Are you about to begin an exciting new life in Saudi Arabia? In recent years, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world has attracted numerous multinational companies and foreign workers now living in Saudi Arabia.
It is important to know that people seldom move to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the cultural experience, the weather, the food or any other enticements other destination countries offer. Westerners tend to come here for the high tax-free salaries and while earning it remaining in Western-style compounds far removed from Saudi life.
This is perhaps the most important thing to realize, you are not moving to Saudi Arabia at all, itâ€™s rather more a transient western colony that amalgamates and magnifies the best of life back home. The life of an expat in Saudi Arabia is intensely social, as fellow immigrants form strong, quickly formed bonds and weekends are centered on compound get-togethers, trips to the desert and diving excursions.
Most foreigners live in Jeddah and Riyadh both of which have the full range of western amenities, from Starbucks to Toys â€œRâ€ Us, a wide range of accommodation, and the majority of Saudi Arabiaâ€™s employers.
Itâ€™s important to know that in Saudi Arabia you are expected to dress conservatively in public. While itâ€™s neither necessary nor recommended for men to wear traditional Saudi dress, women are advised to wear the Abaya, a loose black dress covering the whole body. Wearing a veil is definitely not required for non-Saudi women, but you might want to carry a head scarf with you in case you are asked to cover your hair.
Foreign women arriving in Saudi Arabia, who do not own an Abaya, can borrow one at their hotel for a limited period. If your stay exceeds a couple of weeks though, itâ€™s probably worthwhile getting your own Abaya.
Western men should always wear long trousers and shirts, unless theyâ€™re engaged in some sporty activity. In a business environment, a full suit is certainly the best choice, despite the scorching heat.
From a womanâ€™s point of view, the Saudi experience is mixed but positive over all. Yes, women have to wear an Abaya and occasionally a headscarf, they are not allowed to drive but the shuttles provided by the compound can resolve any need for transportation.
The social life of women in Saudi Arabia will vary greatly based upon the marital status. If you are moving to Saudi as a single woman, you will want to know what to expect in terms of having a social life. One woman talked about her social experiences as a single expat:
â€œFor me, the best part of living in Saudi is the social nature of the place among the expat community. While I did live on hospital accommodation with other females, there were social opportunities available to mingle with both male and female expatriates on coed compounds. I met my British husband there and am now living in the U.K. where I have had more difficulty developing a social life than I ever did in Saudi.â€
Before coming to Saudi Arabia, foreigners should be aware that behavior which is perfectly acceptable in their country of origin may be a punishable offence in Saudi Arabia. This includes homosexual acts and public consumption of alcohol, even if you are a non-believer. Sodomy, adultery, drug possession and prostitution may incur the death penalty. Moreover, you should avoid anything that could be interpreted as missionary activity for other religions than Islam.
Health care generally has a fairly high standard in Saudi Arabia. Every major city has both public and private clinics with plenty of well-trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment. English is widely spoken, especially in the private sector, as many doctors and medical personnel are foreigners, profiting from the high salaries in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has a good public health-care system providing free or low-cost treatments to all Saudi citizens and expats alike. High-earning expats and Saudis often opt for private healthcare. The perks it offers, such as luxurious hospital accommodation and virtually no waiting time, do, however, come at a hefty price. Expats should therefore check with their health insurance whether it covers some or all of the costs incurred.
Waiting times in general are low, even in the public sector. You can expect to be seen by a doctor within 24 to 72 hours of requesting an appointment. In emergencies, you will be seen to immediately.
Most hospitals have an Accidents and Emergencies department. If youâ€™re new to the country, make sure you know where your nearest hospital is. This particularly important, seeing as ambulance services are not always as fast and efficient as they should be and you may therefore need to arrange your own transportation when going to the hospital.
If you donâ€™t know the number of the ambulance service, or if the operator canâ€™t give you a satisfactory time of arrival, your best option may be to call a taxi. Make sure the urgency of the situation is clear to everyone concerned.
You should be able to get most of medication you require in pharmacies. However, donâ€™t automatically assume that drugs which are prescription-free in your home country can be obtained without a prescription in Saudi Arabia too. On the other hand, antibiotics, for example, are freely available over the counter. Pharmacies are usually open in the morning and afternoon, and every part of town has one pharmacy on night duty.
Drugs like anti-depressants, sleeping pills and similar have been banned by the government and are therefore not available in Saudi Arabia. If you need to import them (FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY!) make sure you always carry your doctorâ€™s prescription with you, and if possible a note certifying that you are in need of medication. Â Â Â Â
Working and living in Saudi Arabia is best treated as an adventure and new life experience. The key is to make sure one is going for the right reason:
- For career advancement
- Cultural experience
- And financial enrichment
So if you are an experienced specialist doctor in the fields of cardiology, anesthesiology or ophthalmology, and consider a medical career in Saudi Arabia, we invite you to send us your application at:
If you have any questions feel free to ask!
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