Kristine: Kristine Wanders
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Saudi Arabia, etc.
I’m Kristine, a 30-something Canadian nurse who loves to travel and is pretty adventurous. I spent 10 years living all over the US so I’m often mistaken for being American, despite what I think is a clearly Canadian accent! I moved back to Saudi in October 2014 after previously living here in 2010/2011.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I kept a blog the first time I was living in Saudi, but didn’t make it public. I started my current blog before I left Saudi and wanted to make it public this time as I think there are so very many things a people can blog about as a westerner living here. I also travel often and wanted to have a place where I could share those experiences as well.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I’ve got a few that are helpful or humorous for people living in Saudi, or considering venturing here…
- An overview of Saudi Arabia
- Drama dealing with getting an Igama
- A Lesson on Saudi Style Banking
- A visit to Mada’in Saleh
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 think culture shock here is inevitable, especially if you are a western woman. Having previously lived here, I wasn’t completely shocked this time around. Like anywhere, some days are good, some days aren’t.
For me not being able to drive myself wherever I want to go has been challenging. It’s frustrating to be reliant on a driver to take me places, but there are times when I see the crazy driving here, that I’m thankful to have a driver.
The most frustrating thing though, is the lack of efficiency and the immense patience required to get paperwork type things completed (visas, bank accounts). It often feels like 2 steps forward and 5 steps backwards.
I also have a love/hate relationship with my Abaya (the garment all women are required to wear when out in public). Sometimes I embrace it, other times I curse it!
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?
I felt pretty prepared moving back to Saudi. I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern culture, and had read a lot about the Middle East especially related to women prior to moving here the first time. I learned a little about the language and the religion prior to relocating. That helped a lot. I also reached out to friends-of-friends who had previously worked in Saudi to get their perspectives.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Pretty much anytime I attempt to speak Arabic hilarity ensues. Probably because I only know about 10 phrases and they are mostly medical related and not useful outside of work life. There is a Saudi breakfast dish made of eggs and tomatoes called a Shakshouka. I was staying at a hotel in Mada’in Saleh with some friends and the hotel had a breakfast buffet. But no shakshouka. Thinking I was very crafty I went up to the waiter and said “Mafi Saksuka” thinking I was cooling asking “no eggs?” Instead I confused this man and later found out that the Arabic words for this egg dish and the Arabic words for beards are very similar. So basically I asked the waiter why there weren’t any beards for breakfast. Really, really cool!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Saudi Arabia?
Come with an open mind. Saudi can be a challenging place to live, but one that is very unique and endlessly fascinating. Be open to having new experiences and trying new things and you will meet some amazing people from all over the world. Bring patience.
How is the expat community in Saudi Arabia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is huge. There is no shortage of activities to take part in, and you will meet people from all over the world with very different backgrounds but who share a similar out-look on life. For me the fellow expats have been one of the best parts of my experience in Saudi.
How would you summarize your expat life in Saudi Arabia in a single, catchy sentence?
An adventure awaits…….Saudi style!!