Survey finds expats have hard time adjusting to life in Qatar

Omar Chatriwala/Flickr

Qatar is among the least friendly places for expats in the world, according to a new report that assessed the quality of life for people living and working away from their home countries.

According to the newly released Expat Insider Survey 2014, Qatar ranked 58th out of 61 nations. It scored just above the bottom three countries: Greece, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The report states that the latter two Gulf nations fared poorly in large part due to a lack of leisure activities and because expats had difficulty settling in there.

The top countries to live for expats, according to Internations, which ran the survey, included Ecuador, Luxembourg and Mexico.

Qatar's ranking on multiple factors.

Expat Insider

Qatar's ranking on multiple factors.

The report surveyed more than 13,000 expats from 169 countries this past June, basing its rankings on factors such as personal finance, friendliness, family life and work-life balance.

Good medical care, a feeling of personal safety due to political stability and Qatar’s strong economy bolstered expats’ opinions of living in the country.

But a lack of education options, the desert climate and a rising cost of living were listed as significant challenges that brought Qatar’s ranking down.

Expat bubble

Another factor that strongly affected Qatar’s ranking of how difficult expats find it to feel at home in this country.

Expat Insider

Some 45 percent of Qatar residents surveyed said it was challenging to make friends with locals, compared to 51 percent in Kuwait and 37 percent in Saudi Arabia. Expats in Oman (21 percent) and Bahrain (19 percent) appeared to have a much easier time.

According to the report, this is likely because of the high expat to local ratio in Qatar and its neighboring countries.

It continued:

“Even after the initial adjustment period, resident expats seem to struggle at socializing with local residents. Just a third (33%) describe the Qatari friendliness towards foreign residents as good or very good, which could explain why 45% disagree that making local friends is easy; more than double the global average of 22%.”

One silver lining is that only 14 percent of people surveyed here said not knowing the local language (Arabic) posed a problem.

That’s less than three times the global average, with some 45 percent of expats saying not knowing the local language became a challenge for them in their host countries.

Additionally, despite problems with settling in and feeling at home here, some 30 percent of residents surveyed said they relocated to Qatar after actively seeking out job opportunities here – twice the global average.

Work and family

When it comes to working abroad, Qatar ranked 28th out 61 countries. It got high marks – ranking 13th – in terms of job security, but fared lower when it came to work-life balance (43rd) and job and career (51st).

The latter scores were based on length of work week (Qatar’s was 44.8 hours, compared to the 41-hour global average); and job satisfaction, which was low across the Gulf.

Kenji Punzalon/Flickr

Meanwhile, while Qatar was considered a family-friendly country by most expats (63 percent), it ranked last in terms of availability and cost of childcare and education.

Additionally, the top three countries where parents are living without their children are Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The report states this is because quite a few of the expats surveyed in these countries were on temporary assignments and did not bring their families with them.

Finally, the report states that 46 percent of expats in Qatar think they are earning a lot
more than they would back home.

Still, expats here complained about rising expenses – particularly in relation to housing.

Due to this, Qatar was ranked 51st out of 61 countries in the survey’s personal finance/cost of living index.

Here’s the full survey:


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