Nicole: The same rainbow's end
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Riyadh, etc.
My name is Nicole Hunter Mostafa. I’m American (from Missouri), and I moved to Riyadh about ten months ago with my Saudi husband.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging at The Same Rainbow’s End right around the time I got married. My first goal was simply to record these events, thoughts, feelings, etc. in my life for posterity (I’ve been blogging on different platforms over the years as a method of journaling for about ten years now). But I realized that my experiences might be interesting to different people—other women married/engaged to/dating Saudis, people considering a move abroad, etc. Since I was writing at The Same Rainbow’s End before I even moved to Riyadh, the blog chronicles my preparation for moving to Riyadh, my worries and concerns, etc., and then moves on to basically chronicling my life here.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Oh, there are several entries that I really like because they record my memories so vividly. I like Eat, Pray, Love, the entry that I wrote the night before I boarded a plane to Riyadh. I also like The Story So Far, which I wrote about a month after I landed in Riyadh, and which chronicles everything that happened in that first whirlwind month. Those are probably good places to start on the blog.
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 biggest adjustment for me, by far, has been not being able to drive. I think that if I could drive, I would really have very few complaints about living here. It’s frustrating to my husband, as well, because I have to rely on him any time I want to go someplace. I didn’t really experience culture shock all that much…although after a few months here, I was able to go back to the States for a visit, and that really recharged my batteries. I think the weather was honestly one of the biggest elements of culture shock that I experienced; no snow, very little rain, very little actual cold weather during times when I expected it (like December). I enjoy cloudy, gloomy days, and there aren’t very many of those in Riyadh. I’ve really learned to appreciate them.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Riyadh? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
If anything, I think I over prepared a little bit. We shipped many boxes of my belongings to Riyadh, and they arrived about two months after I did. Once I started unpacking those boxes, I had to laugh at some of the things I packed that I thought I would need. Like a loofah sponge for the shower. Did I think Saudis didn’t take showers? And wooden spoons. Why in the world did I think I wouldn’t be able to find a wooden spoon here? And baby oil (for taking off my eyeliner)…seriously? It was funny. I guess I expected the absolute worst; I expected to break down, I expected to be miserable within a month. Although I certainly have my bouts of homesickness (especially around holiday times!), it hasn’t worked out that way. My husband really worked hard to try to make the transition as easy as possible for me, and I’m so grateful for that!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I’ve written a few blog posts about my funny experiences. I think the best two would have to be A Toilet’s Tale, about how Saudi plumbing and I had something of a disagreement, and I Whip My Hair Back and Forth, about my quest to find a good hairstylist here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Riyadh?
- Read everything you can, in the news, in comment sections, on Facebook. If you read my blog, you’ll know that many of the articles about Saudi Arabia that make their way into the Western media aren’t exactly accurate, and neither are some of the misconceptions that get widely circulated about Saudi Arabia. But reading those things and expecting the absolute worst will set you up for a pleasant surprise when things aren’t quite as terrible as they’re made to sound.
- Also, learn to use Skype and WhatsApp.
- If you’re coming from the States, set up a MagicJack account before you leave!
How is the expat community in Riyadh? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
By the time I got here, I had developed a circle of Facebook friends who were also in Riyadh, mostly other Western women married to Saudis. I was so excited to meet them in person and am so glad I was able to find them before I moved!
How would you summarize your expat life in Riyadh in a single, catchy sentence?
It’s hot, sunny, and sandy, but it’s not so bad!