Qatar is a sovereign country occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia. Qatar is considered as an absolute monarchy ruled by the Al Thani family. In 2003, Qatar adopted a constitution which has led to assertions that the country is a constitutional monarchy. The Constitution provides that Qatar is an independent sovereign Arab state. Its religion is Islam, its political system democratic (Shari’a law is the main source of its legislation) and the official language Arabic. The Constitution provides for the establishment of an Advisory Council, two-thirds of whom are elected and the remainder appointed by the Emir.
The Constitution upholds personal liberty; safeguards equal rights, duties and opportunities for all citizens; and protects private ownership. It protects the freedoms of expression, the press and religion, as well as the right to education.
Qatar is also a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council. The Gulf Co-operation Council or GCC as it is commonly known, is a group of Six Middle Eastern kingdoms, comprising the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar and the State of Kuwait. The GCC was formed through a Charter on 25 May 1981.(G.C.C., 2018) In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt, among other Gulf states, cut off diplomatic relations with the country, accusing it of supporting and funding terrorism and manipulating internal affairs of its neighboring states, an escalation of longstanding tensions with Saudi Arabia.
Qatar is a high-income economy, backed by the world's third-largest natural-gas reserves and oil reserves. The country has the highest per capita income in the world and enjoys a gross domestic product (GDP) of $357 billion as per the latest International Monetary Fund data(International Monetary Fund, 2018). The Country is the first Middle Eastern Country to be selected to hold the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The Government has set a target to improve the current tourist visits from 2.94 million in 2016 to 5.6 million in 2023.(O.B.Group, 2017)
Expats may not find adjusting to Qatar as difficult as they might in other Middle Eastern countries, however, because nearly 90 percent of the 2,684,000 population is made up of Non-Arab foreigners. These “expatriates” make up much of Qatar's population; Indians are the largest community, numbering 650,000 in 2017, followed by 350,000 Nepalis, 280,000 Bangladeshis, 260,000 Filipinos, 200,000 Egyptians, 145,000 Sri Lankans and 125,000 Pakistanis among many other nationalities (Encylopedia, 2015).
Some cornerstones of Qatar culture
Family, religion and religious harmony are cornerstones of the Qatari life. Family is central to society, resulting in a great emphasis on unity, loyalty. They stand for cohesiveness bound by religious and tribal ties and traditional values of cooperating and sharing.
When in Qatar
Good to know
- Alcohol, pornography, pork products and narcotics cannot be brought into the country and your luggage will be searched on arrival. Drugs of any kind are strictly prohibited.
- Do not use a firm handshake as this is considered rude, dominant or disrespectful.
- If you are male, refrain from requesting directions from a female Arab.
- Avoid writing in red or the use of capital letters in statements as it shows anger.
- Qataris will not tolerate criticism of their Emir, which is punishable by imprisonment.
- Avoid prolonged eye contact, it is perceived as staring and impolite.
- Normal tourist photography is acceptable, but it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women.
- Being “under the influence” of alcohol in public is illegal.
- Qataris often greet each other with a kiss on the cheeks.
- The relative safety of the Qatar is excellent in terms of the lack of crime.
- When seated with a Qatari, avoid showing the sole of your shoe.
- Traditionally, the right hand is used for shaking hands and eating, even for left-handed people.
Islam is the largest and the official state religion of the Qatar. Qatar currently exercises policy of tolerance toward other religions and rarely interferes in the activities of non-Muslims. Christians have been allowed to build churches on ground donated by the government. Active churches include two Mormon wards, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Anglican Church of the Epiphany.
Additional religious considerations for Ramadan
During the period of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset. There are exceptions made for pregnant women and children and those suffering from illnesses such as diabetes. This effectively leads to fasting during the day and feasting at night, often until the early hours of the morning. The resultant lack of sleep can lead to a very unproductive period for conducting meaningful business relationships. It is common to experience a slowdown in the agreement of significant issues during Ramadan. The commencement of Ramadan is related to the sighting of the moon and the exact dates vary each year. During this period, extra care should be taken on the roads as more accidents are are likely during this period of fasting.
Buying and consuming alcohol is permitted in Qatar. However, it is illegal to import alcohol into the country. All luggage is scanned at the arrivals hall of Doha International Airport. Foreign residents in possession of a permit may purchase alcoholic beverages in a single distribution facility, which is the sole source of alcohol and pork. Restaurants and hotel bars are also allowed to sell alcohol.
It is illegal to sell, donate or give away alcohol and it is an offence to offer alcohol to Muslims and minors (under 21). Consuming alcohol in bars is forbidden during religious holidays and the legal drinking age is 21 years old.
It is an offence to drink alcohol, be drunk in a public place, or to drink and drive. Those who are caught breaking this law can be deported, fined or receive prison sentences. Muslims caught drinking may be subjected to corporal punishment. Once a police case has been filed against an individual for a drinking- or driving-related offense, the person isn’t allowed to leave the country until the case has been addressed and resolved by the courts. Most cases tend to be straightforward, but more serious cases can take up to six months to go to court.
For Men - The traditional thobe is mostly worn by Qatari’s during the working week. Foreigners are expected to wear conservative suits. For Women – Qatari ladies usually wear the hijab and during the use of swimming pools at hotels, Qatari ladies often wear full covered swimsuits. Foreign ladies should wear conservative styles are appropriate, dresses/skirts should not expose the knee, and low necklines and sleeveless attire are not accepted.
Informally, one should dress modestly to avoid offending locals. It is noted that all shopping malls in Qatar display sign boards at each entrance indicating acceptable attire for the shopping facility. Usually the rule of thumb is to cover your shoulders and to wear trousers or skirts covering your knees.
Key words to describe Qatar culture
Family / Religion / Hierarchy / Relationships/Patriotic
The work pace is slower than what many Western expats may be used to. Life in Qatar is never rushed, and you should never appear to be hastening anyone. Trust is an important aspect and essential in building strong business relationships in Qatar, and personal contact via face-to-face meetings with potential partners is required to establish strong relationships. in business, Qataris like to deal with the highest representative within the Organization, usually towards the higher Management spectrum, such as Chief Executive Officer. Making decisions can be a lengthy process and requires patience and multiple discussions and meetings before a final decision is reached. Hurrying this process will cause offense and will damage good standing business relationships. All business meetings and business entertainment should be organized keeping religious customs in mind, and restricted working hours during Ramadan.
The Concept of Face
Religion and politics are sensitive topics and criticizing a Qatari business colleague or client is considered rude. Conflict and negative talk should be kept private, as public humiliation is considered extremely disrespectful. By raising one’s voice or shouting, one is considered as being very disrespectful. There is a significant increase in pro-leadership sentiment since some of the Neighboring States imposed a land and sea embargo in June 2017. Frequently, Qataris now display full scale pictures of the Emir and his family on Walls and adorning their cars, as a show of solidarity and respect for his guidance through this siege.
Meeting and Greeting
Request an introduction and once received take your time to make these introductions, in a carefully planned presentation, noting that haste can be considered as be being disrespectful. The venue may take place in formal offices; however, it can often be informal and take place in restaurants or cafés. A point of interest for sports enthusiasts is that many Qataris are serious sporting enthusiasts and can take their football clubs (or the FIFA championship for that matter) performance as critically as a European. Another point to consider is that meetings are rarely private, and interruptions often occur. Offering a coffee or tea before the meeting starts is recommended. Punctuality by the foreigner is essential and is considered a sign of respect. Overall, relationships should be nurtured as long-term investments rather than short-term gains.
Business conversations and meetings with Arabs are usually informal and friendly. Conversations are overly polite and generally start by inquiring about family (take care not to ask after a man’s wife or sister) or discussing the weather. Sensitive topics such as religion and Middle East turmoil should be avoided at all cost.
Trust and mutual respect are a must for long term relationships with Qatar. Courtesy and professionalism are required at all stages. Relationships appear to be based on an individual rather than with the company they represent.
Notwithstanding the absence of bespoke Dimensions for Qatar, our experts have determined an appropriate dimensional score after analyzing the deep cultural ties and similarities with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Qatar is both a member, and a neighbour. Accordingly, the dimensions for the purposes of this model are extrapolated from the dimensional values of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar would score high on this dimension (aggregate score of 93), which means that people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place, and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organization is seen as reflecting inherent inequalities, centralization is popular, subordinates expect to be told what to do and the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. Power is centralized, and managers count on the obedience of their team members in return for protection from the power holders. The manager/boss is expected (and often the only authorized party) to make decisions. Titles and proximity to the Royal family play an important role and it helps the Qatari people place their colleagues or counterparts in the hierarchy, allowing them to give appropriate respect to superiors.
Qatar would score low on this dimension (aggregate score of 25). With a score of 25, Qatar is considered a collectivistic society. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member ‘group’, be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group. In collectivist societies offence leads to shame and loss of face, employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms (like a family link), hiring and promotion decisions take account of the employee’s in-group, management is the management of groups.
Qatar would show a moderately masculine score for this dimension (aggregate score of 55). Qatar’s score of indicates a tendency towards a Masculine society. In Masculine countries people “live to work”, managers are expected to be decisive and assertive, the emphasis is on equity, competition and performance and conflicts are resolved by fighting them out.
Qatar would score high on this dimension (aggregate score of 80) This scores for Uncertainty Avoidance dimension, is indicative of a high preference to avoid unpredictability. Countries exhibiting high Uncertainty Avoidance maintain rigid codes of belief and behavior and are intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas. In these cultures, there is an emotional need for rules (even if the rules never seem to work) time is money, people have an inner urge to be busy and work hard, precision and punctuality are the norm, innovation may be resisted, security is an important element in individual motivation.
Long term Orientation & Indulgence
There are currently no scores or expert estimates available for Qatar on these dimensions.
For a more detailed analysis on the Cultural Dimensions, and how Qatar would compare to other countries, please visit Hofstede Insights’ Country Comparison tool.
Comparison, C. and Insights, H. (2018) ‘United Arab Emirates’, www.hofstede-insights.com, pp. 1–5.
G.C.C. (2018) ‘GCC Website’, (December 2017), pp. 1–6.
Hukoomi - Qatar E-government (2004) ‘Labour Law State of Qatar’, (23). Available at: http://portal.www.gov.qa/wps/wcm/connect/5f30f680423f8a149631df3cb857e4c....
International Monetary Fund (2018) ‘Report for Selected Countries and Subjects’, p. 2017. Available at: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2012/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.....
O.B.Group (2017) ‘The Report : Qatar 2017 Other Qatar Reports ’