Expats have the best chance of finding work through international recruitment agencies or through their own company via foreign assignment. They are more likely to secure a substantially higher salary and negotiate better work conditions this way, than if they tried to secure a job after arriving in Qatar.
When it comes to choosing the right employer, big international companies in particular provide great benefits for expats. Government posts, on the other hand, offer more attractive working hours with 5-day work weeks instead of 5½ or 6 days. However, government jobs in Qatar, just like everywhere around the world, come with high levels of bureaucracy.
Small companies and start-ups are not the best choice for expats who rely on their work in order to hold on to their residence permit. If the company goes under, foreign employees will be forced to leave Qatar and return back to their country of origin immediately.
Those who are not sure which kind of work they are looking into should avoid jobs forcing them to work outside, especially if they are not used to the climate. In summer, temperatures can rise up to 50°C, making the work unbearable. Although there is a temperature limit above which people are not allowed to work, this rule is hardly ever enforced.
Although Qataris are used to dealing with foreign business partners and negotiating business matters in English, expats should always prepare material and paperwork in Arabic. As they are very proud of their cultural heritage and tradition, Qataris appreciate it if their business partners know a few phrases in Arabic.
The work pace is slightly slower than what most Western expats may be used to. Instead of getting right to the point, Qataris take their time to establish personal relationships with their business partners. It is important to stay relaxed and go with the flow. During these informal conversations, remember to enquire after the well-being of your business partner’s family, as the family always has highest priority in Arab culture. However, enquiring directly after the wife or other female family members of a Qatari businessman can be a faux pas and should be avoided.
One last point which plays a major role within the Arab business world is the concept of hospitality. Qataris like to invite their business partners to their house for lunch or dinner. Men and women are usually separated during these events. Expats should never refuse any of the food or beverages offered to them, such as the Arabian coffee which is often consumed during informal business meetings. Expats should have at least one cup of coffee before gently swirling the cup and thereby signifying that they are done with it.
Businesswomen should be treated with the utmost respect. This also means that expats should not shake a woman’s hand unless she offers to do so. Many Qatari women usually try to avoid being alone in a room with a man other than their husband. Expats have to respect it if a Qatari businesswoman insists on the presence of another man during a private business meeting.
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