World Cup a boon for Vietnamese in Qatar

By Ngoc Anh   December 1, 2022 | 03:23 pm PT
World Cup a boon for Vietnamese in Qatar
Fans gather at the fan zone in Doha to watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup football match between Spain and Germany on November 27, 2022. Photo by AFP
The goose hangs high for Vietnamese living in Qatar as the World Cup provides money-making opportunities, discounted prices and fewer working hours.

Nga has gone from a housewife in Qatar to a busy tour guide since the World Cup started November 20.

She now works 15 hours a day, and although she finds the job tiring, she's satisfied as it's added adventure to her otherwise "boring" daily routine.

And she's earning extra income for her family in an opportunity she says has changed her life.

"Many football fans and tourists are coming to Qatar, so free training classes were opened for locals who want to become tour guides," Nga said.

She says the job comes easy to her but is physically demanding.

"Sometimes I pick up a tourist group at midnight, return home at 3:30 a.m., and then at 8:30 a.m. I work until midnight again," said Nga.

"There were days when I only sleep two hours," she continued. "But I still don't find the job too challenging."

Nga is one of many migrant workers in Qatar who are earning more money during the World Cup.

An, who also lives in Qatar, found a new job at a Vietnamese restaurant right before the World Cup started. He said the restaurant now regularly turns down customers because it's too crowded.

An estimated 1.2-1.5 million tourists are visiting Qatar to watch this World Cup. That’s half of Qatar's population.

And the biggest sporting event on the planet required Qatar to hire more than 30,000 migrant workers from around the world -- including hundreds of Vietnamese -- to build several massive 5-star stadiums.

Vietnamese workers in Qatar are generally paid around from 1,800-2,800 Qatari riyals ($494-769) a month. Managers and department directors can earn 4,000 Qatari riyals a month or more.

Despite not having an opportunity to earn extra income like Nga or An, many other Vietnamese in Qatar are still happy enjoying other benefits that only exist during the World Cup.

An's husband, an office worker, had his working hours reduced without a drop in his salary. Instead of working eight hours as usual, he only needs to work four hours in the morning, and his afternoons are free to watch the World Cup.

"The government reduced working hours for employees in state-owned departments to limit the amount of people pouring into the streets during peak hours," said An.

"They are concerned that if employees work normal hours, they’ll get stuck in traffic because many football matches start at 4 p.m. During the World Cup, they only have to work until 11 a.m. for the same amount of pay," he added.

Privileged prices

According to U.S. business magazine Forbes, other fans have to spend from $70 to 220 to buy a ticket for a group stage game. In the knockout rounds, ticket prices can range from $600 to 1,600. Many people had to spend months and even years saving for tickets and hotel rooms in Qatar.

But a Vietnamese resident named Long told an entirely different story: Vietnamese living in Qatar can also buy tickets to World Cup matches for only a quarter of the usual price as other Qataris.

"I took a month off to take my wife and children to watch the games," he said.

Thanks to their official Qatar residency permits, four members of Long's family bought 10 World Cup match tickets for less than VND100 million ($4,000) in total. That’s less than half his monthly salary.

Many Vietnamese say the streets of Qatar have never been as bustling as now.

"Everywhere on the street, you can see tourists and fans with painted faces, wearing their national team jerseys and celebrating," said An. "It's too much fun!"

For An’s compatriot Quan, this is the most comfortable he’s been in his 10 years living and working in this Muslim country.

"Qatar has never sold liquor and alcoholic beverages before, but now they are doing it for World Cup," he said joyously. "They opened up 10 fan zones (where people can drink)!"

Nga echoed the sentiment of many people from her country: "I’m very lucky to have an opportunity to work during this World Cup as a tour guide and feel blessed to live in Qatar."

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