Home Saudi Arabia Forum Saudi Arabia Guide Saudi Arabia Resources Saudi Arabia Real Estate International Jobs

Saudi Arabia

Resources

City Guides

CIGNA Expat Health Insurance
Join Sign In
CIGNA Expat Health Insurance

Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Comments

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Riyadh

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

I've been in Saudia for a year and a half. I had no cross-cultural training but I took it upon myself to lay my hands on everything I could read about KSA and did a lot of honest 'soul-searching' to decide if I could adjust to life here.

Expat Health Insurance

Integra Global is a different breed of health plan provider. Smaller, more flexible. Intelligent and personal. Our mission is to make our members feel as safe in their new country abroad as they felt back home. With Integra Global, you're not just another number. Unlike some of the bigger insurers, we are able to provide a fast, flexible and personal service to all our members and our plans are designed specifically for the healthcare needs of expats. Get a quote from Integra Global.

If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Arabic is the language in KSA. I speak English. I'd planned to learn Arabic but people keep wanting to practice their English with me!!! But, 'inshallah,' I'll eventually learn more :)

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I've been an avid traveler for years and know that I am a very open and flexible person. I also know that I don't need a lot of external stimulation to survive. In short, I am the perfect candidate to live here.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

They say that Saudi Arabia is one of the most difficult foreign assignments for a single woman, but my 'shock' has been minimal. As I said, I'd done my homework before leaving home so that made it easier. But, I am also blessed with a job I love and a great team of multinational colleagues.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

No. Surprisingly, I settled in almost immediately, seeing both the pro's and con's, and had little problem adjusting.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Well, comfort eating here is common because there's so little for women other than shopping (and that's not my thing--I began a personal 'minimization' campaign about 5 years ago!).

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Probably that it's so totally opposite what I knew and was used to, so I learn something new everyday. I know I've grown a lot since being here, in many ways.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

It's difficult to get around since women can't drive. If this were a western city, I'd have explored it from top to bottom! But here, you're taking cabs everywhere so only really go from point A to point B and don't know what's in between.

Another issue is that men and women can't 'mix' so opportunities to socialize are fairly limited (mostly to expensive embassy events or if you are fortunate enough to live in a 'western' compound--but single women usually must live in a company compound, which often isn't western so the freedom we're used to isn't allowed).

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Only faux paux I've made was offer my hand in a congratulatory shake to a 'holy man' who I've come to know here. Now, I know these guys aren't allowed to touch women, but I'd gotten caught up in the moment and forgot lol.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Know yourself before you come here. Know your level of tolerance, what you need to survive. Read everything you can. And then make a decision.

Read Next

Retirement-In-Al-KhobarAn Expat Shares What it's Like Retiring in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia

A retiree in Al Khobar, who has lived all over the world, talks about retiring abroad.

Women in the Kingdom: Life as an Expat Woman in Saudi Arabia

Any woman considering a move to Saudi Arabia, should really do her research, talk with other expat women in the cities where she may be living in Saudi Arabia, and, if married, discuss the positives and negatives at length with your husband.

Living in Saudi Arabia

Expats in Saudi Arabia have made tremendous contributions on our forums and in expat reports. This article highlights some of the insight provided about compound life, bringing a dog to Saudi Arabia, the decision to move to Saudi Arabia and more.

10 Tips for Living in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an expat post that some love and some find incredibly challenging. Expats offer tips about living in Saudi Arabia - from the conservative dress to rules for Western women and more.

AGS Worldwide Movers

Write a Comment about this Expat Report

Sign In to post a comment.

Comments about this Report

guest
Nov 17, 2010 03:41

I also live in Riyadh. I am one of the millions of expatriate workers who live here out of necessity. I find it surprising the ease with which you accept the conditions of your life. There are 3 levels of inhabitants in Riyadh- the Saudis, the Europeans and the Asians. All have unequal rights and all have unequal salaries for the same work. So if you come here be prepared for a lot of this kind of bullshit, unless ofcourse if you are in the top bracket and don't care how the system is being run. by cha cha cha

guest
Apr 20, 2011 21:21

cha cha makes a good point--bigotry is alive and well in Saudia. The unequal salaries are 'justified' by saying your pay is according to salary scales in your home country and as an American, I am in the top bracket. I realize I can't change the system here but I treat everybody with respect and hope that maybe it will have a ripple effect.

guest
Apr 13, 2012 22:24

Thank you, that is a more positive report than so many I've met. I imagine from what you said that you are a lot like me. I am considering taking a job in Saudi and know that I can tolerate a lot if necessary. Knowing it is temporary, it seems do-able, I just needed to hear it from someone else, so thanks again.

hollyhj
Jun 7, 2012 09:04

and what is the pay scale? top bracket means what?

hollyhj
Aug 26, 2012 02:19

I have arrived and find it easy to live here,well except for the August heat!!!! My home is delightful! People very friendly and helpful...I look forward to many days of exploring.I went to the Natural History Museum and now am wanting to see jeddah.

Join Today (free)

Join Expat Exchange to meet expats in your area or get advice before your move. It's FREE and takes 1 minute!

Saudi Arabia Guide
Other Links
Our Story Our Team Contact Us Submit an Article Advertising Travel Warnings

Copyright 1997-2018 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal