Why Some Saudis Can’t Cope Outside of KSA

It is true that it can be difficult for some westerners to adapt and live happily in Saudi Arabia. But I also believe that the shoe can be turned on the other foot too and that some Saudis may find it difficult to cope in the USA. Now if you are a westerner you may be asking…why is that, there’s freedom, independence, choices, openness…how could they not cope?

But in general, there are Saudis who come to the USA and encounter the same severe culture shock as Americans who come to Saudi Arabia. In many cases they are unable to bring a housemaid to America with them and therefore all of a sudden have to cope with cleaning house, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, doing dishes, doing laundry, ironing, making a bed, changing sheets and even cleaning bathrooms. For many Saudis who arrived in the USA as a student or on business this may be the very first time they have had to experience any kind of domestic chores as such. Most Saudi homes do not have a dishwasher so even learning –how- to use the dishwasher is an experience as well.

While America may have freedom, democracy and openness, it also has rules and rules are expected to be followed in America. Whereas in Saudi Arabia if there are rules then they are likely more suggestions and can be circumvented. For example, in the United States even something as simple as parking has structure and rules such as expecting to park between the lines and in the appropriate spot. In Saudi Arabia this is a continual frustration with not enough parking spaces compounded by drivers who readily take up 2-3 spots alone. This also ties in that there is less evidence of wasta in place and in use in America as compared to Saudi Arabia. If one breaks the rules in America one will likely pay the fine whereas in Saudi if you know the right person you can usually find “small petty” charges dropped or forgotten.

And last but not least is the sense of structure and order one finds in America. In Saudi there are always jokes about “Saudi time” and how “flexible” businesses may be when one has an appointment. Again, in the United States if an appointment or a meeting is scheduled for 0900 then it is prudent to arrive a few minutes before 0900 hours.

I know there are a number of Saudis who read my blog and have been or are outside of the Kingdom. Please share your views on how easy it was to adapt to a culture with customs so opposite that of Saudi Arabia.


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