Ten things to know about Saudi

Life in Saudi Arabia is more than just a tax-free salary

  1. 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.
  2. Locals like foreigners. They are friendly, polite, interesting, and eager to share stories about their culture and learn about yours.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.