Five facts about Saudi Arabia


Fraser Clarke

Taking your skills overseas can be a potentially daunting thought, however with most countries that are popular with expats offering a similar way of life to that enjoyed in Western Europe, it needn’t be.

There are some exceptions to this rule however, and Saudi Arabia is perhaps the biggest one of them. Popular with highly skilled expats in both the oil and gas and medical sectors for many years, the country remains deeply conservative, and truly unique.

If it’s somewhere you’re considering moving, then read on to discover 5 things you have to know about the ‘Desert Kingdom’.

1 - Religion is Dominant in Society

Few countries - if indeed any - are as strictly controlled by religion as Saudi Arabia. Every aspect of life is controlled by Islam, and this can be quite a shock to those moving to the Kingdom.

Saudi life stops five times a day for prayer, whilst the Religious Police (Mutaween) patrol the streets, keeping an eye out for anyone committing a religious crime. This can feel intimidating, especially for women who find their rights limited under Sharia Law. It also means that alcohol is banned countrywide, along with any public displays of affection and the consumption of pork products.

Life for a Muslim immigrant is likely to be easier than for other Western expats who will need to understand the religion in, at the very least, basic detail prior to a move.

2 - Prepare Yourself for Intense Compound Security

Saudi Arabia is actually a very safe country, however that doesn’t stop the security methods being used ay the Western compounds coming as a shock.

Often residents arriving at these locations will have to go through two checkpoints, one where your car will be checked for any suspicious (or prohibited) items, and one where the identity of everyone in the vehicle will be checked and confirmed.

This is likely to be carried out in the presence of the Saudi National Guard, who will often be armed and have armored vehicles (or sometimes tanks) nearby.

All of this can be very intimidating, however it does ensure that the compounds are amongst the most safe and secure places to live in the world.

3 - Take Your Time to Find the Right School

If you’re moving with your family, then finding the right school in Saudi Arabia is likely to be one of the most important decisions you make. Don’t rush into anything, as the standard of education in the Kingdom can vary greatly from school to school, so it’s best to speak to expats in from a similar background to yourself in advance.

Private facilities teaching the English or American curriculums are also likely to have lengthy waiting lists, so applying for a place at a school with a strong reputation in advance of a move is highly recommended.

4 - Prepare Yourself for Slow Admin

Perhaps the biggest bugbear of everyday life in Saudi Arabia is the slow pace at which almost everything moves. Be prepared to hear the term ‘Inshallah’ - meaning God Willing - on an almost hourly basis when you’re trying to sort out a task. Saudis use this as a way to buy themselves time, as the task will only be completed when God decides the time is right.

This can be incredibly frustrating, especially at first when you may already feel stressed and under pressure, however gradually you will grow used to the slow pace of life in the country, and it’s something that many people can actually find a pleasant change from the hectic, time bound Western lifestyle.

5 - Don’t Go Solely for the Salaries

There’s no doubting what the main attraction to Saudi Arabia for many people is - the prospect of extremely high, tax-free salaries.

Pay for medics in Saudi Arabia can be some of the highest in the world, and that factor alone is enough to convince plenty of people each year that the country is right for them. We’d strongly advise against this however, as focusing solely on the financial benefits leads to many people heading home within their first six months.

If you’re looking for financial rewards and little culture shock then nearby Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or Bahrain can be better options. Moving to Saudi Arabia isn’t simply a switch of scenery, it’s a move that will totally change your everyday life. That’s something that expats have to be prepared for if they decide on a move to the Kingdom.

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