Working in Saudi Arabia as a Woman

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Working in Saudi Arabia as a Woman

Working in Saudi Arabia as a Woman

Life in Saudi Arabia for Foreigners

As an international school teacher in Saudi Arabia, Neil Bunting wants to bust a myth: Saudi Arabia, in his opinion, is not a hardship posting. Particularly, it is often portrayed as being extremely challenging for women, but some of the scare stories are inaccurate.

For example, women can ride around in a taxi without a chaperone, and there are increasing numbers of women working in Saudi now. Indeed there are huge numbers of well-educated Saudi women completing university. The country is undoubtedly changing.

In Saudi, surely more than anywhere else, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” applies. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt habits and attitudes that might seem totally alien and unappealing. But if you can survive on the roads and laugh at the racetrack-approach to driving: the reversing at speed, the overtaking left and right and the total non-use of indicators, then you might find Saudis are friendly, generous and hospitable people and not like the stereotypes you might have been presented with.

Certainly someone coming to work or live in Saudi should do their homework and come mentally prepared, but look carefully at their sources of information because they may well not be balanced. If you really can’t manage without night clubs and bar culture, then clearly this is a place to be avoided.

However, if you are open to discovering the delights of Middle-Eastern cuisine, a different lifestyle, a much more varied landscape than you might have imagined; if you like the heat and can manage without the rain; then you might find Saudi Arabia has great appeal. [1]

Life in Saudi Arabia for a Woman

At first, some women may find the thought of moving to Saudi Arabia daunting. Questions about personal freedoms immediately come to mind, such as whether women drive, whether they have to ‘cover up’ and whether it’s safe.

These are valid concerns and in many instances restrictions can be frustrating and cause feelings of helplessness and homesickness.

Saudi Arabian women were only granted the right to vote in 2015. Women can’t drive and have to wear an abaya when outside the compound, but non-Muslim women aren’t required to cover their face or hair.

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Furthermore, trailing spouses who worked before arriving in Saudi Arabia may find their days suddenly filled with long hours of boredom. In patriarchal Saudi society, it’s generally the women who must stay at home and battle with a loss of meaning.

Sometimes, there’s a lack of understanding from the working partner. It’s easier for men to transition when they’re preoccupied with the workplace, and they may think it’s easier for women because they get to stay home. How long these feelings last depends on the individual.

These elements of culture shock can be unsettling, but many women like living in Saudi Arabia despite the difficulties – and for the most part, it’s safe.

Living in large company-sponsored compounds can make life much easier and more enjoyable than staying in an individual apartment or villa.

It’s generally easier to meet people in compounds, and doesn’t take expat wives long before they find themselves having made new friends and acquaintances.

Compounds have everything on-site such as restaurants, bowling alleys, dry cleaners, grocery stores, golf courses, salons, soccer fields and gyms. There are various activities to choose from that closely mirror what’s available in the Western world and, for the most part, people wear what they like.

Living outside the compounds among the locals, women may find themselves feeling isolated and void of all sources of entertainment. There are no gyms, theatres or concerts for women in Saudi Arabia. Saudis are quite private, and tend to spend their time with family and close friends rather than inviting new people into their circles. It isn’t impossible to make local friends, it’s just difficult.

Regardless of their housing situation though, it’s important for expat women to get out and meet new friends with common interests.

Purchase an abaya, leave the compound, walk amongst the locals, and start living life. Women who join expat social groups and expand on existing hobbies will be one step ahead in getting through the adjustment phase.

Not to mention, once they’re settled in and over the initial shock, women often find that they have a different kind of freedom here to pursue almost anything they’d like.

Even if they’re employed, they can take ownership of their time. Most households hire inexpensive house-helpers which clears days for relaxation, taking up old hobbies, the possibility of getting a job, or for spending more quality time with family. [2]

Well, you can consider the article above as a girl’s guide to Saudi Arabia. From the article above, I think you can understand how the westerners living Saudi Arabia and of course the everyday life in Saudi Arabia.

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Sources:
[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/before-you-go/why-expat-life-in-saudi-arabia-is-more-fun-than-you-might-think/
[2] http://www.expatarrivals.com/saudi-arabia/women-in-saudi-arabia

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