Kanzah: Groom and Bloom
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Saudi Arabia, etc.
Hello, I’m Kanzah Ashraf. A 20-something Pakistani girl who recently finished her education in Advertising & Media studies and is currently pursuing her career as a Freelance Creative Designer and a Writer in Saudi Arabia. My family moved to KSA when I was a baby so my basic education was consummated in this Kingdom itself.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It was around fall ‘13 when I had just returned to the Kingdom after completing my higher education in Pakistan, I felt the need to get busy with something productive yet recreational so that I don’t get bored too often in the rather too-peaceful life here and thus I finally made my entrance into blogosphere. Blogging is like “twitter” for me, where I share my views but in a well-reasoned way and give heads-up to my audience about what’s good or bad.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Presenting you the much awaited… Saudi Champagne!! will always be my personal favourite but apart from that I even like Express Your Nails with Spring ’14 Fashion Colors! that has a lot of trendy and colourful flavour in it. Another one worth making to the list is 7 Essentials to Pack for a Road-trip which was the result of the things I learnt from my mistake during my traveling experience.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Saudi Arabia differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I don’t remember experiencing cultural shock because I basically grew up here and since my homeland is also a Muslim country so there wasn’t much difficulty in adjusting to the culture of either country. What I really did find difficult here was the language barrier as I still can’t speak and understand Arabic well.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Saudi Arabia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
What I wasn’t prepared for was this phase after my studies where my life here has suddenly become too placid to handle and gone into a plateau state. Although I’m happily working as a freelancer, I do wish I had taken Arabic classes so that there were better opportunities for me to make a great career. Here in Saudi Arabia, fluency in Arabic is usually a must in order to apply for marketing jobs.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The most recent I can think of is about this sweet Saudi girl I befriended at a fitness class. She knew no word of English and I could understand nothing she would say in Arabic. But we always smiled at each other and would try to communicate through gestures. But there was this questioning gesture she would always make pointing at my face with a judgmental expression whenever we would meet and that got me confused and awkward, “Is she trying to say that something is on my face or asking why I look so chubby or simply making fun of me?” It took me more than a week to realize that all she was trying to ask was which country do I belong to because I most definitely do not look Saudi.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Saudi Arabia?
- To the ladies who are strangers to the idea of “abaya” or the black gown: you will get used to it quickly, in fact you would feel really comfortable in it! Like any garment in the fashion world, even “abayas” come in trendy looks and designs, so you will have a vast collection to choose from to suit your taste.
- You can easily gain weight here due to lack of activity but that shouldn’t discourage you because there are many good fitness centers here. So make sure you do a thorough research in this area, too.
- The Arabic food you could never go wrong with here is “shawarma” which is like a burrito roll with sauce, any choice of meat and vegetable filling. Do try that!
How is the expat community in Saudi Arabia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It is usually common to find at least two or three fellow expats in any workplace or institution. My school was international, so I had no trouble getting acquainted with people of the ‘same club’. Regardless of age or country or even religion, chances are they all are facing the same issues so it’s easier to have your mental wavelengths matched with everyone in the expat community and socialize. But we would be wrong to underestimate even the natives here! They might not be well-versed in English but their gesture in hospitality is worth taking note of.
How would you summarize your expat life in Saudi Arabia in a single, catchy sentence?
Retail therapy is a great leisure I take pleasure in even if it’s as simple as grocery shopping and the solitude here is something that is rare in other countries so I try to get the best out of it.