Doha, Qatar

(54 Posts)
TooExtraImmatureCheddar Fri 02-Sep-16 14:48:43

DH has been offered a job in Doha - salary is £40k, plus bonus of £6k, plus housing allowance of 25,000 QR per month (also covers utilities), and car allowance. We also get school fees paid and medical insurance, and a flight home per year (for the whole family). We have 2 kids aged 4 and 2. In Scotland DD doesn't start school until 2017, but in Doha she would start this year in Reception.

Does this sound like a good deal or not? He gets tax equalisation applied to his salary, so I think he gets tax deducted as if he lived in the UK. Our current net combined salary is £42k, but we pay £390 childcare, £700 rent, £100 council tax, £100 utilities (more if you count line rental) and £200 on car repayments (will sell car here and pay it off) per month. I wouldn't be working there, or at least not at first.

Is this a good plan or not?? Please help!

InTheDessert Sun 04-Sep-16 07:22:41

I'm over the boarder. Some may be not relevant to you, but in the absence of other replies so far, my comments below.
The tax equalisation - usually only benifical if you go somewhere with higher taxes than the UK. One attraction of the ME is 0 tax (if your here for a full tax year). So this policy may not help you. Check if it is a two way (we pay UK tax whatever the tax is) or one way (we will pay tax above your UK tax liability).
Check the housing allowance is enough - lots if people top up to get e.g a bigger or newer house.
Check the school fees are enough - we are topping up to get places in the British School. Check how likely a school place is to be found in an acceptable school. International schools in early primary are heavily over subscribed. Will the company assist here? If your daughter wouldn't have started school in Scotland, will the company pay the fees??? Several people caught out by fees reimbursable at normal school starting age for point of origin.
Think about how much you might spend coming home over the summer. Most people are out if kingdom at the moment, and will return just before school starts. Many wives and kids spend 2-3 months at home in the summer, rather than be subjected to the brutal heat. Accommodation this summer cost a fortune - unless your parents have space?

The chance to spend some time at home with the kids, and get me out if work (plus mass redundancies threatened, and a fortunately timed speculative call from a head hunter) is why we are out here. How easy will it be for you to get back into work after a break?? I've basically lost my career.

Do not underestimate the cost of living out here!! If you eat like a local, it can be cheap. But a box of cornflakes is £5. Hard (British/Irish/American) cheese is £4 for a small block. You can buy a whole massive watermelon for £3.

Is dental covered in medical???

Got to run (to the dentist £££). Will see if I think of any more random musings if they are helpful???

MardAsSnails Sun 04-Sep-16 07:39:41

Not in Doha but close by in similar environment.

Make sure you get his package agreed in riyals, not sterling, especially with exchange rates all over the place because of brexit.

Many friends of mine initially had contracts in £, but then the rate plummeted and they were utterly skint over here - they were being paid the same in sterling but suddenly were up to 7k (local) per month worse off on what they drew out here. It could work the other way of course, but I know they found it tough when they were living somewhere and their salary would swing by a few hundred quid each money, and sometimes be over a grand less purely on exchange rate on the day of transfer.

Check out the visa situation - I believe some residence visas need company permission to leave the country at any time, but some don't. As a spouse visa you're likely to always need his permission (don't let anyone tell you this is because you're a wife who is controlled by law by her husband - for years I sponsored my husband and it was me giving him permission to take out phone contracts etc). But if you wanted to nip to, say, Dubai for a weekend (flights aren't even an hour and are cheap as chips), you'd need company permission and I have friends there who have it denied. Insisting on multi exit visas up front worked for them when they moved companies. Not 100% sure if this is still the case but it's something for your to look into.

Check what 'school fees' covers - for example my contract covers school fees up to AED 42k per child, plus up to 5k for books and uniform (repayable on reimbursement). DHs company pay unlimited amount direct to the school for fees, but all books and uniform are at your own cost.

Also check what they'd do about housing allowance. Will they pay up front and deduct from your salary? If not, you'll have to find a years rent up front. Again, something to include in your negotiations.

habibihabibi Sun 04-Sep-16 18:51:42

I am in Doha.
40K is a relatively low basic here . I am not the main earner and that is considerably less than mine but 25,000 is a high housing allowance and you could easily get by with 15,000 for rent and 2000 for utilities, so see if you can cash in the rest.

Rent is usually paid by 12 cheques here , so you are not hit with an annual amount like Dubai.

The only thing that is cheap here is fuel .
Expect to pay a lot for everything else.
We are frugal with our food shop and still spend near 1000 QAR a week .Booze is 3x the price of Britain ( you need a licence to buy from the one outlet in the country ).
School is expensive and often limits are set on company payments. Nursery fees are outrageous and they rarely cater for working parents hours wise.
Flights, are not cheap from Doha.

Do your sums OP. If it is a great opportunity career wise and you are comfortable with the upheaval and challenges, it could be worth it.

zikreetdreaming Mon 05-Sep-16 10:03:00

I lived in Doha until eight months ago.

The salary package sounds odd - the housing allowance is very good but the basic is lowish. What industry is it? Will they let you keep the remainder of the housing allowance if you don't spend it all? You also need to check the schooling allowance, will they pay everything or is there a cap (most caps would require a top up). Also look at whether they'll pay pre-school for your younger one as it's the norm to go to a school nursery.

If they won't let you take any surplus from the housing I'd say the salary is on the low side - you can have an ok life but you won't be saving and you'll be watching spending.

At current exchange rates, I make that a total package of around QAR 42k a month. That's probably about average for most Western expats in my experience, particularly given a lot of the crazy oil and gas salaries are coming down now.

I agree with IntheDesert to check the point on tax. I've never known anyone to have UK tax deducted in Qatar (and my work does a tax equalisation policy, but it works in the employee's favour).

Wives and children on spouse-sponsored visas don't need exit permits in Qatar. Anyone on a working visa does. Get your husband to ask for confirmation he'll be given a multiple exit permit in advance. If they refuse it gives you an idea of how the company treats employees.

Flights to Dubai aren't much but aren't 'cheap as chips' if you're used to UK low cost carrier prices. You'll still generally pay at least GBP 100 return. The fact that they're considered cheap gives you an idea of the spending patterns in Doha!

I think nursery is actually fairly cheap, certainly I was paying around GBP 600 a month per child for full-time care (7 to 5) which seems good compared to friends in the South East at least. School is also cheap compared to private school in the UK (but then there's no state option for the vast majority of expats).

It doesn't cost GBP5 for cornflakes though (unless there's been a run on them in the last 8 months!). They're not cheap but more like GBP3. If you want anything imported with low sugar/salt then you'll end up paying more like GBP5. It is very expensive to live. We were not big spenders and grocery bill was usually around QAR 800-1000 a month (two adults, two kids). We spent far less than most of my friends.

zikreetdreaming Mon 05-Sep-16 10:05:20

Meant to say - pre-school for your younger one would be from Sept 2017 but these are things to discuss now!

Thefitfatty Mon 05-Sep-16 10:11:11

Sounds typical of salaries here at the moment. If you can take the surplus from the housing allowance, than all else in it's live able. But don't do brunches every weekend.

StMary Mon 05-Sep-16 10:17:15

Is the salary supplemented by a COLA (cost of living adjustment)?

I disagree re tax equalization in the Muddle East. Companies apply tax equalization there to help reduce the overall assignment costs....

zikreetdreaming Mon 05-Sep-16 10:41:42

Some may do StMary, but as I've said I've never known it in Qatar. Obviously I'm not privy to every company's policy on this so keen to know if this is actually the case here!

FYI OP your car payments will be increasing quite substantially in Qatar (assuming you will need to borrow). On the basis of two mid-range SUVs cars (you won't want a salon car) and a three year car loan you'd be looking around QAR6k a month I think. More to rent.

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Mon 05-Sep-16 11:58:56

Thank you for the responses!

Zikreet, the tax equalisation is because DH will be classed as an international consultant who may be asked to work in a number of countries (Australia and Canada have been mentioned!), although his initial assignment will be in Qatar. He will be paid in Scotland in £, with a proportion paid directly to a Qatari bank in line with Qatari law. But it will be calculated at the exchange rate on each payday. Hmm. I hadn't considered fluctuations in the exchange rate!

The school fees - they will pay for DD to start this year (policy covers kids from 4-18) and will pay up to 50,000QAR for the year, which includes registration fees and deposits but not books or uniforms. If we're still there when DS turns 4 then he will get the same.

Car allowance - 3500QAR a month for a leased vehicle. I know I will need a car as well but we haven't really planned that out. How much do secondhand cars go for, if it was to be bought outright? I know there's lots of advice re getting big SUVs, but I'll never in a million years manage to parallel park an SUV! Do I really need one - won't a smaller car do? I did think that to start with I could just drive DH to work and then take his car for the day, which is what we did when I was on maternity leave here. I don't want a three year car loan as the contract is for 1 year initially, although may well be extended - we should know that by March at latest.

The basic salary is £32k, supplemented with a COLA and disturbance payment which takes it up to £40k. Then there's a bonus of about £6000 for completing the year's assignment. It's public sector - he will be working for the international arm of a Scottish public sector organisation which is sub-contracted to the Qatari public authority. I think hence the slightly weird pay package, because yes, that's how it seemed to us - very generous housing and car and schooling allowances, but the basic salary was a bit low in comparison!

Thanks for the info re food bills - I was budgeting about £200/QAR1000 per week for a rough estimate, so that seems about right. I will try to buy as much local food as possible. DH hardly drinks at all and I drink mainly on social occasions. Can you buy drink in duty-free on your way in, or is that illegal?

I will get DH to ask about the multiple-exit visa!

Can I ask about mobile phones - did you keep your UK phone contract or take out a new one?

I think we're going to do it. At the moment on two salaries we're penny-pinching and not saving. If we can have the same quality of daily life (bearing in mind that the housing will probably be nicer than our current mouse-infested rented house, and that DD will benefit from private schooling) but without me working, and with DH's bonus coming at the end of the year to save, then I think it's worth it for the career boost to DH. I am not too worried about my career initially - if they ask DH to sign a contract for a further 3 to 5 years then I will look for a job out there too. If we come back within 2 years my job here will be kept for me.

Sorry this is such an essay!

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Mon 05-Sep-16 12:28:02

Can I ask more general questions?

What's acceptable dress? Do I have to have my entire chest covered up to the base of my neck, or can you have a mild dip so long as you don't show actual cleavage? Trying to work out how much of my existing wardrobe I can retain! Can I wear knee-length dresses with leggings?

What do you wear to work out? And to the beach?

Thefitfatty Mon 05-Sep-16 12:35:42

But is the 25,000 housing allowance paid directly to you? (so that you can keep whatever's left after rent?) Because if it isn't the basic is to low to live on.

I know there's lots of advice re getting big SUVs, but I'll never in a million years manage to parallel park an SUV! Do I really need one - won't a smaller car do?
I've lived in Qatar and the UAE for 11 years and I can count the number of times I've parallel parked on 1 hand. The number of times I've gone head to head with a maniac in a giant SUV however....DAILY. Get the SUV. You need some equality on the road.

(bearing in mind that the housing will probably be nicer than our current mouse-infested rented house, and that DD will benefit from private schooling)

No and no. The education provided at private schools in Doha isn't great. Public schooling in the UK is most likely better. Especially as you are only getting 50,000 for schooling, you won't be getting into the best schools. The houses are crap. poor build quality, loads of problems.

I love it here for many reasons but the houses and schools aren't one.

Thefitfatty Mon 05-Sep-16 12:37:16

*What's acceptable dress? Do I have to have my entire chest covered up to the base of my neck, or can you have a mild dip so long as you don't show actual cleavage? Trying to work out how much of my existing wardrobe I can retain! Can I wear knee-length dresses with leggings?

What do you wear to work out? And to the beach?*

V necks are fine. Just make sure that your shoulders are covered. Knee length dresses are fine with or without leggings. I wear normal work out clothes to work out and bikini's to the beach (to be fair, I never go to the beach, they're dirty and the ocean is like a jacuzzi most of the year).

zikreetdreaming Mon 05-Sep-16 13:22:05

Ok StMary was right. smile

I was in Qatar for nine years. I loved it and hated it (sometimes more one than the other). When we first had DC, DH was earning QAR 20k + housing provided. We couldn't afford for me not to work without really cutting back and this is now 6 years ago. All of his colleague's wives worked in some form. You can move out and view it as an adventure, or as a really good career move for your DH, or as an opportunity to give up work and spend more time with the kids. On the figures you're talking about it will not be a brilliant financial move but life isn't all about money. You can have a fantastic life in Doha (and we did) but you need to go in with a really open mind.

I don't think you're going to have an equivalent standard of living to the UK, although it may be worth it to you if it means you can be a SAHM. Housing will not be mouse infested though (probably a few cockroaches) but it will be dusty and may have poor maintenance and dodgy electrics (although 15k should be ok)! I also don't think you'll be able to save much, particularly if you only end up staying one year. Set-up costs are massive. I suspect that the majority of people are in debt in Doha at the one year point unless they've been very careful with money. Certainly it seems very common to have big credit card debts. I've just moved to the UAE and estimate moving cost us around GBP10k if not more.

If you do not get the 25k housing in your pocket regardless of what your actual rent is you will really struggle.

You need to assume you'll need a car - if your DH will be mainly working for a government entity he will be starting around 7/7.30 which is about the same time schools start - you're unlikely to be able to manage the school run and get him to work on time. That said, he could drive the rubbish hire car and you could have a better one. I haven't parallel parked since my driving test and it was never a problem in Qatar. There is very little parallel parking. There is no way I would allow my children to be driven regularly in a cheap sedan in Doha - you are treated much worse on the roads and it is much less safe. I have rented sedans and I have driven SUVs and the difference in the amount of people cutting in front of me when there's no space is massive. You can probably rent a cheap sedan for about QAR 1.5-2k a month (we managed 1k once but not sure how!).

Can't comment on costs of secondhand SUVs but prices were dropping off a cliff. It can be hard to get a car loan for a private purchase though. Hire for a SUV will be 3k+.

50k is a decent school allowance but you would need to top up at some schools. I'm not sure which schools will have availability - last year it was really difficult to get a decent school place but I think things are a bit better this year. I would investigate school options now so you can have an idea whether you will need to top up fees. For example, ACS charges 59k for that age group (but that is one of the more expensive schools). Most should come in just about under for the reception year but you might find yourself needing to top up next year. If you stay two years, you will find you're having to subsidise your DS's fees for a year - otherwise you run a real risk he won't get a place in the same school as your DD for reception.

I wouldn't say that the fact that schooling is private will make it a better school than your state at home, but that of course depends on how happy you are with your state school at home. The good schools tend to be full but that may have improved over the last year.

Does the tax only apply to the 32k? Will they be making NI contributions for you? There will need to be a set amount written into his local contract that must be paid into a Qatari bank account every month. Are they saying they will then pay the rest into the UK and that will vary each month? That's a risk (although the pound is unlikely to go much lower against the dollar than it is now).

You need to get a new phone contract. Mobiles and internet are a godo bit more than the UK and you have to buy the phones separately. Probably looking about QAR 1,000 a month for two phones and fairly basic internet.

You can wear a scoop neck and your knee length dresses with leggings. General rule is shoulders and knees covered. I would never wear a bikini on a Doha public beach but plenty do and they're certainly welcome on hotel beaches.

InTheDessert Mon 05-Sep-16 13:28:31

Adds cornflakes onto the list to ship over the boarder. Much more expensive here than in Doha!!
On that note, since you've got some more local knowledge, I'll duck out. Good luck on your adventure.

zikreetdreaming Mon 05-Sep-16 13:36:54

Really InTheDessert? Kellogs cornflakes are on my cheap breakfast cereal list. They're never over QAR 20! Weird how prices change.

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Mon 05-Sep-16 14:18:54

Thank you again!

I will ask DH to check about the housing allowance being paid directly to us or not. I forgot to mention that we also get either a 40 foot shipping container paid for to ship our stuff out, or £3000 to buy household things with, and it will be a furnished apartment, so we're thinking we'll go with the £3000. They will also pay for maximum baggage allowance as well as the flights when we originally fly out.

DH has been told it's a 6.30 start!

Dusty, badly maintained and dodgy electrics - sounds like my current house! although the dust here is because of our slatternly ways rather than sand

Summer holidays - will stay with various relatives but particularly my grandparents, who rattle around in a 5 bedroom house that Grandpa refuses to move out of. I will need to hire a car, and have spending/food money, but won't have to pay for accommodation.

What other start-up costs are there? The info about mobile phones/car hire is very useful, thank you!

InTheDessert Mon 05-Sep-16 15:51:48

On offer you might get them for 25SAR. All cereal is expensive. Toast and eggs most mornings here. Strange how such a small difference affects costs!! Maybe just less Brits here, so less demand???

The expensive bits about moving out here. Buying a car, getting licence switched over, uniform and books and lunch bags etc for school, getting a baseline cooking cupboard (herbs, spices, sugar flour etc etc etc), discovering you don't have any wooden spoons, so go to IKEA, and spend a fortune. And then have to go back the following week for spoons!! Translating and notorising documentation. Deposits on things that in subsequent years just roll over. For us, getting multi exit visas and resident cards. Not sure that's relevant. We hemmoraged cash for the first 6 months. 12 months in we had a slight cash flow issue (12 months rent and 2 sets of school fees due within 10 days of each other, but resolved by getting rental allowance through on basis of invoice rather than receipt), but generally not bad.

habibihabibi Mon 05-Sep-16 16:53:04

This happened to me last year on a trip to the desert . A few months later a swerving lorry swiped me whilst I was stationary and took the actual door off my car , the whole door , off a car that is bigger than my London living room .My kids were in the car.
Imagine if I had been in a mini .
I would drive a tank if they sold them here .
The driving is fucking terrifying and I am five years in and lived in the region for 10.
It isn't quite as crazy as Saudi but each and everyday the school run is like an demolition derby for me .

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Mon 05-Sep-16 18:35:32

Oh goodness, Habibi! That looks terrifying! Okay, I am now even scareder of driving out there...

MamaDuckling Mon 05-Sep-16 22:09:15

I personally don't think the driving is that bad. Sure, you need eyes everywhere but people don't actually drive fast/aggressive, it's more erratic....

25K is a great housing budget. We pay 20K for a well maintained mansion on a lovely compound.... We rented a large SUV for three months while we saved to buy one second hand. I drop DH at work and he gets a cab home. That's cheaper than running two cars. DS is in nursery every day, cheaper than London. He loves it.

For us it's been a fab move. Excellent salary package but 7 months in we are only just starting to save. Yes, the set up cost was huge. The houses are big.... We can't stop spending money in ikea..... But it's a good life for now, especially while DC are young.

I dress pretty conservatively. Trousers/midi skirts and 3/4 sleeve tops. Plenty of people flout the rules but I don't want to be one of them!

FeelingOutnumbered Mon 05-Sep-16 22:12:47

You could always use a driver when you need to go somewhere if you aren't confident about driving. I know quite a few people who aren't brave enough to drive who do this and while you're learning your way around it can be a good way of learning how the roads work. You will find people will give you numbers of drivers they recommend. Also, it is not uncommon for young children, even reception children, to go to school on the school bus - they are supervised and looked after by an adult but it can be a very early start for them if you live far from the school.

Laptopwieldingharpy Tue 06-Sep-16 00:56:43

Looks like you really have thought things through and secured the basics + most importantly in a great frame of mind to make it work! You may not save up much but if it is a step up careerwise, well worth it while the kids are very young.
Good point about keeping setting up costs in check, they do add up.
Ship in a few basics like good shoes and kids clothes ( basic cotton shorts and Ts + swimwear/ sunblock/ UV swim tops ) & underwear for yourself. If you are allowed to bring in dry foods, also worth buying a basic pantry of your favourites ( tea, marmite, jaffa cakes,etc....) a starter box so you dont have to spend a small fortune on your first shop.
Then try and adopt local ways as much as you can with local produce And cooking from scratch.

zikreetdreaming Tue 06-Sep-16 06:31:10

Cooking from scratch doesn't save money in Doha (unless you eat a lot of lentils and curry, which is how we survived my maternity leave!). Laptop what do you mean by adopting local ways with local produce? There is pretty much no local produce in Doha. The way to eat cheaply is to each cheap burgers and chicken nuggets (as well as vegetarian Indian food). Food labelling is poor meaning it's hard to eat cheaply if you want to know what's in the produce. Lamb can actually be very cheap if you can find anywhere selling at the price controlled price (but it's getting harder to find!).

It's hard to explain what costs the money when moving but everyone haemorrhages money. I am as tight as a rats arse, setting up a place from scratch just costs because you need everything! Even if your place is furnished (which would be fairly common) you will need to buy a lot on top - from the bathroom bin to bedding to mops to every tiny thing for the kitchen. You don't have time to shop around because you have nothing so need the flipping iron and ironing board that day rather than when you've had a chance to look through ten supermarkets. Furnished usually means bare minimum of (horrific) furniture. Your GBP 3k should be enough to cover this but I wouldn't be expecting a lot to spare. FYI a 40ft container would cost a lot more, it might be worth considering shipping. What are you going to do with all your stuff at home?

School application fees are generally around QAR 500 a time and I'd work on having to make at least four or five. If you don't get a place at the school you want initially you may be looking to move schools when a place comes up at your preferred school, which will mean double buying school uniform (probably around QAR750 for each school) and possibly doubling up on schools fees for a term. Most employers won't be willing to pay twice for the same school term.

Water and electricity deposit is QAR 2,000. Alcohol licence is QAR 1,000. Standard phone and internet package would come to around QAR 1,500 a month. Car hire initially between 2,000 and 5.000 a month (for one car, depending on whether you want sedan or a SUV). Then there's all the attestation of documents, taxi journeys etc.

MamaDuckling - it is a great housing allowance but the issue is the basic is going to work out at around QAR 13k (or less). It's workable provided the DH gets paid the housing allowance in cash.

OP if you're not adverse to an apartment, you could try and live in the West Bay area which is probably near where your husband works. It's one of the more expensive parts of town (you'll probably need 18k for a decent three bed flat) but he could probably walk to work most of the year. Depends how well he deals with the heat! Issue is there are only two good schools in that area (Doha College West Bay (which I can't believe will have space, regardless of the state of the economy!) and SEK). Other schools would be a longer trek for the kids and Doha traffic is bad. Worth a look though.

zikreetdreaming Tue 06-Sep-16 06:38:34

InTheDesert - the only cereal I pay that much for is imported low sugar/salt American stuff. I'm sure my Kellogg's cornflakes have Arabic on them so will be GCC produced, I'll check on my next shop. Now washing powder and dishwasher tables,they're stupidly expensive!

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