With all the attractions of living in the Middle East, you would have thought most expats would have a crammed social diary – but it seems the most popular past time is surfing the web.
Around a third of expats browse online for at least five hours or more every day, that’s a large part of their free time they say.
Only 5% said they never surfed the net daily, while 22% said they would go online to relax for just an hour.
The next most popular pastime is eating out, with a third of expats going to a restaurant every day, while three quarters regularly dine out.
Spending time with the family also rated highly by 39% of expats.
Shopping is unpopular
The survey, Rest and Recreation Habits among Middle East and North Africa Professionals, was carried out by job site Bayt.com.
The firm’s Suhail Masri said: “Our survey shows that people are quite conservative in how they are spending their money on pastimes with many opting for low cost activities.
“The high proportion of those who choose to spend time with family and friends reflects Middle Eastern values and culture and the large amount of time people spend on the internet is a sign of the digital age we live in.”
At the opposite end of the survey, the least popular hobbies are shopping, with just 0.2% listing visiting the malls as a favourite pastime, followed by spending time outdoors (2.2%) and watching television (3.8%).
Expats also revealed they enjoy spending time with friends, reading and playing sports with 42% of them saying they don’t spend more than 10% of their income of hobbies.
Lack of culture
However, 37% said they spent between 11% and 30% on leisure and recreation.
Of those who enjoyed sports, 53% of expats are gym members and just over half (52%) go outdoors every day.
Among the more surprising findings is that 43% of expats have never visited a cinema in the Middle East, though 16% said they visited a cinema every week.
When asked about visiting concerts, art exhibitions or cultural events, expats showed less enthusiasm with 25% saying they had never attended such occasions and another 22% said they attended once or twice a year. Just 21% said they attended cultural events ‘frequently’.
Perhaps the most common pastime is watching TV with 78% of expats viewing up to four hours of television a day with English programmes the most popular, though 32% of expats expressed a preference for enjoying Arabic shows.
For 8% of expats, TV plays a large part in their life and they claim to watch five hours or more every day.