The traffic in downtown Doha is so exuberantly wild it reportedly puts to shame even the freewheeling motorists of Paris and the notoriously flaky drivers of Milan. We’re assured it is not for the fainthearted.
But if the driving culture is so unrestrained that one recent guide advised would-be ex-pat motorists to “take defensive driving lessons” – or, better yet, perhaps, a taxi – the pace of normal civilian life is rather more sedate.
Doha, after all, is not only Qatar’s seat of government but also hosts Education City, a planned zone devoted to research and learning.
For many people the pressure of work may be demanding, but as compensation the standard of living is somewhere between “comfortable” and “very well off”.
By sharp contrast with the downtown motor-driven anarchy, business in Qatar proceeds at an ordered and thoroughly-controlled pace. Useful employers prosper, and in turn can offer a very high standard of living to professionals able to supply valuable skills.
The dynamism in every area of the economy is insistently vibrant, and the floods of ex-pats arriving daily are clearly an integral part of the whole, highly profitable system.
They keep the engines of trade running smoothly and efficiently, helping planners to make the most of heavy investment in cutting-edge infrastructure.
For ex-pats trying to decide how best to gain a footing in this lucrative work market, personal loans are an option - and can be a tenable way of getting established if thoroughly backed by guaranteed employment.
But inevitably there’s a catch for anyone attracted by the obvious advantages of luxury living and high wages. Families aiming to move to Qatar can face a struggle, because in the first place (dependent upon salary), your spouse (and children, if any) may not be able to join you right away – and in some scenarios couples face a lengthy wait.
Then there’s the sponsorship system, which basically means that every ex-pat is “sponsored” by an employer who in effect decides if and when they can leave the country – really just as if they were “parents” of the visiting worker.
Meanwhile wives may only be granted rights for brief visits while a separation period expires, leading to wives organising short-hop flights to Qatar from neighbouring countries.
The other main drawback is that schools are filled to capacity, and it can be notoriously difficult to secure places at relatively short notice.
If recent reports are accurate families have to plan at least as thoroughly as they would if trying to gain a place in an in-demand Scottish school.
Large and lavish properties may be enjoyed by some highly-paid ex-pat professionals, meanwhile, but carry prices to match. “Sensible” workers – planning to leave one day with a healthy surplus – will analyse all the options before committing a sizeable slice of their income to accommodation.
There are the usual cultural realignments to take on board too, of course, but few would find these in the least onerous – for example there is literally no difference between the Qatari attitude to the need for reasonably modest dress and the same attitude you would find in Greece.
It’s different with alcohol, naturally, which is nevertheless widely and freely available but in a sort of “western zone” milieu permitted mainly to accommodate ex-pats and international business traders.
Curiously, at least to westerners, while alcohol use is constrained (for example you cannot legally spend more than ten per cent of income on alcohol), pork was only reportedly allowed to go legally on sale a year ago.
However the overwhelming impression of Qatar is a thoroughly stable society where western commerce can live fairly comfortably with traditional culture – and, for ex-pats, getting access to the place on acceptable terms is the real challenge.
Whereas with some Arab countries acquiring a job is more than half the battle, with Qatar it’s a case of devising a watertight plan that will take into account employment terms (for example is a free flight home included in the package?), along with the intricacies of residency permission, schooling, personal finance and accommodation.
That may seem a formidable obstacle to any normal young family, but plenty of ambitious UK couples negotiate these hurdles with patient, detailed organisation.
The daily streams of new foreign professionals arriving at the airport seem to prove that for many people the potential rewards are more than worth that major initial effort.