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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Dammam, Saudi Arabia

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

Dammam

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

Yes, before I have lived and worked all over the US and Korea while traveling to Japan, Viet Nam, Thailand and now I live in The Philippines.

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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?

No

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

a little bit

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

mind boggling

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?

The "honeymoon stage" never happened since I was first taken direct from Bahrain to a desert outpost on the border with Kuwait. Everyone in the town either worked for the oil company or in some support business.

It was very odd to see ZERO women of any kind and when I would visit another town to shop, to find I was not even allowed to ask where something was to be found in a market.

It was very irritating to go shopping & the stores suddenly close for prayer several times a day. It is no wonder nothing gets done there.

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.

I found the men to be extremely lazy and thin skinned which tended to raise my anxiety level.

I come from a place where hard work is valued, not frowned upon and found it very frustrating to be always "negotiating" more time off with the students. On one hand I was required to teach and on the other hand, not to push the students too hard because they would report my efforts at maintaining classroom decorum as being "culturally insensitive."

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

Nothing

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Abnormal (lack of) male/female interaction that led to a huge number of homosexual advances being made by the obviously sexually frustrated men.

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

Yes, my first day there I urinated in the urinal only to find that was where men sat to wash their feet.

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

Don't go to that terrible place ever. Even the food is bad. They eat sheep and everything is slathered with curry powder. Saudi also has the highest highway death rates in the world.

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