When doing business in Qatar, it’s important to understand what’s expected of you. Not only will this help you get by in business, it should also help you develop closer relationships in your business and personal life, while avoiding any possible insult.
Finding out what’s expected of you means learning about Qatari culture and customs, while also getting to know the people and the way they do business. This knowledge should equip you with the business etiquette you need to not only survive, but to succeed.
So, before you get into the ins and outs of how to start a business in Qatar, or even before you start looking at new business ideas or business opportunities, let’s take a little look at the basics of doing business in Qatar.
- The Basics
Qatar is an Islamic country, however, the majority of its population are expats. In business, the way you deal with people will often be determined by where they come from. The way you relate to an expat may be different to the way you relate to a local.
While you may be dealing with other expats day-to-day, senior associates within a company will more likely come from Qatar and other Gulf states. Use your common sense, but of course, always treat colleagues and clients with respect, no matter where they come from.
In terms of Qatar business office hours, these usually run somewhere between 7.30am and 5pm , Sunday to Thursday. Typically, Friday and Saturday are weekend days, but this varies between businesses and industries.
While Arabic is the official language in Qatar, English is spoken widely, especially in business. However, all paperwork and documentation should be primarily completed in Arabic, with English translations provided where needed.
At work, the dress code in Qatar is smart and conservative, especially for women. Both men and women should dress modestly for meetings; ensuring most of the body is covered.
- Introducing yourself
When greeting someone, handshakes are commonly used among men, but be sure to shake the hand of the most senior person present first. You typically greet someone with their first name along with their personal or professional title.
Gift giving is often customary when meeting Qatari business associates for the first time. Gifts should be wrapped, and should be of the highest quality.
- Women in the workplace
In terms of gender equality, Qatar is an Islamic state, but it is one of the most progressive Gulf countries in its attitudes towards women in the workplace and women are respected and valued in the workplace.
It is worth bearing in mind though, that foreign women are expected to dress and behave perhaps more conservatively than they would at home. To find out more about women in the workplace here in Qatar, read our post on Work Permit Rules & Requirements for Women in Qatar.
- Being mindful of cultural differences
Islam has a significant influence on daily life in Qatar, so it’s important for expats to understand the culture, not only in the way it affects Qatari’s, but the way they do business.
Salat – or the obligatory Muslim prayers – are performed five times a day. This prayer timetable gives Muslims the pattern of their day, with children as young as seven encouraged to pray.
- Salat al-fajr: dawn, before sunrise,
- Salat al-zuhr: midday, after the sun passes its highest point,
- Salat al-‘asr: the late part of the afternoon,
- Salat al-maghrib: just after sunset,
- Salat al-‘isha: between sunset and midnight.
As a prayer ritual that is more than 1,400 years old, this not only allows Muslims to pray, it also allows them to connect spiritually with all other Muslims around the world. While many pray in a mosque, it is possible to pray anywhere.
The holy month of Ramadan is a key event in Qatar; dramatically changing not only the social life in Qatar, but also the ways Qataris do business. Find out more about Ramadan and the way it affects life in Qatar in our post on Ramadan here.
At the end of Ramadan is Eid Al-Fitr, a three-day festival that marks the end of the previous month of fasting. During Eid Al Fitr, many people wear traditional clothes, give gifts to children and donate money to charity. Find out more about Eid here.
As a foreigner in Qatar, try to be sensitive to the culture and customs of its people. Accept invitations where they are offered, and get acquainted with the pace of business in Qatar. This will all go towards making your stay in Qatar that much more comfortable – and successful!
To find out more about business management or starting a business in Qatar, about how to find a business partner or local business partnership, contact us today. That’s what we’re here for!