America to Saudi Arabia - Expat Interview With Mandi

Published: 7 Dec at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Saudi Arabia
Mandi is an American girl who grew up in the Midwest, never dreaming that her life would take her halfway around the world. She first moved to Saudi Arabia in 2007 after marrying a local, and now lives in the country's capitol, Riyadh. In her free time, which she has plenty of in the Kingdom, she enjoys photography, reading, writing, and cooking. She uses blogging as an outlet for her emotions and experiences and offers an inside look at life in the Kingdom, as well as her personal life. Mandi blogs at Under the Abaya (see listing here)

Under the Abaya

Here's the interview with Mandi....

Where are you originally from?
I'm originally from Indiana, USA.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm currently living in Saudi Arabia, in the country's capital, Riyadh.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here for a total of three years, on two separate occasions. I will most likely be here for many years to come, at least until my daughter is fully grown.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved here because I married a local. Currently, my job is mommy, but I have also worked as a teacher here in the Kingdom.

Under the AbayaDid you bring family with you?
Yes, I moved here with my Saudi husband and our daughter.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition was and still is difficult at times. Adjusting to the culture and to the restrictions placed on women here has been especially trying.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Making friends was relatively easy once I knew where to find them. I'd say I'm probably more socially active here than I was in the States, because I find it vital to my quality of life here. Most of my friends are fellow expats, but I do have a handfull of Saudi friends as well.

Under the AbayaWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The national past time of Saudi Arabia is definitely shopping! There are tons of malls with Western and designer brands. There is also a large selection of restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. You can take in a view of the city from atop either Kingdom Tower or Faisaliya Tower. Desert hiking, trekking, quad biking, dune bashing, and camping are also popular activities for both locals and expats on the weekends, especially during the cooler Winter months. There are a few traditional open air souqs where you can find great deals and soak in the culture. There is the Masmak fortress and national museum, as well as old mud brick buildings in the Diera district. There is also a camel market where you can check out camels and buy fresh camel milk. All very exciting things for expats to do.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
What I enjoy most about living here is the slower pace to life and the focus on family. It is quite common to see entire families out for a meal, going shopping together, or taking their kids out to play. The food here is also a plus! Food from all over the world is easily found, and nothing beats a traditional Saudi-style meal on the floor!

Under the AbayaHow does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living is higher in most categories. For most expats who come here, they're provided with a full package for housing, transportation, travel, and tuition for their childrens' education, so they're able to get by spending very little and saving a ton. I live as the locals live, however, so cost of living for my family is higher for sure.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
As a woman, I cannot drive, so I have to be driven everywhere I go. I also have to have the permission of my husband to travel outside the country, as does my daughter. Jobs for women are restricted to medical or education for the most part. Extreme isolation is a problem here, with walls around houses and people generally keeping to themselves.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
If you're coming here as an employee, sponsored by a company, take a deep breath, open your mind, and have an experience unlike any other you can have anywhere else in the world. If you're coming here as the wife of a local, please reconsider :)

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
My situation is different than that of most expats here. I'm only here to raise my daughter, and I'd rather not be here, so the hardest part is having to be here at all. It's also difficult being away from my family and from the comforts of home.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
If I was ever able to go back home, I think I'd have a hard time adjusting to long working hours and reigniting my social life.

Under the AbayaWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be open to new things.
  2. Save your money! Income here is tax-free and it is an excellent oportunity to save for when you return home.
  3. Get to know the locals. Saudis can be incredibly hospitable and friendly people and you should jump at the opportunity to become friends with them when it is presented.
  4. Learn a little about the culture and religion before you come here. Both are easier to understand and handle when you know what you're getting into before you arrive.
  5. Take the opportunity to travel. There are many beautiful places to see within Saudi Arabia, and there are many countries nearby that can be traveled to cheaply. Take in as much as you can!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started Under the Abaya not long after I moved back to Saudi Arabia for the second time. My marriage had just fallen apart, I was alone, and I needed a way to sort out my thoughts. It started as my diary, and as since evolved into a place where my venting and sharing has introduced me to incredible new friends, and has given me the chance to help others in situations similar to mine.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be reached on my blog, or at my personal email undertheabaya{at}gmail{dot}com

Mandi blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Under the Abaya has an listing here with some great comments already - but there's always room for more, so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Mandi, please let her know by leaving a comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Denise wrote 6 years ago:

Very good read!

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