Saudi Arabia and Transitions

Living in the Kingdom requires the ability to be adaptable, especially when coming from a diverse and opposite culture such as in the West.  And it is not only the expats who have to adapt to the culture of the Kingdom but Saudis as well and particularly if a Saudi has been outside of the Kingdom for a period of time.
So for whom is it easier?  Is it easier for the Saudi coming back in after being outside or for the expat coming in either for a job or marriage?  And thinking of the Saudi, is it overall easier for them to go outside of the Kingdom and come back in, since their eyes are wide open and know what to expect?  Or do you think that having been outside and living, experiencing differing cultures on a day-to-day basis make it harder on them to return and adapt again to the life and cultures in the Kingdom than for the expat choosing a different way of life?  How does being outside of the Kingdom change a Saudi?  Is it more of a transition for the Saudi men or the Saudi women?
I’ve written previous posts on adapting to the Kingdom and will continue to say, it is not for everyone.  Of course adaptation and successful adaptation depends on a number of factors which include where is one located; what brought them to the Kingdom; what environment and social strata they are living in within the Kingdom; how much advance research was done prior to arrival in the Kingdom and naturally the level of ones patience, tolerance and receptiveness to new environments and customs.  If someone comes to the Kingdom and spends the majority of their time on a Western compound which can be comparable to a small American town, they may feel little restriction or change.  On the other hand, if one is immersed into a traditional Saudi environment which practices segregation and little English is spoken, the changes would be great and it is essential to be prepared for the new environment.
Those just barely touch on the aspects of the expat coming to the Kingdom.  But what about the Saudi who has been outside?  I would think that the changes are greatest for the Saudi woman in the sense of the freedoms she would experience as compared to life inside the Kingdom.  If  she chooses, she may have the opportunity to drive, to go out freely without worrying about an accompanying mahrem, pursue classes and lectures not available yet to women in the Kingdom, to cover less or not at all, move freely in a non-segregated society, go the theatre, cinema, museums and other outings of interest to her.  Most of these opportunities apply to the man as well but these are also activities he can routinely do in the Kingdom albeit in a segregated environment (with the exception of theatres and cinemas except in special circumstances).
And for the more modern forward Saudi, if single, he or she can mix with the opposite sex and date.  He or she can participate in group activities that are not offered in the Kingdom.
At the same time, the Saudi who is outside of the Kingdom will have other transitions too due to the change of location and culture.  Domestic help may not be available or as easily available and a family support network may not be close at hand either.  Many Saudis are satisfied and comfortable with their routine and practices in the Kingdom and therefore may feel like a fish out of water in a new and what to them could be compared as an exotic environment.  Just like the Kingdom is not for everyone, the West is not for everyone either.
I’d like to hear from Saudis and non-Saudis on their experiences with transitions.  I’d like to hear about the transitions coming in to the Kingdom, returning to the Kingdom and going outside of the Kingdom

Tribute to Vera

Tribute to Vera



Maybe Mother’s Day is not celebrated as widely or openly in the Kingdom as other parts of the world but it is a good time to reflect and remember the love of a Mother.  In this regard, I’m going to be more personalized and share some thoughts about my own mother, Vera.  She’s no longer on this Earth; she passed away several years ago.  I can now talk and write about her without breaking down but the dull ache and throb of missing her has not gone away.



She was born in the United States of parents of European heritage.  She grew up in a large and boisterous family.  She met my Dad when she was still a high school teenager at a local roller skating rink.  They married when she finished high school.  During those times (late 1940’s) most women did not think about University beyond high school but rather getting married and beginning a family, which is exactly what Vera did.



She gave birth and raised five children of her own.  She was a traditional, loving and protective mother.  We lived in the rural countryside of Northwestern Pennsylvania.  Among my special memories were the times when my mother would take me and my siblings into the forest behind our house.  We would go hiking and then before getting too tired, she’d teach us how to make a teepee such as those used by the Indians.  We’d gather branches and sticks and she always remembered to come prepared with rope and shears.  After making our teepee, then we’d fix a ring of stones and prepare a fire.  While the fire was blazing she’d bring out a bag with sandwiches made using her home baked bread.  Dessert was the best treat of all, marshmallows which we roasted over the flames of the fire.



The times when I was home sick from school she was not only mom and nurse but my companion.  Since becoming a mother myself and raising a child, I now realize how much of her day she dedicated to me when I was feeling poorly.  She would entertain me all day by reading to me, making me paper dolls and wardrobes to play with or even stitching by hand new dresses for my dolls.



She never failed to be present at all the various school activities of all of us.  She also made sure we studied well and knew how to do different chores and tasks.  She tolerated our endless pets as well as the various fashion fads we all went through.



She was always the first to awaken and last to retire at night.  All the meals were homecooked to include her regularly making several batches of bread each week.  With the gained experience I now have over the years of my own motherhood, I can only shake my head in wonder as to how did she do it all?



She and my father did divorce after 27 years of marriage and at that time, my mother had to learn to support herself and become self-sufficient.  Not an easy feat for a traditional Betty Crocker model in her late 40’s.  However she rallied herself and enrolled in nursing school with my sister.  They were a mother-daughter team and coached and supported each other through the years of training and study.



I saw my mother metamorphous from a traditional homemaker to a conscientious working woman.  She continued to be “super mom” as well as earn a rightly deserved reputation as “super nurse.”  She was compassionate about her patients and chose to specialize as an intensive care nurse.



In her later years when one hopes that it is the time for retirement and appreciation of life, her life was not necessarily easy.  She was a single woman on a fixed income.  But she rarely complained.  All she wanted was to know her children, grandchildren and great-children were healthy, happy and settled.



Throughout all her years she easily reminded one of a protective tigress guarding her cubs.  No man was ever good enough for her daughters and no woman could measure up as a wife for her son.  Yes, in that respect, I believe she was typical of mother’s everywhere around the world.



She had such a wry and unexpected sense of humor.  To her, the glass was always half-full and never half-empty.  Yet there were times when raising five children who could sometimes all get under each other’s nerves, her patience might be a little short.  One of her typical sayings when she simply had enough if several of us were whining at once over trivial things such as “she borrowed my coat and didn’t ask” or “he ate the last cupcake” she’d place a hand on her hip, furrow her brow and exclaim in exasperation “if you are looking for sympathy you’ll find it in the dictionary between $hit and syphilis.”  Fortunately she did not say that often but it’s a phrase none of us ever forgot.  She also encouraged us to remain positive and optimistic regardless of moods to the contrary.  She’d instruct us to always keep a smile on her face for not only could it perhaps brighten someone else’s day but it might make people wonder what you are up to!  Oh yes, that was my mom and her personality!



She passed away unexpectedly and in her sleep when I was on a diplomatic posting in India.  Unfortunately her passing coincided with 9-11 and as a result, it was impossible for me to get a flight for her funeral services.  I had to deal with some issues regarding closure and feeling cheated from getting to say a final goodbye.



However in closing this post, cherish your mother wherever you are.  If she is no longer with you, continue to honor her memory.  Mine may be physically gone but her spiritual, emotional and loving presence remains with me daily.



Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers everywhere in the world!


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