I think one of the more challenging aspects of adapting to life in Saudi Arabia is perhaps getting adjusted to the differing working hours and days off. Many businesses will work what I refer to as split days. A prime example is a mobile phone company, like Mobily. Mobily will have working hours from 0800 to 1100 hours and then close until 1630 hours at which time it reopens and remains open until 2200 hours. Talk about having a split day of work…
Banks are another place which I do not care for the operating hours. Now remember, if you are female, you are expected to go to a women’s branch. The women’s banking hours are generally 0900 – 1530 hours. If a woman also works, that can make it a challenge in getting to the bank if necessary for a transaction.
Even the shopping malls will have split hours where the mall shops will be closed for several hours during an afternoon.
And of course all shops, businesses, restaurants, etc., will close four times per day for 30 minutes for prayer (most businesses are not open yet at the time of the first prayer hence the typical 4 closures instead of 5). As a result, many who reside in Saudi will find themselves trying to run errands between prayers and hope not to get caught out with an errand unfinished before the prayer time.
So in arriving to Saudi Arabia from most other parts of the world, one must first adapt to the differing type of working hours. That’s number one. Secondly, at least in the majority of the Kingdom as of yet, the official weekend days are Thursday and Friday. This is pretty comparable to the Saturday/Sunday weekends experienced in the western world where most families run errands on Thursday (Saturday) and then attend religious services on Friday/Sunday (jumah prayers at the masjid/church services in the west).
However there are also some key disadvantages to having the Thursday/Friday weekends. As a result, Saudi is shut down for two days while most of the rest of the world continues doing business and financial markets remain active. Then when Saudi reopens for business on Saturday in many times some transactions are delayed and have to wait until Monday for the rest of the world to restart business.
The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry though has decided to be a trailblazer and began a Sunday – Thursday work week with Friday’s and Saturday’s off for the weekend. It remains to be seen though whether many other business and organizations will follow suit or not.
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