American Expat Living in Saudi Arabia - Interview with Gina

Published: 30 Apr at 12 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Saudi Arabia
My name is Gina and I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I have a daughter who is 25 and two grand-daughters; 3 and 4 years old. After 20 years of federal service, I decided it was time for a change and started applying for positions overseas. My interests include traveling, golfing, reading and blogging. Gina's expat blog is called GMarie's Page (see listing here)

Here's the interview with Gina...

Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Roselle, New Jersey but now make my home in South Pasadena, Florida

In which country and city are you living now?
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

How long have you lived in Saudi Arabia and how long are you planning to stay?
I arrived in Riyadh in September 2011. I am not sure when my employer will transfer me back to the U.S.

Why did you move to Saudi Arabia and what do you do?
I need a change in my life and always wanted to work abroad. So I searched for jobs, interviewed and was offered a position as a Supply System Analyst.

Did you bring family with you?
No, my daughter is grown and between work and school, her two daughters keep her very busy.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The information I gathered about Saudi Arabia came predominately from friends who were in the Army or Navy and were on orders here. I knew I needed more information from a civilians’ perspective, so I surfed the internet and found two websites that was very helpful for me:

American Bedu:
Susie’s big adventure:

Both sites prepared me with enough information for transitioning to the Middle East smoothly and calmed the anxiety that you get when you move to a new place. I had a sponsor from the Army to facilitate with administrative things, but the websites supplemented that.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
The expat community in Riyadh is great! As a liaison for the Saudi Arabian National Guard Hospital contracting department and the U.S. Army contracting department I get to meet a lot of folks from all walks of life.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Besides the typical shopping and dining out, I have experienced the woman only spas (Almutaka) and floors in malls (Kingdom Tower). There are several golf courses; two are 18 holes, bowling at the Intercontinental Hotel, horseback riding at Dirab Stables, diving in Jeddah and horse racing at The King Abdulaziz Track. I miss not being able to go to the beach as often as I used to, but I found I can do that in Jeddah, I also miss going to the movies. But the multimedia library on my compound does a great job of keeping up with the latest movies. Adopt a Saudi Dessert Pup/Dog. I have one which I have had since she was two months old. Talia is now 16 month and is the best companion!

What do you enjoy most about living in Saudi Arabia?
Since women are not allowed to drive in Saudi, I appreciate the drivers that we are provided to take me where I need to go in this heavy traffic and aggressive driving in Riyadh.

How does the cost of living in Saudi Arabia compare to home?
My employer provides for most amenities such as housing and transportation, to name a few.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is one of those places where you have to be creative in finding things to do. So, this assignment allows me the time and autonomy to move around Riyadh finding plenty to do and lots of topics to blog.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Saudi Arabia, what would it be?
Be patience to the way others do things in their “backyard” which may seem different from where you are from in the world.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The biggest challenge which I have accepted and adapted to in my work environment is that the Saudis do things in their own time. Americans move so fast at work and in our home environments. If I have a 30 minute meeting with the Saudis, 20 minutes of that time is spent socializing and discussing family or current events. Maybe the last ten minutes, we will go over work issues, maybe not. This has made me slow down and “smell the roses”, sort of speak. We now know each other’s families by name.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I will do well because I can adapt to just about any environment.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Bring openness to diversity; cultures and languages.
  2. Read up on the Muslim culture, so there isn’t a total shock to what we as Westerners have been either brain-washed or misunderstand about the Arab culture.
  3. Do not be afraid to go out and explore. My blog is proof that you can come here to work and still have fun.
  4. Learn some Arabic….it is impressive to the Saudi that you are at least getting accustomed to their culture.
  5. Bring a good hair moisturizer! The climate is so dry and the water is hard on your hair.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is called GMarie’s Page. My blog is about my transition from the U.S. to working and living in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. I started the blog (August 2011) when I found out I was accepted for my current position in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. I wanted one forum to communicate with my friends and family back home without writing and sending so many emails and uploading pictures. Well it turned into more than just that. Folks can see that even in a place where the perception that women are oppressed and the men treat women like “second class citizens”, I get to show and write about my prospective of my experiences here in the “Kingdom”. I have developed a readership from several countries (i.e. U.S., Germany, Canada, France, Ireland, Russia, UK, India, etc).

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
GMarie’s Page or at my email, [email protected]

About the author

Expat Blog ListingGina is an American expat living in Saudi Arabia. Blog description: I wondered how it would be to work abroad with a culture much different than my own. After working 19 years for the U.S Federal government (with a 4-year stint in the Navy), I applied and accepted a position in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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