What single expat women should know before moving to the Gulf for work

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In Qatar, men outnumber women 3:1, and the population is comprised of people hailing from many different religions, cultures and classes. Meanwhile, the country is governed by conservative Islamic principles. This week, we are exploring how men and women interact with each other in this unique environment in a four-part series, titled “Gender Imbalance.”

Jobs in Qatar are never in short supply these days, and single professional women are often the hire of choice for many employers here. But in a place as family-friendly as Qatar, living as a single woman can be an isolating experience.

In recent months, there have also been renewed questions about safety, following the  reported murder of a British teacher in Qatar in October and the alleged rape of former Doha resident Marte Dalelv in Dubai this summer.

So as more women mull over the possibility of moving to the Gulf to work, I tackle some of their concerns in a new Telegraph article about “what single women need to know” before heading here.

The piece includes interviews with four women who have lived in Qatar, Oman and the UAE, and covers accommodation options, dating, dress code, social life and career satisfaction.

Though the women said that their overall experiences have been positive one, there are many pitfalls, including:

  • Dating: “I’d only recommend living in the Gulf if you would be happy not to meet anyone to marry here. It happens sometimes, but it hasn’t happened to me.”
  • Work stress: “Expat life seems very glamorous, but everyone has the same problems that you have at home, just in the sunshine. There were times when it was a normal part of my day to leave work and sit in the car and cry.”
  • And harassment: “At some point you’ll probably be followed in your car or at the shopping mall. I had my bottom pinched in the supermarket on my very first evening in Doha. “

Safety is also an ongoing issue, particularly in light of recent events. The women all said that they feel safer in the Gulf than they do in their home countries, but urge caution when going out at night:

“Like anywhere, if you’re going to get drunk, just make sure you and your friends look after each other” says Dubai based expat Liana Liston. “Although rape is very rare statistically, the woman is also sometimes accused in rape cases in the UAE, so it may be higher than reported.”

Here are the women’s top tips for those considering a move:

  • Get in touch with someone who already lives there to get an idea of what to expect;
  • Make sure your employment contract is watertight. Have a contingency plan in case things don’t work out;
  • Check you have good medical insurance. Local government health care standards are not the same as in the UK, and private care can be expensive;
  • Make sure you know where to go for emergency medical care as soon as you arrive, and find someone who can act as your local next of kin;
  • Invest in a few wardrobe staples that will cover your shoulders, elbows and knees; and
  • Consider finding a flatmate to share bills and keep you company.

What would you add? Thoughts?

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