Gaelene: Kiwi Living in Saudi: What to Do?
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Riyadh, etc.
I’m a New Zealander (aka Kiwi) with a background in the health industry and moved to Saudi Arabia in 2010 to join my husband who came here for work 18 months before I did.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging a few months after I arrived mainly as a more productive way to spend my down time than playing computer games and updating Facebook. If you aren’t a working expat woman in Saudi the computer can become a large part of your life here until you build up a network of friends and activities.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I like the posts about site seeing in Saudi. It’s amazing how much there is to see and do in this country if you make the effort to find it.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Riyadh differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in Riyadh differs quite a lot. Firstly, I’m not working so that is a huge change. If I’d known how truly inactive you can become here I probably would have re-evaluated that decision. I definitely miss the outdoor activity that I’m used to back home, though the weather here in Riyadh is much nicer than NZ.
Riyadh is very different to any place I’ve lived before so there were adjustments to be made. Certainly some of the local ideas can be hard to fathom because the basis of their thinking seems so vastly different to my own. At these times it helps to remind myself of numerous cliches’ such as ‘variety is the spice of life’ and ‘if you’re different hooray for you’.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Riyadh? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
As my husband had been residing here for so long before my arrival he had let me know how different things can be though his focus of life in Riyadh centered mainly about his work. Admittedly my preparation was minimal though I’m glad of that in some ways. It meant I didn’t arrive with too many preconceived ideas. As it turns out what little I did read and hear in regards to the life in Saudi for expat women was more negative than I’ve found the reality to be.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Trying to explain the funny happenings that go on here would take more than a paragraph. Suffice to say if you can laugh at life you will have lots to laugh about here in Saudi.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Riyadh?
- Use active blogs and forums to connect with people who are currently experiencing life in Saudi so you get up to date insight.
- Attitude is everything! Most people interpret that statement to mean be open minded and positive but I would add that your stay in Saudi will be stress-reduced if you also practice patience, perseverance and tolerance.
- Remember to look for the positive. Life is not always rosy in the Magic Kingdom and it is easy after you arrive to fall prey to ‘Saudi bashing’. Admittedly, living in KSA is different and occasionally challenging but there are a lot of good things and wonderful people, both local and expat, here too.
How is the expat community in Riyadh? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Riyadh is vibrant and dynamic. There are expats of many differing cultures, personalities, interests and attitudes. Finding like minded people within that mix is simply a matter of becoming involved in the community.
I’d just add that, if you wish, it is possible to broaden your horizons past the expat residents and experience cultural exchange with members of the local community as well and my blog talks about many of the experiences I’ve had with locals.
How would you summarize your expat life in Riyadh in a single, catchy sentence?
Expat life in Riyadh runs the gamut of extremes from rewarding to non-eventful – how much time you spend at either end of the continuum is up to you.