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Expat Exchange - Pros and Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia
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Pros and Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia

By Betsy Burlingame

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Summary: If you're moving to Saudi Arabia, it's important to learn about both the Pros AND Cons of living in Saudi Arabia.

Living in Saudi Arabia - Pros and Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia

Are you considering a move to the Middle East? Saudi Arabia, a country rich in history, culture, and economic opportunities, is a popular destination for expats from around the world. However, like any country, living in Saudi Arabia comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will delve into the pros and cons of living in Saudi Arabia, providing you with a comprehensive overview to help you make an informed decision.

Pros of Living in Saudi Arabia

One of the most significant advantages of living in Saudi Arabia is the economic opportunity. The nation is known for its wealth, largely due to its vast oil reserves. This wealth has led to a high standard of living and a strong economy, offering numerous job opportunities, particularly in the oil, construction, and healthcare sectors. Many expats are drawn to Saudi Arabia by the prospect of tax-free salaries, which can significantly increase your take-home pay.

Another major benefit of living in Saudi Arabia is the low cost of living. Housing, utilities, and groceries are generally cheaper than in many Western countries. For example, a three-bedroom apartment in a good neighborhood in Riyadh, the capital, can be rented for about half the price of a similar apartment in New York City. Additionally, petrol is incredibly cheap due to the country's abundant oil reserves, making car ownership and travel more affordable.

Saudi Arabia is also a country rich in culture and history. Living here offers the chance to immerse yourself in a unique and fascinating culture. From the bustling souks and grand mosques of Riyadh to the ancient ruins of Al Khobar, there is always something new to discover. The country is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the historic city of Diriyah and the rock art of the Hail Region.

Finally, Saudi Arabia's strategic location makes it a great base for exploring the Middle East and beyond. The country is just a short flight away from many other fascinating destinations, including Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Plus, with the recent introduction of tourist visas, it's now easier than ever for expats to travel around the region.

Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia

While there are many benefits to living in Saudi Arabia, there are also some significant drawbacks to consider. One of the most commonly cited disadvantages is the country's strict interpretation of Islamic law, which can be a significant culture shock for those from more liberal societies. For example, alcohol is completely banned, and there are strict dress codes, particularly for women.

The climate can also be a challenge. Saudi Arabia is one of the hottest countries in the world, with summer temperatures often exceeding 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). This extreme heat can make outdoor activities difficult during the summer months. However, many buildings are air-conditioned, and the country's coastal cities offer a slightly cooler climate.

Another potential downside is the language barrier. While English is widely spoken in the business world and by younger Saudis, Arabic is the official language. This can make everyday tasks like shopping or dealing with bureaucracy more challenging if you don't speak Arabic. However, many expats take this as an opportunity to learn a new language and further immerse themselves in the local culture.

Lastly, while Saudi Arabia is generally safe, the country has experienced political instability and terrorism in the past. It's important to stay informed about the current situation and follow any advice or warnings from your home country's embassy or consulate.

Living in Saudi Arabia, like any country, comes with its own unique set of challenges and rewards. It's a place of economic opportunity, rich culture, and history, but it's also a place where the climate, language barrier, and cultural differences can pose challenges. Ultimately, whether or not Saudi Arabia is the right place for you will depend on your personal circumstances and priorities. By weighing the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision about whether this fascinating country is your next destination.

Expats Talk about Pros & Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia

"Other than dining out, there are no sources for entertainment. Leisure time is mostly spent in malls. Men have a cess to sporting events like soccer, but women do not. The emphasis on family gatherings and religious observances makes getting to know people and make friends difficult. But if you can and do make friends then they are most accepting and friendly," commented one expat living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"I like Jeddah just fine. As a middle aged female who doesn't wear an abaya or scarf, I have not had any challenges. I also tip very generously (an Egyptian experience carry-over) and workers, like at the grocery, remember this and my service is always exceptional," mentioned one expat living in Saudi Arabia.

"I've been living in Saudi Arabia for 4 years now, in overall is very good experience, my husband and I work for Interval Plus Crossfit, the company is very responsable, we got a very good offer including housing, transportation, health insurance... Saudi people is super welcoming, they will take care of you when you come here. We had the change to make some road trips and the roads are in very good conditions, many new heritage places to discover. I will recommend to anybody to come here to enjoy and embrace the culture," said an expat in Saudi Arabia.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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