A tongue-in-cheek social media campaign has been launched by the British Embassy in Doha, with a serious underlying message warning expat Brits not to get too carried away with their holiday celebrations.
Using the theme of the traditional song The Twelve Days of Christmas, the embassy has been posting daily tweets and Facebook messages advising the 20,000 British expats in Qatar to make sure that their fun remains within the law. Otherwise, they caution, individuals run the risk of arrest or a hefty fine.
The messages, which started a few days behind schedule on Dec. 4, echo a similar campaign launched last year by the British missions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi warning residents in the UAE to remain on good behavior.
The Doha-based embassy’s messages have been received with bemusement and confusion by some. Others have mocked the simplistic nature of the campaign.
However, the aim of the campaign is to help revelers from falling foul of Qatar’s laws and facing the potentially serious consequences.
Over the Christmas period last year, the Embassy’s consular section was called in to help out 15 nationals who had got into trouble, a spokeswoman told Doha News.
This makes up a significant portion of the total number of 25 arrests and 11 hospitalizations of Britons in Qatar between December 1 2013 and December 1 2014.
Perhaps following stereotypes of Brits abroad, many of whom traditionally like to indulge in festive cheer, the theme of the first four messages has been alcohol-related and connects with to the Drinkaware campaign which advises safe alcohol consumption and is prominent in the UK at this time of year.
The wise words of advice include reminders of Qatar’s zero-tolerance for drinking and driving, that the legal age of drinking alcohol is 21 years old and that residents need a liquor permit from Qatar Distribution Co. in order to legally buy alcohol outside of licensed restaurants and bars.
— UK in Qatar ???? (@ukinqatar) December 4, 2014
— UK in Qatar ???? (@ukinqatar) December 5, 2014
— UK in Qatar ???? (@ukinqatar) December 6, 2014
— UK in Qatar ???? (@ukinqatar) December 7, 2014
The Embassy has also distributed Christmas postcards at some social events around town, which are more serious in tone and carry a number of safety messages, including to never travel alone after dark, not leave drinks unattended and maintaining good behavior when in public.
“Respecting the customs of our host country” is reflected in the tone of the fifth day of Christmas tweet, posted yesterday, which effectively tells expats to leave the skimpy, black party dress in the back of the closet:
— UK in Qatar ???? (@ukinqatar) December 8, 2014
The public modesty push echoes the dress campaign Reflect your Respect that regained momentum ahead of Ramadan this year.
A British Embassy spokeswoman told Doha News:
“We are glad our 12 days of Christmas tweets have sparked a debate amongst Doha’s Twitter community. Whether you love them or hate them, we hope that they make people stop and think about the best way to enjoy a safe and happy festive season.
Christmas is a special time for many of us in Doha but it can be a time when people become carried away with the festivities and forget that the culture and laws in Qatar are different to that of the UK.”
According to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office report British Behavior Abroad 2014, Qatar’s Gulf neighbor the UAE is among the top 20 countries in the world where Brits are most likely to require consular assistance.
Between April 2013 and March 2014, the British missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai had to step in to assist in 499 cases, up from 436 the previous year.
There were 261 arrests of British nationals, 75 deaths and 54 cases where Brits were hospitalized over the year.
However, with a British population of around 100,000 residents and 625,000 visitors, the Emirate’s expat community is significantly larger than in Qatar. Qatar does not feature in the report.