If you know anything about Saudi Arabia, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know expats have different opinions about living in this country. While some people love living in traditional expat communities, others have reservations about the culture in Saudi Arabia. More precisely, they have questions and concerns about things like gender segregation, human rights violations, and the country’s ban on alcohol. In any case, guest workers (as overseas employees are known in SA) agree on a few things: life in Saudi Arabia is unlike anywhere else on the planet. An expat posting in Jeddah can be highly lucrative, but anyone considering this option will undoubtedly have many questions. So, let’s go over everything you need to know about expat life in Jeddah!
Living in SA
Life in Saudi Arabia, like anywhere else, is what you make of it. For example, if you make an effort to assimilate by learning Arabic and learning about Saudi culture, you will be warmly welcomed by the locals. On the other hand, if you stay in the expat bubble, you will likely miss out on all the great adventures that living away from home may provide.
If you’re considering moving to Jeddah, a city in SA, you have to start with the basics. Basic awareness and understanding of Saudi culture can help you, as an expat, adapt more quickly. It will also help you better understand and connect with the people around you. Find some travel advice for Saudi Arabia, and take a trip before moving to SA.
Islamic Culture & Sharia Law
If there’s something most people know about Saudi Arabia, it’s that the country runs on Sharia Law. However, not many people understand what that means. If planning your expat life in Jeddah, you should know what Sharia is and its core principles.
Life in Saudi Arabia is widely based on Islamic observances. And, because cultural values have a significant impact on how laws are administered in SA, the legal system in this country is also based on Sharia principles. This means that there are strict laws that prohibit certain behaviors that they deem unacceptable by Islam. However, in recent years, these restrictions have begun to loosen as the crown prince’s vision of a more moderate Islam takes shape.
Expat life in Jeddah: Then vs. Now
In the past, men and women who were not related weren’t allowed to communicate with one another. Moreover, life for everyone in the country revolved around five mandatory prayers every day. Women were required to cover their hair in public and wear black outer robes called abayas. Many of them also hid their faces. Since 2017, things have become slightly more modern and western-like in Saudi Arabia. Now, men and women can work freely and even spend their time together going to the movies or to sports events. Women can now also drive cars and travel freely, even without a male guardian.
If you’re thinking of moving to Jeddah, you should consider living in an expat compound. For starters, expat compounds are often very luxurious. These self-contained holiday towns provide more freedom and security, as well as a large selection of amenities such as stores, restaurants, swimming pools, and sporting facilities. Moreover, they’re off-limits to Saudi Arabia’s religious police. This means that rules are much looser in these compounds.
There is generally a party at least one compound every weekend. When there are non-Muslim expats celebrating, rumor has it that even alcohol is freely distributed. Although alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia, it seems like expats found a way to sneak it in. When you combine all of this together, living in an expat compound looks a lot like living in any other western country, even the USA.
Moving to Jeddah as an expat is also much easier because many moving and storage companies started doing business in the area. There are many reputable movers like fourwinds-ksa.com, but be aware that there are a few scammers as well. So make sure to do proper research before hiring anyone.
There are various options for finding overseas work, and Jeddah is no exception. However, as part of Saudization efforts to encourage local employment, the government has strengthened control over the job market in the past few years. This, combined with other problems, has resulted in a recent migration of expats.
Jobs for Expats
When it comes to jobs that are available for expats in Saudi Arabia, and more specifically Jeddah, the sky’s the limit. There are plenty of openings in every sector imaginable; manufacturing, service industry, human resources, etc. Jeddah, one of the most beautiful cities in Saudi Arabia offers a lot in terms of jobs!
Usually, it takes two months or less to obtain a Saudi work visa. Employers, as sponsors, have to apply to the Ministry of Labor for authorization. Following that, foreigners are required to undertake medical testing in their home country for contagious diseases. There are other requirements too. For example, once someone enters the country, they still have to pass another series of tests to receive their ID or Iqama.
Generally, expats are prohibited from working certain jobs in Saudi Arabia, like food service employees, telephone operators, etc. Moreover, expats are not eligible for Saudi pensions. This counts even if you are moving from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia. As a result, they receive a large sum at the end of their contract. If your expat life in Jeddah requires a change of jobs, you will have to first get permission from your boss.
Expats were unable to get permanent residency and establish roots in the country until 2019. As a result, most foreigners in Saudi Arabia and Jeddah used to rent their apartments and villas. However, that law is no longer in effect, and any foreign resident can now purchase property in almost all cities in Saudi Arabia. The only exemptions are Mecca and Medina. However, non-Saudi Muslims can lease a property in these cities for up to two years on renewed leases.
If you decide on buying a property to make your expat life a bit more comfortable, you should seek professional help. If you decide to trust the process to experts, the process will be much easier. Having a professional real estate agent and a reputable mover is crucial. Realtors will help you get the best possible deal, and hiring professional movers to move you into your newly bought place will make this much easier!
Situation For Women
Recent changes in the country and legal system have helped to bring more women into the workforce and give them more social responsibilities. Since 2018, Saudi women have been finally allowed to drive cars. Other liberties came with the historic transfer, including the right to participate in physical education programs and attend sporting activities. Women above the age of 21 can now also go overseas without the approval of a male relative.
Even though there are a lot of things to consider regarding expat life in Jeddah, it is a worthy thing to do. Jeddah offers many amazing opportunities for expats and young people. So, do your research and decide on what you think is right for you!