Qatari Auto Sales: A Firsthand Account

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Qatari Auto Sales: A Firsthand Account

Jack Skinner, Writer/Multimedia

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Have you ever wondered what it is like living overseas? Or even performing a seemingly straightforward task, such as purchasing a motor vehicle in a foreign country? My cousin Andrew found himself in this situation while working at the Brookings Doha Center in Doha, Qatar.


Living in Qatar, my cousin had previously had a driver named Shajir who picked him up and drove him to work early in the morning under the sun’s 94°F temperature. However, Andrew wished to purchase a car in order to get a return on his money when he leaves Doha in two years. Instead of paying his driver every day and eventually spending enough to purchase a car, he could buy a car and sell it when when he leaves. The car would allow him to have a greater freedom when traveling around and not be dependent on an expensive car service.


Andrew talked to a bunch of his Arab friends about which vehicle to purchase. The most common car in Doha is made by Nissan, but my cousin decided to pursue a different path. He wanted to buy a Jeep Wrangler. It would allow him to offroad in his spare time and its industrial air conditioning system would keep him cool when traveling in the intense heat, which can rise to 120°F. In order to find a car, he visited several websites and viewed their listings. From one website he spotted a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Sport available for 63,000 Qatari Rials ($17,307 USD). Andrew met with the owner, a man named Yaseen from Jordan, who was selling his vehicle to put a downpayment on the purchase of his retirement home.


After agreeing on a price, Andrew had to find a loan. He went to the only bank in his area, the Qatar National Bank. Upon arrival, he met with a man who looked through all his paperwork. His paperwork included a letter from the Brookings Doha Center stating his earnings and time of employment, proof of residence, and citizenship papers. The first man who looked over his files said that he would need to review the paperwork and call him back. After several weeks without receiving a call, Andrew returned to QNB. This time, the banker looked him up in the computer system. His company was not in the system, leading the banker to tell my cousin to leave. Before returning for a third time, Andrew spoke to one of his superiors at work and was given the name of the man who kept track of his company’s finances at the bank. This man reviewed all the paperwork and gave it his approval. Just before the paperwork was going to be faxed to his superiors, the banker noticed that the paperwork had been filled out in black ink. This was against normal custom in Qatar, where the original paperwork is to be filled out with blue ink so that it is easy to determine if the document is the original or a photocopy. Andrew filled out all the papers again in blue and was approved for the loan.


A few days later, he was given the money in a large envelope. Then Andrew and Yaseen went to a dealership on the highway and had the car inspected by a young Palestinian man. With the inspection came a list of parts needing replacement. Yaseen and my cousin negotiated the price based on the list of faulty parts. After that, the envelope with the Qatari Rials was exchanged for the ownership title. Andrew had now purchased his first car abroad!


Next, Andrew had to pass the Qatari driver’s test. In Qatar, there are different tests for people from different countries. He talked his way into taking the version of the test that locals would take. He took the test with other Americans who were stationed in Qatar. The biggest difference between driving in Qatar and in the US, my cousin told me, is how drivers are to approach driving around a circle. In Qatar, there are many more roundabouts and the inside lane is for those not yet exiting. When they wish to exit, they have the right-of-way and cut off the people on the outside.


Life in Qatar is nothing like living in the USA. Even the simplest tasks that people in the US take for granted are not nearly as easy to accomplish in some countries, like Qatar. My cousin Andrew is finding out firsthand, embracing the change and difference in culture. While everything is not nearly as streamlined in Qatar, life moves on; people adapt to the times as the situation changes.

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