I desire to work in a foreign land not because I wanted to earn more money but mainly because I felt like I was stuck in the same environment. That feeling when you can’t seem to breathe fresh air and you’re suffocating. Traveling from one place to another seemed to run through my veins and this time I wanted to take it to the next level.
It was last quarter of 2014 when opportunity knock on my door unexpectedly. Hesitant at first since I never applied for anything overseas as of yet. However, after doing my homework searching and making sure that everything was legit, I looked at the bright side instead and took the golden opportunity. Well, I wouldn’t know what’s on the other side of the bridge until I get there. Thank God I was born overloaded with optimism.
Who would have thought that yours truly flew across the globe few months later? To make the story short, my goal to work in a foreign land was fulfilled. The downside of it was, I won’t be able to do any outdoor activities whenever I wanted to. You got to have company if you’re planning to do some outdoor activities like hiking and the likes. As a nature lover and outdoor enthusiast, this was an ultimate challenge for me. The advantage though is I am quite near to the countries written on my bucket list. I never really dreamed to land a career in a flat sovereign state like Saudi but here I am.
“I got here by chance not by choice. Sometimes, you cannot pick the country you wanted, in my case the country picked me.”
THE COUNTRY (Riyadh, KSA)
Few days in the land of oil and camels felt like I was just visiting the neighborhood. Adapting to the flow how to live here was no biggie except for the very strict rules. However, I find Saudi Arabia a great country and I had a positive impression since day one.
Whilst you’ve watched or read negative news about the country, my experience was the other way around. I felt safer, got respect from people, and never witness/experience any unlawful act in my few years of existence here. Please note that the content of this article was based on my personal experience and I didn’t speak on behalf of other expats who have chosen to live and work here .
CULTURE AND RELIGION
Since I did my homework back home, I knew what to expect as soon as the aircraft landed. KSA is a very conservative Muslim sovereign state and yes, all Saudi citizens are Muslim. They have an odd, unique centuries old tradition. They pray five times in a daily basis and businesses are closed four times a day for prayer (Salah). Aside from the official police, they also have religious police (mutaween or muttawa) who’s responsible in enforcing the good and forbidding the wrong.
Pork is forbidden in this country, yet other meats are available (mutton, lamb, chicken, etc.). I’m not a fan of some Arabic foodstuff however kebabs, shawarma, and kabsa are among the few that I like. The Arabic coffee was superb. Though I’m not a coffee drinker I simply couldn’t resist Arabic coffee for some reason.
The dress code in KSA is strictly enforced especially for women. Wearing abaya is a must in public places. For Saudi women, they usually wear nekab/hijab to cover their face but some only wear tarha (scarf). Most of the expats if not all only wear tarha or head cap to cover their hair. Though it is normal to see people not covering their hair inside malls or any establishments.
Men in Saudi wear thobe. It’s a white wool or cotton dress. In winter season, they wear dark colored thobe to keep themselves warmer. Wearing thobe is optional and if they choose not to, they wear typical dresses like pants and shirts but wearing shorts is forbidden.
THE PEOPLE and THEIR LANGUAGE
Saudis are just like any other human being in the planet. Wherever we are in this world, there’s always good and not so good people. In totality, they are nice and generous at the same time.
Speak no Arabic? No worries, most of the locals speak Basic English. If not, at least they somehow understand it. Though Arabic is their official language, English is widely spoken.
GETTING AROUND KSA
- Domestic flights – for long distance travel domestic flights are always available.
- Private car – this is top-notch and probably the most typical means of getting around KSA. Traveling by private car is also the safest way to get around Saudi.
- Taxis – not recommended for solo traveler. Most of the drivers are not Saudis and speak little to no English.
TIPS and TRICKS
- Brace yourself with sandstorms. You’ll likely experience a lot of it before and after the weather changes.
- FOLLOW the rules at all times. If you’re used to breaking the law, then stop it. If you can’t, don’t even bother to set foot on this country otherwise you’ll regret it. They take every offense very seriously and the punishment is brutal.
- Learn Arabic language at least the very basic.
- Respect Muslim traditions. You may or may not agree with it but that’s who they are and that what makes them unique from the rest of us.