If you're thinking of moving to Saudi Arabia; these are the 5 things I learned in the first 5 months of living in Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia - Its Not Just Desert When I first announced to my family, friends and co-workers that my husband and I would be making the to move to Saudi Arabia, one of the questions I received was, “Why would you want to live in the desert?”. Now based on television shows, movies, and books; Saudi Arabia seems to be made of up of only desert, no large metropolis cities… just Bedouin villages. This is simply not the case! Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country and yes, much of it is desert - there are several large cities throughout. I live in Jeddah, a city situated on the coast of the Red Sea, with a population of over 3 million; my friends live in Riyadh, a city in semi-central Saudi Arabia with a population of over 5 million people. Keep in mind that the entire city of Chicago only has an estimated population of approx. 2.5 million people. Aside of Jeddah and Riyadh, there are many other large cities like Khobar, Yanbu, Ta’if, etc.
It’s Safe Believe it or not, Saudi Arabia is actually a very safe country to reside in. Rapper Kevin Gates was visiting for this years Hajj (2016) and he certainly did his research; based on statistics considering factors of violent crimes, natural disasters, and response time to such - Saudi Arabia was actually ranked as the 3rd safest country in the world. While our media likes to tell us otherwise, facts don’t lie.
English Is Not As Widely Spoken It is not that English is not spoken at all; in fact English is taught in both public and private schools from elementary on through college. However, most locals don’t use English on a daily basis and thus, it is not as widely spoken locally. If you don't use it, you lose it ( my Spanish is no longer nearly as fluent as I used to be). Worry not, if you visit a restaurant, cafe, or shop - most workers in the public sector do speak English and will be able to assist. Why are ya’ll mad?
Country-Wide Shut Down Literally; everyday, five times a day. As a Muslim myself, I can understand and appreciate the importance of religion and of course the obligation to our five daily supplications or prayers...but the entire country shuts down, completely. You can’t even get gas!
Lots of Expats While Saudi Arabia is working towards what they call “Saudinization”, a term basically meant to describe a plan to rely less on expat workers and more on nationals - there are literally expats everywhere. Expats can be found in nearly every corner of Saudi Arabia from the guy who pumps your gas and hands you coffee to workers with foreign entities situated here. Not only are there millions of expats living and working in Saudi Arabia, they come from all over the globe including the US, Europe, Russia, Asia, Australia; some come for the opportunity to live abroad while others choose the fact that often times, jobs in certain sectors pay more here than one could make elsewhere.