6 ways to survive Christmas in Qatar

When I look back over the past year, I really struggle to think where the time has gone. How have I have been an expat in Qatar for so long?! How has Christmas has rolled around again so quickly?! It feels like only yesterday that we were running from air conditioned space to air conditioned space to escape the glaring heat of the summer desert sun.

As December has descended, all of us Northern European/American expats have started the annual moan about how it’s still far too warm for this time of year, about how we miss the snow and we can’t find a mince pie or home wine mulling kit to save our lives. Yes, when you live in a country that does not celebrate Christmas, the festive season is notable by its absence in most places. However, much like last year, Rich and I are still managing to have a lot of fun.

Having resigned ourselves to the fact that we will definitely be staying in the desert for this year rather than heading home for a veritable feast of British Christmas goodness with friends and family back home like the last, we’ve decided to make the very best of our situation. If we’re not going to Christmas, we are bloody well bringing Christmas to us.

And this is how we’re doing it:

1. By rinsing the Christmas shopping opportunities

This means heading to the one aisle in the one store that has made a bit of an effort to be festive to stock up on tacky Christmas memorabilia.

(Carrefour in case any of you Doha newbies are wondering!)

We’ve also started looking round for inspiration for each others’ stockings. Rich loves a good Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles piece of tat, so his is going to be pretty easy to fill.

2. By putting our decorations up as early as we possibly could

And by that, I mean yesterday, 1st December. It just felt a bit wrong to do it any earlier!

Is there anything else that makes you feel as homely as a glowing Christmas tree in the dark?

We took a few snaps for the annual Christmas card (joking, obvs…)

And then set about sorting out the rest of our decorations.

Christmas has now officially arrived in my household.

3. By recreating some traditions from home

For me, this means heading to theatre for a special Christmas show, so we took advantage of The Sound of Music coming to town and got dressed up for an evening at the theatre on Saturday.

The whole production was beautifully put together, with some very talented cast members (the youngest children in particular), so I was really sad to see so many empty seats in the audience!

We also snuggled in with a festive film last night to get us in the mood (complete with a Thornton’s chocolate bear for company). Arthur Christmas is heart warming and hilarious. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch – I guarantee it will make you laugh and cry all at once!

4. By getting involved in anything Christmassy that’s on offer

There are Christmas events happening all over Qatar – you’ve just got to seek them out. After a little research (thank you TimeOut Doha!), we have come up with an itinerary that involves a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Christmas-themed afternoon tea, Christmas carols, a special 4-course Christmas Eve meal…and more. Yes, I know this all sounds a bit like organised fun, but we haven’t got much to work with over here folks, and it’s important to book things early!

5. By spending some quality time with our adopted Doha family

When you don’t have close family around to share in your festivities, it’s imperative that you look to your expat family to bring the cheer. A friend of ours is putting on a Christmas quiz for a few of us next week and after our own Christmas dinner on the day itself, we will be joining friends for some festive drinks. I know that having some of these special people around us will soften the blow of spending Christmas apart from our loved ones.

6. By embracing a ‘different kind of Christmas’

There is absolutely no point in trying to replicate every little thing from the Christmases we are used to back home. If anything, that would just make us pine all the more for what we can’t have! When else in our lives are we going to be able to go for a balmy walk along the beach on Christmas morning? Or sit on our balcony to play the obligatory board game, rather than snuggling inside by the fire? When else would we head down to a five star hotel for drinks to celebrate Christmas day coming to a close, or even for breakfast to celebrate it starting?! We are going to have to accept that this Christmas is going to be different from any other we’ll ever have again – and I have a feeling we might quite enjoy it.

I’m really looking forward to posting about what we’ve got up to in the coming weeks as we build up to The Big Day! Are any of you spending Christmas away from home? What are you doing to help keep the Christmas spirit alive?

I am posting this as part of this month’s travel link-up. Head over to Emma, Kelly, Rebecca or guest host Sam’s blog to find out more – and post your own Christmas-themed post in the first week of December.


  1. December 2, 2014 / 9:31 pm

    Such a brilliant post especially for new expats arriving in Qatar! Love the Sound of Music – what a great festive treat and your tree looks fabulous – enjoy having Christmas in the sunshine this year (I'm craving a warm christmas). Have a Merry Christmas and thanks for joining this months travel link up xx

    • December 3, 2014 / 3:13 pm

      Thank you so much Kelly! Really enjoyed my first travel link-up – the platform you girls have set up is great. I've really enjoyed reading through all your posts and particularly your thoughts on a northern hemisphere v. southern henisphere Christmas (I'm still not sold on the warm Xmas thing I'm afraid!). Looking forward to seeing what's in store next month. Polly xx

  2. December 3, 2014 / 11:31 am

    You made a really good point about not being able to replicate Christmases from home exactly, because you'll just be disappointed that they aren't quite the same! We're spending our first Christmas in China this year and we're thinking of heading to the beach on Christmas Day just for the fun of it!

    • December 3, 2014 / 3:02 pm

      Brilliant idea, you should definitely embrace it! Do they celebrate Christmas in a big way in China? I hope you have a wonderful, different Christmas! Polly xx

  3. December 3, 2014 / 2:02 pm

    Aww such a lovely idea! It's all the little things that add up to get you in the Christmas spirit so all of these should work really well. I love your pom pom jumper by the way πŸ™‚ x

    • December 3, 2014 / 3:11 pm

      Thanks Polly. Great name by the way πŸ™‚ Hope you have some fun festive plans to look forward to! The jumper was in my stocking last year – New Look I think. Not sure if they still have them in stock. Polly xx

  4. December 3, 2014 / 5:44 pm

    I really loved this list and hearing about how you are celebrating Christmas in such a different place, so far from home. My hubby and I live in Hawaii, a long way from my home of New York, so I am going to be taking your advice. One of my favorite Christmas traditions has always been to cut down a Christmas tree from a farm and we were able to find a Christmas tree farm here! But like you, instead of pining for a "New York Christmas," we decided to all that Hawaii has to offer. We are only going to be here for a little while, so we are making the most of it!

    • December 3, 2014 / 6:41 pm

      Wow, Hawaii would be amazing for Christmas, want to swap?! Great that you're embracing everything that's on offer and making the most of it. I am shocked that you managed to find a Christmas tree farm – I definitely don't associate Hawaii with evergreens! Great find! Have a lovely Christmas by the sea πŸ™‚ x

  5. December 3, 2014 / 9:39 pm

    It must be hard – but it sounds like you've found fantastic ways to celebrate Christmas. It's definitely one of the expat challenges that's for sure! Have a wonderful, wonderful Christmas!

    • December 4, 2014 / 12:22 pm

      Thanks Emma, you too! I take it you will be staying in London for Christmas rather than heading back to New Zealand? If so, hope you get a chance to go skating at one of the brilliant ice rinks such as Somerset House or The Natural History Museum – that's pretty much my favourite thing to do in London in December. Polly xx

  6. December 4, 2014 / 12:33 pm

    Just discovered your blog after you commented on one of my posts, and I'm in love…and now following πŸ™‚ So many lovely posts; I'm also an ex-pat based on the Swiss/French border so I can totally relate to your posts, even though I'm a bit closer to home πŸ™‚ Love this post…looks like you will have an amazing Christmas, even if you can't be back in the UK! Danielle x

    frontière girl

    • December 4, 2014 / 12:48 pm

      Well you know how to make a girl's day! Thank you so much! I've been reading your blog for a while now (The Reverse Bucket List is one of my fave posts ever!), and it's always nice when someone you follow follows you back! How long have you been an expat for? Swiss/French border sounds lovely – I'm imagining beautiful mountains and skiing a-plenty?! I have a little update on my Xmas situation actually…will have to write another post on it πŸ˜‰ Polly

  7. December 4, 2014 / 1:10 pm

    I love that you are doing things to keep the spirit alive. I agree with what you said about looking to your expat fam to bring the cheer! I am spending Christmas Day with my little expat fam and I can't wait πŸ™‚

    • December 4, 2014 / 4:29 pm

      Where's expat home for you, Sammy? I hope you have an amazing day with your second family! Polly xx

  8. December 4, 2014 / 8:19 pm

    Love your Christmas jumper! Also loving all the things you are doing to create your Christmas in Qatar. Enjoy every moment of it x

    • December 5, 2014 / 7:05 am

      Thanks Sara! I'm currently living in this jumper as its started to get quite cold at night over here, and it's soo snuggly! Hope you have a fabulous Christmas too. Polly xx

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