Katja: Lost in Riyadh
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Riyadh, etc.
My name is Katja and I am a high school student in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I was born in Belarusian, lived in Germany for 9 years and in Kosovo for 3 years before moving to Riyadh in September 2013.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started with a very general blog (travelsinwriting.wordpress.com) to express my passion for writing. I thought that the rest of the world should know some positive things about Kosovo and published a post about it. From then on, I started to write more regularly and on different everyday life topics before I began my blog on life in Saudi Arabia.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
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?
The main difference between the two countries lies in the different cultures and their rules. Saudi Arabia is much stricter than Germany and there are completely different social norms as of what behavior or appearance is acceptable and what not. I did not have too much trouble getting used to it all. Surprisingly enough, I did not experience the type of culture shock that I was expecting after having done research on the place online.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Riyadh? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think that one can never be fully prepared for living in a new culture with new people because, unless you have visited the place before, what you read mostly online is way different from the way things really are. I wish, however, that I would have practiced some Arabic before coming to Riyadh.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I can’t think of any hilarious anecdotes at the moment but my post “The Story of How the Watch Got Diabetes (see link above) talks about one funny incident that happened to me.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Riyadh?
I would say that when moving to Riyadh, it is very important to be patient, because things here are very different from the rest of the world and require getting used to. I would also say that it is very important to be understanding the local culture and being aware of the new and different mentality of the people here. It is the expats who have to adjust to the Saudis and not the other way around! Lastly I would say that every expat should see the positive sides of living here, even before actually moving to Riyadh. Only that way the stay will be bearable.
How is the expat community in Riyadh? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Expats usually live together on compounds, so it is easy to find people from Western countries, especially when studying at an international school. The expat community in Riyadh is relatively big and it is easy to find people from almost all over the world here.
How would you summarize your expat life in Riyadh in a single, catchy sentence?
Welcome to the land of sand, wealth and cultural adventures!