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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Saudi Arabia: Overcoming Obstacles

Other than its promising cost of living, Saudi Arabia appears to be a problematic expat destination.

Arabic Hospitality - Not for Everyone?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seems to present a true challenge for expats. Only two-fifths of the survey participants there (41%) consider the friendliness of the local population overall good, compared to 72% around the globe who rate this factor in their respective host country positively. Furthermore, just 37% favor the friendly attitude of the population towards foreign residents, and 61% consider making local friends difficult.

Adapting to the culture appears to be very problematic as well. Almost half the expats (49%) don't find settling down in Saudi Arabia easy and 44% don't feel at home in the local culture (global averages are 25% and 20%, respectively). Hence, Saudi Arabia lands the last place (64th out of 64 countries) in the Feeling Welcome subcategory of the Ease of Settling In Index.

In the land of hot sands, approximately half the expats (51%) regard learning the local language as difficult, but luckily 44% don't find it hard to live in the country without speaking the local language.

Expat Statistics 2015

Expat statistics for Saudi Arabia - infographic
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Hot and Dull

Six in ten expatriates in Saudi Arabia (59%) consider the quality of medical care to be overall good, a percentage almost on par with the global average (60%). The quality of the environment, though, is rated favorably by only 36% of respondents and 46% don't appreciate the local weather and climate. Personal safety, political stability, and peacefulness at least, are all rated positively by the majority of expats, even if percentages are at times noticeably below the survey averages (60% vs. 80%, 66% vs. 69%, and 71% vs. 79%, respectively).

In Saudi Arabia, just 22% enjoy the available leisure options, whereas worldwide three-fourths of the expats favor the activities available in their respective host country. Consequently, Saudi Arabia lands the 63rd position in the Leisure Options subcategory. In addition, only 39% rate the transportation infrastructure positively and less than half (47%) appreciate the opportunity to travel.

Saudi Arabia Is Affordable

The big plus for expats working in Saudi Arabia is its job security, which 51% are overall satisfied with, and additionally 86% consider the state of the economy healthy (global average: 65%) - landing Saudi Arabia a 21st place in the Job Security subcategory of the Working Abroad Index.

Furthermore, a little over half the expats (52%) are overall content with their job and a little less (48%) find their career prospects appealing. However, one-third (32%) isn't pleased with their working hours (44.8 hours/week on average) and their work-life balance (33%). All in all, Saudi Arabia thus lands a 47th place in the Working Abroad Index.

In the (reverse) Cost of Living Index, Saudi Arabia ranks among the top ten, in 9th place to be exact - better than in any other index. Over three-fourths (76%) approve of the cost of living, while globally only a little over half (51%) do so in their respective country of residence. In fact, 68% are overall satisfied with their financial situation, and 85% feel that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to get by with. Even housing is considered affordable by 56%, which is a high percentage compared to the global average of 41%.

Families Ought to Reconsider

Around the world, 31% of expat parents regard the availability of both childcare and education options to be not sufficient. In Saudi Arabia, however, percentages are a lot higher - 44% don't think there are enough childcare options, and 51% don't find education options numerous and easily available. Thus Saudi Arabia lands a second to last place in the Availability of Childcare & Education subcategory of the Family Life Index.

Additionally, 44% don't consider childcare easy to afford and almost half the expat parents (49%) regard education as expensive to pay for. To make matters worse, only 47% of respondents with kids favor the quality of education in Saudi Arabia (global average: 65%).

In the Family Well-Being subcategory, Saudi Arabia comes in last. Even though more than half the expat parents in Saudi Arabia rate the following factors positively, the percentages are very low compared to the global averages - children's health and safety (66% vs. 76%), children's general well-being (60% vs. 81%), and family life in general (57% vs. 81%). Also, 37% of expat parents rate the availability of leisure activities for kids negatively.

Further Reading