A Western Woman’s View about Saudi Arabia

First of all, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to interview you.  I think the way we can share our information and perspectives about Saudi Arabia help all of us better understand what life in the Kingdom is all about!


So to begin with, let’s start with a little bit about you….


What is your nationality? 

I am American, born and raised J 


I understand you are also married to a Saudi.  How did the two of you meet?  How did your respective families react when they learned of your intent to marry each other?

Yes, I am married to a Saudi.  We were introduced thru mutual friends while he was in the USA studying.  Our families were both accepting, yet cautious of our relationship at first, but Alhamdulillah they are both incredibly supportive now.


How long have you been in the Kingdom?

We arrived in November of 2007, so about 10 months.


How has your experience been thus far in the Kingdom?

My experience so far has been positive.  My in-laws have been very welcoming and hospitable, as well as other people I have met since arriving here.  There of course have been cultural differences to get used to here, but they have been minor.  The most difficult aspect of living here is the loneliness.  It was difficult for me to be away from my parents and family, as we have always been so close.


How do you feel you have adapted to Saudi life and being part of a Saudi family now?

I think I have adapted well, but I still have a long way to go.  I feel comfortable with my husband’s immediate family, and in fact sometimes I forget that I’m “different”.  I do tend to become shy and nervous at large gatherings of Saudis, or Arabs in general, and I’m always unsure of what to do.  I think this is mostly due to the language barrier, but also with some of the customs here.


How prepared and knowledgeable do you consider yourself about Saudi Arabia?  How much advanced research and/or exposure did you have to the Kingdom and its life and culture before arriving in KSA? 

Before arriving in the Kingdom, I did as much research as possible.  It is difficult to rely on most reports given by the media.  I was even put off by the US State Department’s website!  The most valuable information I received was thanks to the women on the Saudi Wives Yahoo group.  The women there are very knowledgeable and give information, and more importantly, personal experiences.  This is what prepared me the most for my arrival in the Kingdom.

Now that I’ve been here for a while, I would consider myself knowledgeable about life here, although there will always be more to learn and experience.


As a Western woman in your home country were you able to make any Saudi friends?

Unfortunately, no.  The opportunity never really presented itself.


What advise would you give to other expat women to better prepare them for a move to the Kingdom?

The best advice I could give to anyone considering a move to the Kingdom is to be open minded.  Remember that not all cultures operate in the same way, and that is a beautiful thing, not something to be feared.  


And what advise would you give to other foreign women who are marrying a Saudi AND will be coming to live in KSA?

I would say do your homework, and know the man you are marrying.  You should know that in general, life here is pretty normal, but it is likely that some things will change when you get here.  You do not have the same rights here as you do in the USA.  This is not to scare anyone, but it’s the truth, and you should be making and educated decision.  Also, it is so important to discuss the situation thoroughly with your spouse, and ask as many questions as you can think of.  Not just about KSA, but what will your life be like here?  Will you be able to work?  Go out with friends?  Is his family supportive?

Finally, get in touch with women in your situation.  You will need a good support group when you get here, as life can be pretty lonely at first.


What have you been enjoying most in regards to living in Saudi Arabia?

Shopping!!!  No, seriously, before we came to Saudi, my daughter and I were apart from my husband for nearly 3 years, so having my family in one place is the best thing about living here.  In addition, I have enjoyed the relationships that I have developed with my husband’s family.  They have treated me so well, and like one of their own. 

And finally, as a Muslim, I enjoy practicing Islam freely here without fear of being harassed or judged because of it, and I love hearing the call to prayer every day.


There are so many stories either in the media, blogs, tv, books or even word of mouth about life in Saudi Arabia.  What was the initial reaction of your family and friends when they learned that you were locating to the Kingdom?  How do you allay any fears or concerns they may have about you being here?

I had a mix of reactions from family and friends.  Some were supportive, some thought I was crazy, but the most important opinions to me were those of my parents.  They knew that it was always a possibility, but they were not expecting it.  They were supportive, but worried.  I called it the “Not Without My Daughter” syndrome. 

Their fears were calmed after my mother visited last spring, and I visited the USA this summer.  Knowing that this really is a pretty normal place to be, and most importantly, that we were happy, helped them to feel a little more at east.


How can other expat women in the West meet and make friends with Saudi women?

For women living both in the West and here in Saudi, the best way in my opinion is via the internet.  There are endless websites and groups available, and it’s a good idea to check them out.  Word of mouth is the other option.  It truly is a small world, and meeting thru mutual friends is a great way to go.  It can be difficult since this society tends to be a closed one, but it is not impossible.


Besides my blog (grin) what other resources do you recommend readers investigate to continue to learn about Saudi Arabia?

Your blog is fantastic, and there are tons more blogs out there that are worth a look.  I think the best way to learn about Saudi Arabia is from the people who actually live here.  So, don’t be shy…visit some blogs, make some friends, do some networking. 

Be careful about what you hear or see in the news.  Most of it is sensationalized and not to mention biased, so it’s best to get your information other ways.


In closing, is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your experiences and thoughts about Saudi Arabia?

I would like to say that I am a normal girl from the Midwest who values her faith, family, and friendships.  Contrary to what some people may think, you don’t have to be crazy to consider a move to Saudi ArabiaJ  There is a HUGE population of Westerners here, and we can’t all be crazy, now can we? 


Thank you very much for your willingness to share and for frequenting my blog.

Thank you, Carol for this opportunity.  It’s great of you to give a voice to the thousands of Western women who live here and lead normal lives.  I hope that this interview opens the eyes of your readers a bit more as to how life can be in Saudi Arabia.


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