Ten things to know about Saudi
Life in Saudi Arabia is more than just a tax-free salary
- It’s hot. And in the summer, it’s really hot, coupled with dust and sand in the air that makes everything glow golden. Life during the hot months is lived indoors.
- Locals like foreigners. They are friendly, polite, interesting, and eager to share stories about their culture and learn about yours.
- Driving isn’t for the fainthearted. Taxis are the best option, though it’s smart to take a map or know exactly where you’re going – taxi drivers in Saudi may not know exact addresses, and the GPS systems often fail.
- Compound life is unique. Many expats live in walled compounds that enclose leafy neighbourhoods with gardens, swimming pools, shops, and gyms. Compounds are a little bit of Western luxury in the Saudi desert, and give expats an array of clubs, activities, and sports for their leisure time.
- Riyadh is a vibrant city. The shopping ranges from market stalls to D&G, and the restaurant scene includes Middle Eastern, Italian, Indian, and Chinese. Public services like schools and hospitals are modern and clean.
- It also is a city of contrasts. Like any large city, some neighbourhoods are dusty and dirty, others clean and green. The architecture is interesting and varied.
- The seaside towns are more relaxed. People are in less of a rush and the air feels cleaner. Dammam and Al Khobar are also a short drive to Bahrain for a bit of western-style entertainment.
- Gender segregation can be confronting. For a Westerner who is used to working closely with the opposite gender, things like taking separate elevators may seem strange. You may miss being around the opposite sex.
- You’ll have the gift of time. Saudi life is different to anywhere else in the world, and without the distractions of Western life you’re free to discover new hobbies, learn a language, write a screenplay, or get in shape. Many expats use their free time to indulge their dreams, and find a support network of other expats who share their passions.
- You’ll be surprised. Little things will delight you, whether a conversation with a quirky shopkeeper or a spectacular meal from a streetside vendor. Living in the moment means not missing the little things that you’ll remember for years.
Marc Conway is Recruitment Director at Prime Recruitment.