Over the past few weeks now I have been inundated with emails and inbox messages enquiring about residing in the Kingdom in terms of pros and cons. Most of the messages are from females who have acquired opportunities to work in Saudi Arabia. Some of the concerns raised included:
- Women being unable to drive in the Kingdom
- The extreme weather conditions
- Kids education
- Arabs are mean and will treat you like slaves
- Do you get Indian spices
I did not have the time to respond to each and every email and inbox message and so I decided to do a post on the above concerns raised. This is my advice to anyone deciding to make a home abroad outside South Africa.
1. Firstly if you contemplating taking up a job opportunity in the Kingdom, please do not read about other people’s experiences especially experiences from western expats who have no idea about Arab or Islamic culture. Most Saudi blogs written by western expats are negative and portray Arabs and the Kingdom in general in a bad light.
2. Do not listen to extended family member comments. – When I broke the news to my extended family on Eid day years ago I was bombarded with all sort of comments. Whilst my immediate family were over the moon and supportive of my decision my extended family were sceptical about my journey to the magical Kingdom. Here are some of the comments that were thrown at me. “How can you be so silly to leave a good job behind only to become a slave to the Arabs?”
“Arabs are bad people. You will run away from Saudi within a month after arrival” I resided in the Kingdom for 5 years . Listen to your heart and follow you dreams. Everyone has their own experiences and you need to make your own journey and experience a memorable one. In every country you get the good, the bad and the ugly. Do not generalise and paint everyone with the same paint brush.
3. As an expat you need to forget your South African ways and habits and get in touch with the local culture and people. After all when you in Rome do as the Romans do.
4. Make an effort to learn Arabic. There are many private tutors and schools in the Kingdom that teach Arabic to expats. As soon as you speak the local lingo you start breaking the ice, you start breaking cultural barriers and you will find the locals responding towards you in a more positive light. (http://www.expatriates.com/classifieds/riy/)
5. Don’t isolate yourself and mix only with the expat community. Become friends with the locals. Most Saudis are very hospitable. They are eager to share their culture and their traditions with expats.
6. In the Kingdom, women are not allowed to drive which was actually a blessing in disguise for me. I enjoyed the luxury of being chauffeur driven. After all the queen of England doesn’t drive around by herself, does she.
7. We reside in a global community where all types of products are available everywhere. In Saudi Indian groceries and vegetables are readily available considering that the country is home to a large Indian expat community. Food and spices should be your least of worries.
8. Education in the Kingdom is expensive. This needs to be discussed with your sponsor at the time of signing your job contract. Most companies will pay for the education of two kids only.
9. Most hospitals have a social club. It is highly recommended that you join the social club to be in touch with the latest fun happenings within the hospital. Activities include sporting events, weekend camping trips and touring the Gulf region in the company of knowledgeable tour guides.
10. On the subject of weather, yes in peak summer which is around June July, the temperature can soar to as high as 55 degrees. Do not despair, there are air conditioning systems in place wherever you go.
11. Last but not least, embrace local culture, cuisine and traditions. Respect and abide to the laws of the country. Remember that it is not your country and you are simply a guest in the country. Do not bitch and moan about rules, laws and regulations. Most western expats do this and it is just totally disrespectful and uncalled for.
And in the words of Mark Twain, ““Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”