt to the job market in Qatar.
It doesn’t hurt to ask questions from your colleagues who have been working in Qatar for quite some time. By doing so, you’ll find valuable information like tips that’ll help you easily get used to working in this country.
Interesting related article: “What is Networking?“