Do Foreign Women have WASTA in Saudi Arabia?

WASTA is a way of life in Saudi Arabia as well as most of the GCC region. It is the tradition in which many Arabs do business and other interactions, both men and women alike. So what about the foreign women in Saudi Arabia? Do they have WASTA? Are they perceived to have WASTA?

There seems to be a common assumption that if a western woman has married a Saudi and is living in Saudi Arabia, then her husband’s WASTA has carried over to her. That is, quite frankly, a misnomer. The Saudi husband may indeed have WASTA but unless he chooses to extend it to his wife and his contacts are also aware of his good nature in this regard, then it does not matter if the wife tries to apply WASTA through her husband’s contacts. It is a man’s world and if she is attempting to use his WASTA on her own recognizant without intervention or known sanction from her husband, she could just as well be invisible. WASTA is something that is carefully guarded and selectively utilized when a request, transaction or facilitation is complicated or considered a major request. One may have friends who are known to have “major” WASTA but WASTA is something that is carefully guarded and not offered out to others.

But back to the original topic of this post on whether foreign women have WASTA in Saudi Arabia. Much of course depends on their position, where they are, who they are and of course what they are asking for requiring use of WASTA. I know of several western women who are married to Saudis and have been in the Kingdom for more than 25 years. They not only are married to prominent Saudis but they also are successful and influential in their own rights. These women certainly do have their own WASTA network. They have shared that they do need to be watchful of who approaches them. It is not unusual for others (men and women) to seek such women out not for who they are as an individual but due to the perception that association with such women raises their own status in the Kingdom and falsely ensures them of having WASTA as well.

Examples of how foreign women are approached and asked to exert WASTA include in finding jobs for others; facilitating healthcare and getting appointments with doctors who are usually booked up; assisting in marriage approvals; assistance with transferring iqamas or receiving no-objections; assist with getting children admitted to specific international schools. Now one may say, “what’s wrong with providing such assistance, aren’t those worthy causes?” Which it should be stated some women may indeed help out with such requests but the primary point is to not expect someone to readily avail their WASTA. If one tends to overuse their own WASTA it can eventually come back on them in that future uses of WASTA would be ignored or rejected.

Lastly, WASTA is a two-way street. When one seeks WASTA for assistance in achieving some kind of an objective, at some point whomever exerted WASTA will in turn at some point have their own request expected to be fulfilled.


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