Why are Russians
moving to Qatar?

Part II

Author: Julia Ruzmanova

In the first part of our series ‘Moving to Qatar’ we touched upon some essentials including accommodation, professional development and the social packages available. Here we take a further deep dive into the country’s culture and lifestyle, as well as why many Russian’s choose to move to Qatar.

Culture and Religion

With its small population, getting a Qatar citizenship is almost impossible, only granted rarely in outstanding cases, for example highly qualified doctors and excelling sportspeople.

“In 2020, 300 doctors who remained here for work were granted the Qatari citizenship as part of a program in the country to grant citizenship to 100 people, prioritising Muslim Arabs and Palestinians of the second or third generation, ”

says Kirill Fateev who has been living in Doha for six years.

Marrying a foreigner is tricky for Qataris — the law requires the family to see the person as an appropriate match and approve the union. Should parents not approve the union, local authorities will not register the marriage, and the couple would need to get married in another country.

High context culture and with its more laid back approach than other low context countries, things in Qatar could move at a more flexible and relaxed pace than you may be accustomed to, with a favourite expression being, “tomorrow inshallah (God willing)”.

The main religion in Qatar is Islam, with most Qataris belonging to the Sunni sect of Islam. Shiites comprise around 10% of the population. In Doha there is a religious complex which includes Greek, Catholic, Baptist, Indian and Russian churches. What is interesting to note about these buildings however, is that they do not have crosses or other traditional symbols due to legal restrictions.

With its conservative culture, drinking is restricted to licensed bars inside hotels and there are strict regulations around the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Public displays of affection are also frowned upon. Out of respect for the culture, many choose to dress modestly.

According to the Global Peace Index, Qatar is listed as one of the safest countries in the world, with strict penalties for drug distribution and other crimes.

“I love Qatar for the comfort I feel in public places. Women are respected here,”

says Gulnara Obukhova, who moved to Qatar with her husband 12 years ago.

Expat community

Russian speaking expats in Qatar try to stay connected to each other and their culture. There are specific groups on social media, the largest being Compatriots in Qatar with 1,700 users. By utilising the internet, Russian expats are able to meet new friends, advise each other and help one another with questions regarding life in Qatar.

There are also social events organised, including performances for children, Russian dinner nights and New Year celebrations.

The Doha market also offers some Russian products for those wishing for a taste from home, from buckwheat cereal, millet and pearl barley of Teremok (a local Russian brand) to cigarettes and mineral water from Russia.

Pandemic restrictions:

For movement in Qatar during the pandemic, a special application needs to be installed to help keep track of cases. The app notifies you when you’re at risk, having come next to a confirmed COVID19 case, and alerting you to quarantine at home. There may be road stops with the police checking your application and health status. Not using the health application can result in a fine from 2,000 — 200,000 QAR.

Why do Russians move to Qatar?

Gulnara Oblokulova

moved to Doha 12 years ago

“We were living and working in the Emirates when my husband got an offer to teach English at the University of Qatar. We moved here, and at first it was difficult, we were lonely. Two years later, I found a job as a teacher and friends from CIS countries. My husband’s contract conditions are very good. The salary is tax-exempt, and there are some additional benefits; the employer covers school fees for children, medical insurance and return tickets once a year to go to our home country.

I love Qatar for its warmth, recreation, people and the chance to be on the seacoast. It is happiness to have the sea next to you. I would continue to live here for five more years with pleasure, if I have a chance.”

Natalia Goryanova

lived in Qatar for 19 years

“Now I have been in Russia for a year, but I plan to come back (to Qatar). Everything is fine here, but I am attached to Qatar. I moved to Qatar in 2001, and fell in love with the country. I work in a tourist agency as a guide with compatriots. Qatar is a quiet and small country, where compatriots communicate with each other. There are a lot of opportunities to meet and organise events. In Russia, it is impossible to meet, even being in the same city as routine absorbs you. Of course, I miss going to museums and theatres in Moscow, but here, there is a chance to go to the sea. Everything is simpler, and there is less rush.”

Denis Belyaev

moved to Doha ten years ago

“Initially, I moved to an Arab country to improve my Arabic. Plus, there was a desire for adventures. There were no strong ties with my homeland, which is why me and my wife easily agreed to move firstly to the UAE. Then I was offered a position in Qatar. Compared to Emirates, it is overall less developed, but it suits me. Here there are many parks, sports and entertainment events for children. Almost all year round, it is possible to enjoy the sea and swimming pools. The country is safe in general, probably even safer than Emirates.”

Kirill Fateev

moved to Doha eight years ago

“You are here in a fairytale dome with sea and palm trees. Unlike Moscow, where you always have to run or do something, everything here is slow and relaxed, everybody smiles, there is no grind like in Moscow. And I like that.”

illustrations: Khadia Ulumbekova

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Stay up-to-date with our stories about Qatar and Russia