The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. It occupies an area about the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River. Saudi Arabia’s population is 27 million, including 8.4 million foreign residents (2010 census), and its capital city is Riyadh.
Not speaking Arabic in Saudi Arabia is not the end of the world as many in the population are able to communicate in basic English, and some are more advanced.
Saudi The Magical Kingdom
As western expats your schedule can be very busy with places to visit in Riyadh and other cities. The mountains of Abha and Namas are a hiking and camping destination for many expats and Saudis. Jeddah’s private beaches are a huge attraction for western expats. The Red Sea is a scuba divers dream come true. Along with snorkeling and jet skiing, Jeddah offers it’s old city market as another attraction for local tourist.
Madain Saleh, the city of homes carved into mountains, is an amazing site dating before the times of Moses walked the earth. Also, the surrounding gulf countries are often a weekend destination for a quick change of scenery and culture.
Moving to a new country can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what you are getting into. Saudi Arabia is the home of several million expats from around the world, and a lot of them are from western countries. The major cities have become a melting pot of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. The following information can be very useful for people moving to Saudi Arabia for the very first time.
Depending on the terms of your contract you will either be provided with suitable private housing or a housing allowance will be provided. If you receive housing allowance, you will first be provided with temporary housing for one month and after that you will have a better idea on where to stay on your own.
It is a well-known fact that only males are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. For our female staff we provide them with transportation to work and back and take them on basic shopping trips and emergency trips to the doctor. As for our male staff many of them rent, lease or purchase a car. Getting a driver’s license is a simple process so long as you have a valid driver’s license from your country. Renting a car can range from $480 monthly to $700 for a small to medium size car.
. Health Care
Your health insurance covers you in the major hospitals of the Kingdom. Hospitals are very advanced in the Kingdom and the insurance covers dental and vision also. Many of our staff members have had positive experiences with Saudi hospitals and the trusted them with welcoming new family members, having orthopedic surgeries, and other medical services.
The cost of living is relatively cheap in comparison to the western world and many of the other Gulf countries. Shopping for groceries can cost an average of $800 per month for a family of four. There are also stores that carry imported groceries from the US, Canada and Europe that can cost a little more, but makes you feel right at home because you won’t miss out on your favorite cereal brand.
Now shopping for clothing can vary greatly in price. Some of the brand name stores such as GAP or H&M can be even more expensive than in the US or Europe. However there are other stores with cheaper prices.
. General Dress Code
Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries in the Middle East. By law women are supposed to wear and Abaya outdoors. They don’t have to cover their hair with a head scarf, but it could be advisable in some areas.
Men are allowed to wear shorts so long that they are down to the knees.
In business or at the workplace one should always dress to impress. The society in the Kingdom places a lot of weight on the general appearance when dealing with others.
. Things to Do
The Kingdom’s varying landscape and varying temperature from one region to another gives one many destination choices for weekend trips and outings.
The Sarawat Mountains in the Asir region are a great destination if you miss the greenery and enjoy the hiking in the high elevations of Abha and Sawdah.
If you feel like hitting the beach you have the options of both Jeddah and Alkhobar. The red see is well known for its amazing coral reef and is a haven for snorkelers and scuba pers in the area.
One can also enjoy the serene desert in the central region by camping and hiking in the desert.
The embassies have ongoing events and parties where one can enjoy a western environment that takes you out of the cultural environment of Saudi Arabia.
. Avoid the no no’s
It is 100% against the law to consume or carry alcohol in Saudi Arabia. It is also against the law to bring any inappropriate materials in the country such as porn or any idols or statues, as this is all against the official state religion Islam.
It is also illegal to go out with the opposite gender alone as in dates.
Conversing with the students in issues relating to politics, religion and sex is also unacceptable.
. How to make your Saudi experience a great one
It is important that you come in accepting the new culture and not resisting it. It will be a great change in your lifestyle and an opportunity to mix with a very generous and welcoming people.
You just need to:
• Make new friends
• Travel in the kingdom and explore it.
• Learn about the culture and appreciate the learning process.
• Give your 100% to your students.
• Enjoy a great tax free salary