Friday, October 19, 2012
The Real People of Saudi Arabia
I can hardly believe it-we have been living in Saudi Arabia now for 4 straight months! The Expat culture has embraced our family. Expats are basically people living here that are not Saudi nationals. In fact, Jeddah has more non-nationals living here, coming from various nearby countries.
For example, my driver is from Palestine. My dentist is from the Philippines. Our children have teachers from: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and Kenya. My co-workers are Pakistani, Syrian and American. Our neighbors are from Jordan and Egypt. The barista’s at Starbuck’s are from Egypt, Africa and Asia. Employees at my favorite Chinese and Italian restaurant are from the Philippines. Near my work, the food service place workers are from Bangladesh, India and Morocco. I must say, these are the nicest people that I have met here!
On the other hand, those who I have had rude encounters with were locals. We have had some odd experiences here in Saudi Arabia. For example, I and my children have been pushed by a few women and their shopping carts, physically shoved out of the way in the line at cash registers and yelled at by a Saudi lady because she felt that she had a right to be served at Starbucks before me. I don’t know why these women reacted to us the way that they did. But it is what it is. I have met nice locals, too. I have had a few Saudi women approach me and ask me where I am from. One lady at the hospital even asked for my phone number, called me, and invited me to her home for a gift.
These experiences do make me a little homesick, from time to time because these types of things never happened to me in other countries that I visited, like Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Spain and Taiwan. Saudi Arabia truly is a country like no other, as I’ve been told, and now agree.
What I miss from my own US culture are the rules of ethics that are just understood. I miss people in stores saying “excuse me” or “sorry.” Life here can be hard for a westerner like me. I won’t deny it. However, when my family goes out to eat, we are happy to encounter such nice “expats” as they are the ones that make this country special and bearable. Saudi Arabia would truly not be what it is, if not for the hard work and friendliness of people from around the world.