Imagine you’ve landed your dream job. Trouble is, the job is in the Middle East and accepting the offer would mean that your whole family has to relocate. I had it easier – when I moved to Qatar, there were only two of us. We then smoothly transitioned into a family of five. 🙂 But I do understand that moving your kids into a completely new and completely different environment is not an easy decision to make (we went through this during our brief relocation from Qatar to Poland).
If you feel you might struggle with that, I’m here to help! I’ve broken down the ups and downs of raising your children in Qatar and summed it all up below. You’re welcome. 😀
One thing you won’t have any issue with finding here is a good school for your kids! Qatar hosts an abundance of private schools, with multiple curricula to choose from. What is more, many internationally renowned schools have also decided to open a branch in Doha. The education level in such schools is high and the facilities are amazing. Qatar’s local government launched a very informative website where you can see all of the schools listed, together with their location pinpointed on a map – you can have a look at it HERE. I’ve also made a compilation of my own, which you can view HERE.
Aside from schools, there’s also a big variety of nurseries and kindergartens spread all over Doha. The only issue is that private schools tend to be crazy expensive. So, before you accept a job offer in Qatar, make sure that your children’s education cost will be at least partially covered by your employer!
Another important (and amazing!) thing that has to be mentioned here is that classes in private schools are a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. Exposing your child to this from an early age will broaden their horizons and teach them tolerance, appreciation, and acceptance. It’s a wonderful gift to give to your child, please read HERE to know more!
2. Health care
If you are doubtful about the quality of health care in Qatar, I got news for you! Recently, Qatar’s health care system got ranked 5th best in the world and the first in the Middle East, according to Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank (you can see more details HERE). And it shows. I delivered Adam in a private hospital in Poland, paying big money for that privilege, while Danny was born in a public facility in Qatar, for free. I could write a separate post about the superiority of Qatar’s delivery experience to Poland one! With amazing facilities, high-class equipment and well-trained medical staff, I daresay that in Qatar public health care beats the private one.
The only small issue I have with Qatar’s health care is related to the attitude and behavior of their customer-facing non-medical staff. Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to lack interpersonal skills and are more interested in their mobile phones and chatting with each other, than in doing their actual job. Luckily, annoying as it is, it doesn’t affect the quality of medical services!
Family has always been one of the most important aspects of Arab society and culture. Considering this, it comes as no surprise that Qatar is a standout example of a family-oriented country. Being a mom of small kids, I’ve grown to really appreciate the thoughtfulness and attention to detail that made my life much easier.
For instance, the abundance of baby changing facilities and “family bathrooms”, not only in the biggest malls but even in public parks. They are all free of charge, always neat and clean. You should have seen Adam’s face when he saw a colorful kiddy toilet in Mall of Qatar! 😀 Since Qatar is quite conservative about mixing genders but does recognize the role of both parents in taking care of a child, they’ve recently introduced special “family rooms” dedicated to dads taking care of their offspring.
Aside from that, it’s so much more common than in Poland to find restaurants equipped with kids play corners or at least a stash of coloring books and pencils. Most of them have separate menus for children or will whip up a smaller or otherwise modified portion of a dish upon request. Many big shops with children’s goods have nursing rooms and female prayer rooms are available to any mom who wants to breastfeed her baby, doesn’t matter if she’s Muslim or not.
As the weather in Qatar only allows one to enjoy outdoor activities for a couple of months a year, indoor entertainment is extremely well developed. Each big mall has a huge play zone equipped with devices for all ages. Aside from that, there are many other attractions, such as trampoline parks, Angry Birds World, Kidzania, Curiocity, cinemas for children, and even an indoor snow park! Qatar also hosts many seasonal events, such as the Summer Festival, Kite Festival or an International Book Fair. Granted, the events and attractions are almost never free, but everyone can find something tailored to their budget.
Outdoor playgrounds deserve a paragraph of their own. 🙂 They are huge, modern, free and readily available in all parks around Qatar. Those playgrounds were on top of my list of things I missed when I briefly returned to Poland! Ok, they were really on top of Adam’s list (together with kunafa), but I never minded sitting on a picnic blanket enjoying the sun watching my kid go crazy on a super sophisticated slide. 😀
1. Boredom during summer months
Even though there are countless indoor activities for children, a time comes in every Qatar-based parent’s life, when they become sick of staying inside and want to enjoy the outdoors! 4 months of terrible heat make it impossible to go out of the house during the day (I’ve covered this issue in another post, HERE). This is why many expat families leave the country right after school year finishes, only to come back in September. If your work doesn’t allow you to skip the whole summer, you, my friend, are going to be royally screwed. It goes without saying that kids who are constantly kept indoors grow restless and bored and start to act out. They want to go to a playground or have a walk around and, if they’re small, don’t understand why that’s not an option.
2. Short maternity leave
That’s definitely a big drawback, for me personally. Qatar’s labor law grants a woman exactly 50 days of maternity leave (calendar, not business days!). Of course, your employer can agree on more. If you manage to find one that does, consider yourself really lucky!
Choosing whether to put your 2-month-old baby to a nursery or to let complete stranger care of her at home must be one of the toughest decisions for parents to make! It gets easier if you’re one of the lucky people who have relatives willing to travel to Qatar and help you out. When Adam was a baby, we had first my mom and then Khaled’s mom flying in to stay with us and help to babysit, so we didn’t have to hire a professional helper until Adam was 10 months old. With Danny, we had a trusted nanny already on board. Not everyone is so lucky though!
3. Cost of living with kids
As already mentioned, good schools tend to cost a lot. By “a lot” I mean anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000 per annum. On top of that, good-quality baby products are, in most cases, crazy expensive. The only thing that’s actually priced similarily in Qatar and in Europe is baby formula. A jar or pouch of ready-made organic baby food can cost as much as a full meal for an adult. 😀 Now, imagine you buy this and your baby refuses to eat it. 😉 And if you’re thinking “I’ll prepare all food myself” – I got news for you. Prices of organic produce, meat, and poultry will leave you speechless (I’m talking $30 for one small chicken!).
As you can see, the downsides of settling in Qatar with your children revolve around two factors: weather during summer months and money. If traveling out in the summer is not an issue for you, and if the job you landed pays you well, Qatar really is a wonderful place to raise your children.
I know for sure that I have no regrets about my kids spending their early years there!