Expats in Saudi Arabia have a high standard of living, thanks to good sources of income that allow them to indulge in luxuries and have a good time there.
Many expats, particularly women, may find life in the KSA a bit restrictive. And some people may not like the insular nature of a housing compound. But there are plenty of advantages that make a move to Saudi Arabia more than appealing – from the lucrative contracts with generous employment packages, to a good choice of international schools and good health care in private hospitals.
Accommodation in Saudi Arabia
As an expat in Saudi Arabia, you’ll probably live in a safe housing compound surrounded by the other expats present with you there. Compound accommodation is in high demand in KSA, so it’s important to discuss your requirements with your employer while you are discussing the terms and conditions of your employment contract.
The apartments in expat compounds are usually fully furnished. With facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, libraries, shopping centers, restaurants and even schools, compound life is very self-contained, and some people rarely step outside the life within their beautiful compound life.
Rents are high in compounds, but many employers include a housing allowance in their benefits package. You are expected to pay up to a year’s rent in advance, and you’ll also be charged for the basic utilities such as electricity, gas and water.
Local culture in Saudi Arabia
Moving to Saudi Arabia can be a bit tiring, even if you’re a seasonal expat. It’s a conservative Islamic country and you’ll probably find that many customs from back home are more strictly regulated. The culture shock can be tempered by living in an expat compound.
Islam governs all facets of life in Saudi Arabia, from politics and business to family life, sexuality and even hygiene. You’re allowed to practise any religion within the privacy of your home, but proselytising is forbidden and there are harsh punishments for breaking the law.
KSA is considered to be a patriarchal society, and many expat women struggle to adapt to its strict rules and constraints. For many years, these limitations were enshrined in the law. Today the law is less harsh than before, and expat women in particular are exempt from most restrictions. But patriarchal Islamic values still dominate the country’s social sphere. Women don’t have to wear an abaya or cover their heads in public, but doing so can help an expat blend in. Both men and women should dress conservatively and keep their legs and shoulders covered.
Drinking alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia except inside expat compounds.
Cost of living in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a lower cost of living than many other Middle Eastern destinations. Most expats enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, especially if their employment package includes housing, transport and education allowances.
Compound accommodation is expensive and international school fees are high. Thanks to the country’s booming oil industry, petrol is cheap, so it costs very little to run a car. Local groceries are also reasonably priced but imported food and eating out are costly.
There are strict censorship laws in Saudi Arabia. Many films and TV shows are censored for immorality or causing political offence. Freedom of press and free speech are also limited.