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Culture, Punctuality, and Payday (Riyadh)


Hi folks! I'm a US expat working here in Riyadh. I hate the stereotype of the ugly American, so I want to be very respectful of Saudi culture. Also, I am aware that I need to adapt to my host culture and not the other way around.

That's why I'm confused, and which is why I'm turning to you all for some comments and advice.

What's the deal with punctuality? In other schools where I've worked, tardiness was considered rude and unprofessional. And not just with the students--teachers were expected to show up on time for faculty meetings, for example. Here, not a single meeting has started on time. People always show up late, sometimes 1 hour late! Is being late normal in Saudi culture? Should I start showing up late to be respectful? And would it be rude if I asked people to be on time?

This has even applied to paychecks. According to my bosses, we are to be paid on the last day of each month. Yet we are often told we would get paid the next day instead, insha'Allah, and then the next day, and the next .... Sometimes our paychecks are 5 days late! Would it be rude to complain about this, or is such a variable pay date a normal, accepted part of the culture here?

Please understand, I'm not condemning Saudi culture. Nor am I saying my culture is better. I am only trying to determine how I can advocate for myself while being respectful. I hope that makes sense, and any ideas you can post here are very appreciated. Thanks!

Riyadh Forum