If you are a foreigner (especially Western) and married to a Saudi, be flexible…very very flexible! While you may think you have made many great sacrifices by leaving your family and your country to be with your spouse in the Kingdom, don’t expect him to fully appreciate the gesture. Do not expect any special gratitude from his family either; they will consider that as your role and duty as his wife.
If you are a Western wife, you will be expected to be more tolerant on issues than that perhaps of a Saudi wife. Also as a Western wife, you will be viewed as more capable and independent (whether true or not). If you are working you are expected to contribute not only to your home and husband but to his extended family as well. However do not maintain any illusions that the same would hold true if the situation were reversed.
You may learn unexpectedly with little to no notice that there may be visitors….lots and lots of visitors. Do not make an absurd suggestion that they may be more comfortable in a furnished apartment or hotel regardless of how long the visit may be. Family takes care of family and stays together. Have no illusions that if you receive a significant number of guests which may exceed 25 in number that there would be a “joint kitty” to help defray associated expenses for extended guests for a long term visit. In fact, the Saudi custom and culture prides itself strongly on hospitality and face. No matter how much of a financial burden may be placed on a Saudi man for hosting a large number of extended guests (family) for a period he will never ask for monetary assistance. If any were to be offered, it would be automatically refused as accepting would be viewed as a loss of face. The Saudi husband and wife will simply have to “suck it up” and hopefully have planned in advance for such occasions. (“yeah right” a wife told me speaking under condition her identity not be revealed)
The above was candidly shared with me by a western wife who gave her approval to share her experience. When I asked her what advise she would suggest to other western wives if they were to find themselves in a similar situation and find it difficult to cope, what should they do? She stressed emphatically that if it bothered a wife significantly then don’t be around to deal with the pressures. Take advantage of the opportunity and arrange to have your own mini-vacation break somewhere.
But what if you cannot get away? How can you make the best of an unfamiliar situation?
Try suggesting some outings for the women. Presumably the family members will have children so suggest they go to amusement parks and the like. That may give one a break for a few hours. The trick here is not to make them feel like you are pushing them out, but that you been to those places and they should see them before leaving town.
– Organize the women a little on helping you. Again, tricks like telling one of them that you love her recipe for a dish may spur to take over making the meals for that day.
– If there are teenage girls recruit them as helpers. Young Saudi girls are fascinated by westerners, they may like getting closer to you.