Working at College of the North Atlantic - Qatar is a wonderful opportunity both personally and professionally. It also presents some challenges because of the fact that you are working in a foreign country with different customs, laws and religion than Canada.
While in Qatar, every person is subject to Qatar’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in Canada and may not afford the protections available to the individual under the Canadian laws. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in Canada for similar offences. Persons violating Qatari
laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, expelled, and/or imprisoned.
College of the North Atlantic has a formal agreement with the State of Qatar. As part of this agreement, the CNA-Q campus and its employees agree to respect cultural, religious and social customs, and to obey the laws of the State of Qatar.
Your behaviour can affect the College’s reputation and can have an impact on its future in Qatar. We are often mistaken for other nationalities and can seize the opportunity to change people’s stereotypical opinion of westerners. Living in Qatar is such an opportunity!
Newcomers to Qatar must be aware that unless you are married and have the documentation to prove that, it is illegal to live with someone of the opposite sex. Furthermore, gestures of excessive affection in public should be avoided. If they are deemed to infringe on moral values, individuals concerned may be prosecuted. Homosexual activity is also considered to be a criminal offense.
Bars, lounges and dance clubs are only available in the main hotels. When out for a night on the town, it is not acceptable to be loud or to publicly display drunkenness. All drugs (other than strictly medicinal ones) are banned and their use, purchase and sale are harshly dealt with. Homosexual activity is also considered to be a criminal offense, as is co-habitation, even temporarily, with a person of the opposite sex who is not a family member.
Expats who choose to ignore these behavioural expectations are taking risks that can have serious consequences. We may not feel this is fair or right, but we are guests in this country. One should always remember that we are ambassadors of both Canada and CNA-Q and we are guests in Qatar, so we must respect the local culture.
While in public, men and particularly women should take care to dress in an appropriate manner or they will appear to be inviting, and may get undesirable attention. Women should wear clothing that covers their upper arms and legs, and avoid revealing or tight-fitting clothing, short skirts or shorts, and low-cut necklines. Men should not wear brief shorts or tank tops. Swimsuits are perfectly acceptable around
the hotel pools or public beaches, but bring a cover-up to use when away from the pool or beach area.
While at work the standards are as follows:
• International standard business dress – no denims/jeans, no tight
• For men, at least long-sleeve shirt with collar and standard tie, full-length dress pants, closed shoes and socks;
• For women, blouses that fully cover the torso, sleeves near the
elbow, pants, skirts or dresses below the knee;
• Managers, and those expecting to meet guests, are reminded to
have a jacket handy.
While in your living community, the standards are similar to those you would expect to see in any community in Canada – shorts and sleeveless tops are acceptable. Shorts are also acceptable at the Doha Golf Course.
When greeting Qatari men, it is appropriate to extend your hand to shake once he has extended his. It is common among male friends to hug when greeting. If this happens, respond in a like manner.
Men will sometimes hold hands. This is a sign of friendship and admiration.
When greeting a Qatari woman, it is only appropriate to extend your hand to shake once she has extended hers. Otherwise a verbal greeting is appropriate. You should not touch a Qatari woman. A common mistake westerners make is casually tapping a female colleague’s hand or shoulder while in conversation. This is not acceptable in the Qatari culture.
You should also take care to ask permission before you take a photograph of other people or sensitive sites. Arab women and many older people strongly object to being photographed.
Dress conservatively outside of the living communities. This means keeping the knees, torso and upper arms covered whether you are male or female.
Doha is a big city and you should use the same caution when living in any big city around the world, such as being cautious driving in areas of the city with which you are unfamiliar.
Do not get into cars with people you do not know. It is quite common for the drivers of the unmarked, white or grey taxis to stop and offer you a drive.
When using taxis, you should not allow the driver to pick up other passengers en route. Women should always sit in the back seat of the taxi.
Although unlikely, should you encounter a hostile or abusive person of any nationality, simply leave the area. Again, dialing on your mobile may stop the behaviour. Public places such as restaurants, hotels, and shops can be used as temporary safe areas.
Always carry a copy of your passport.
If directed to stop by a police, STOP! Do not attempt to run or evade a checkpoint or roadblock.
Personal Safety within Living Communities
Most of the living communities have security personnel assigned to them. The main function of the security personnel is to limit access to the compound or building by non-residents. They may also enforce the landlord’s rules for using the common areas such as the club house and pool, including the prevention of destruction of
the landlord’s property. In Qatar, for the most part, the security personnel tend to be more passive than assertive or aggressive. Should you encounter a situation whereby the security personnel cannot control or contain a situation, you should not hesitate to call the police (999), even if it involves a fellow Canadian.