Top 5 Reasons why Living in Saudi Arabia is great!

By: Mandi Lynn

I'm sure I'm not the first Western expat who's ever gotten the stink eye when I mention that I live in Saudi Arabia. When I meet someone new and tell them where I've chosen to live, the conversation goes a something like this:

Them: You live where?!
Me: Yeah, Saudi Arabia. It's in the Middle East.
Them: Ohhh, so you're in the Service?
Me: No.
Them: Your husband's in the Service?
Me: No, I married a local.
Them: ....awkward silence...

Next I'm hit with a barrage of questions fueled by what they saw on the nightly news including (but not limited to): Do you have to wear a burka? Is it hot over there? What's it like with "the war" going on? Are the men really in charge of their women? Is it true you can't drive?

After the questions come the statements: You must be crazy to live there. I'd never live in a place like that. You should run away. God bless America. Etc, etc, etc.

I'm not going to deny that life in Saudi Arabia is vastly different from the life I lived in the United States. I'm not even going to make excuses for the annoyances and inconveniences I face here as a woman. But all things considered, I would like to let the rest of the world know that when approached with an open mind and sense of adventure, life in Saudi Arabia can be pretty great! Here are my top 5 reasons why!
  1. The Money - Most Western expats come to Saudi Arabia for one reason: Money. Landing a position here as an experienced and educated professional typically comes with perks that jobs back home don't offer. Generous tax-free salaries, luxurious housing, paid education for your children, free tickets back home, and the minimum standard of 30 days paid vacation are all benefits offered to Western expats. The cost of living here is pretty reasonable as well, and considering that for most expats, housing and transportation are a
    part of their salary packages, very little money needs to be spent to live here. We all know gasoline is cheap (cheaper than water actually), but you may be surprised to know that food, entertainment, and shopping are also affordable.

  2. Travel and Tourism - The Middle East has several famous tourist destinations, but the word tourism probably doesn't spring to mind when one thinks of Saudi Arabia. It doesn't have a booming tourist industry like other countries in the Middle East, and it's nearly impossible to come for leisure purposes unless you already have family here to sponsor you, so being able to take advantage of the rich cultural history that the Kingdom has to offer is one of the benefits of living here. Of course there are Mecca and Medina, the country's two holy cities, which are on the top of the list for Muslim expats, but there are several other sites worth seeing as well. Dir'iya, the original home of the Al Saud family, offers a look into what life was like when the Kingdom was first born. Mada'in Saleh, an ancient city of buildings carved into cliffs, similar to Petra, is a look back in time to the country's pre-Islamic history. Saudi Arabia also offers spectacular scenery when you venture out into the deserts beyond Riyadh, the mountains of Abha, or the beaches along the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

  3. Food - I've never found a place outside of the Middle East where you can get quality Middle Eastern food. And further, there is no place outside of Saudi Arabia where you can get quality Saudi food. So if you've not visited, you have no idea what you're missing! The national dish of Saudi Arabia is Kabsa, a dish of rice with meat or chicken served on a huge platter. Traditionally it is served on the floor with everyone sitting around the platter, taking rice and meat with their hands. The experience is offered not only in homes here, but also in traditional restaurants. It's an experience that you probably won't find anywhere else, and one you'll miss when you leave.

  4. Diversity - Growing up in a small town in midwestern America, I thought diversity meant that white kids and black kids attended my school in equal numbers. Today my world has been expanded beyond anything my small-town mind could have imagined several years ago. I have made friends with people from all corners of the globe, from countries I had probably never heard of before coming here. Riyadh, the country's capitol and my home away from home, has a mostly foreign population. People come here from all over the world to earn a living and to build lives. If you're bringing your family and children with you to Saudi Arabia to live, this is a great place to teach your family about differing cultures and ways of life.

  5. Crazy stories to tell back home - Ok, I'm grasping at straws a little here. But seriously, my family and friends never tire of hearing about my adventures and experiences. And I never get tired of having them. How many times in your home town have you spotted a camel or a flock of sheep in the back of a pickup truck? Exactly. Every day is a new adventure here. New people to meet, new languages to learn, new foods to try. Even the challenges I face while living here end up becoming funny little tales to write about.

Never in a million years did I imagine my life would lead me to a living in Saudi Arabia, but at times I'm glad it did. Life here has opened my eyes to the magnificence that lies beyond my bubble of comfort and familiarity back home. Stepping outside that comfort zone and living in Saudi Arabia has ignited a passion for travel and adventure that I wouldn't have known I had otherwise.

I encourage anyone who's ever given the opportunity to travel or work here to jump at the chance. See what could potentially be on your list of reasons why life in Saudi Arabia could be your best life yet!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMandi Lynn is an American expat living in Saudi Arabia. Blog description: An American Girl learning to survive while living in Saudi Arabia (by undertheabaya)
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Contest Comments » There are 47 comments

Laylah wrote 5 years ago:

Very well written and agreed! There's lots of plus sides to living here that outsiders never even though of.

Zoe wrote 5 years ago:

I live in the UAE and on reading things like this, I am on a mission to get my husband to take me to KSA one day.

D wrote 5 years ago:

Go Mandi mashaAllah great read, you write beautifully. Excellent hearing some nice stuff about the Kingdom for a change too :)

Tusy wrote 5 years ago:

I love your blog and i love your attitude towards live . Thanks for sharing it with us

Robin wrote 5 years ago:

Great post as usual…I love learning about new things and you may have given me a reason to put KSA on my bucket list! Keep up the awesome work!

YS wrote 5 years ago:

Another excellent post Mandi. Your blog makes me laugh and cry. xxx

Susie Of Arabia wrote 5 years ago:

Loved all of the pluses you listed about life in Saudi Arabia - all true! Very well stated!!!

Susie Of Arabia wrote 5 years ago:

Loved all of the pluses you listed about life in Saudi Arabia - all true! Very well stated!!!

Chris Rogers wrote 5 years ago:

I've been curious about working in SA for quite some time now. I like to travel and I enjoy the kinds of challenges that face one when outside of their home country. How does one get started?

Ayah Zawja wrote 5 years ago:

As my gramma used to say "Keep on the sunny side"! I'm glad to hear about the things you enjoy about living in KSA because more often than not we get rants. And while I know people need to vent sometimes, I think it is better for us all of we try to focus on those things that make days a little brighter :-) Thanks!

Sanaa wrote 5 years ago:

Nice! Especially point 3. :D

Juliet wrote 5 years ago:

I live in the UAE and I would love to visit Saudi Arabia some day.

Alida wrote 5 years ago:

At 53, I'm an expat out of free will. Culture shock? Happiness and satisfaction is in one self. Respect traditions and religion, socialize with other expats, and enjoy many advantages.

Stacey wrote 5 years ago:

Good to be reminded of the positives!

Mohammad Aslam wrote 5 years ago:

Excellent writing .. Defintely crazy stories to tell back home.. I recently visited Saudi Arabia and experienced some crazy moments there .. Brilliant work mandi !!!

Arslan Kazim wrote 5 years ago:

Mandi Lynn sees positivness in everything, very comprehensive points that describes enough to live in KSA ;)

Bilkis wrote 5 years ago:

I love reading your blog.Most importantly, I respect the fact that you are doing all these for your daughter's happiness. May Allah continue to guide you to the right directions in life.

OverthinkingExpat wrote 5 years ago:

I'm yet another visitor to your post from the UAE. Everyone back home confuses my host country's rules and culture with their *perceptions* of Saudi Arabia, so I can relate and sympathise with the bizarre responses you must experience frequently! I enjoyed your posts on the positives of Saudi life, and inshallah one day I can manage a visit to explore the mysterious Kingdom myself.

Uwe Benkert wrote 5 years ago:

Being new to the Kingdom and preparing the grounds to bring my family here, I found this Blog and I love it -. It's a very nice insight into Saudi society, at least a part of it. Don't stop writing. Cheers Uwe

HollyA. wrote 5 years ago:

I love her determination to make the most of her life, no matter what challenges she faces. Her sense of humor, love for her daughter, and excellent writing all contribute to her must-read posts!!!

Haboona wrote 5 years ago:

Great Article hon! If it wasn't for number 4, I would have never met you. Number 5 has kept us busy while we enjoyed the company of great friends. The rest are just the extra topics on a place I love (Yet love to hate at times.. lol) all the more wonderful <3

Jeddah Blog wrote 5 years ago:

Great post and five awesome reasons to live in Saudi Arabia :)

LeVonia wrote 5 years ago:

Thank you, Mandi for this post! Not only is it informative, but its positive! Not enough positivity in this world! One day I pray that I will be able to experience KSA on my own. It's been an almost 50 year dream of mine. If our paths cross, would hold you to that lemon cake! It looks delicious. Keep blogging!

Mary Kennedy wrote 5 years ago:

Great post, Mandi, as usual! However, with my being a hopeless foodie, I probably would have switched number 3 for number 2 :) :) I thoroughly enjoyed how you highlighted the Kingdom's many wonderful offerings. I've been here for 26 years, and the crazy stories just keep on coming. Gotta love it! Great job.

Mary Kennedy wrote 5 years ago:

Great post, Mandi, as usual! However, with my being a hopeless foodie, I probably would have switched number 3 for number 2 :) :) I thoroughly enjoyed how you highlighted the Kingdom's many wonderful offerings. I've been here for 26 years, and the crazy stories just keep on coming. Gotta love it! Great job.

Andrea wrote 5 years ago:

I loved this article! This gives a wonderful opportunity to give outsiders the opportunity to see the positve aspects of living in Saudi Arabia! I would love to visit this country, and learn all about the rich traditions this culture has.

Nicole wrote 5 years ago:

awesome article! my favorite part is the beginning! :) can't tell you how many times i've had the "in the service" conversation with various customer service reps on the phone when i want to change my address or cancel my service. i'm pretty sure that by the time it comes out that i'm here because i'm married to a saudi, they fall into awkward silence because they've never been trained on how to handle a call from a secret jihadist terror cell in the middle east. also known as my living room. with my ikea couch and my dog.

Kholoud wrote 5 years ago:

Great post Mandi ! Spotting the light on the positive part in living in KSA loved it.

Tracey Powiesnik wrote 5 years ago:

Thank you so much, since we discovered that were moving to Riyadh I have felt as though I have been working for the Saudi Tourist board trying to show everyone the positive side. I too have had that 'look' that you mentioned, and been bombarded with questions. Your blog and your tweets have helped me understand the opportunities and excitement that lies ahead. My Husband is already there and is enjoying his adventure , I cant wait to join him ....

Feda wrote 5 years ago:

Loved reading this! Excellent post to share with friends considering moving to the GCC. It covers all the basics in an informative and useful way. It's versatile enough to cover the entire GCC in a swoop. Thanks, Mandi, for the post!

Ag wrote 5 years ago:

Awesome read. Foods definitely one reason to be around over there :D there are so many options and varieties to choose from :D

Jenna Everson wrote 5 years ago:

Love the article! I always enjoy your tales from Saudi and the KSA, they keep me laughing!

Amirah A wrote 5 years ago:

ksa -saudia arabia the only place in the world you can see a monkey riding a dog.......go to beaches and mountain citys with your head in the clouds in souda or shopping for spices in bulk..one day will always lead to many journeys.

The Work Girlfriend wrote 5 years ago:

Under the Abaya is more than a blog. Since becoming a faithful reader, I have found it to be a place where women of all nationalities, religions and ages can come to listen, share, vent, laugh, cry, teach and be taught.. all with the author. Mandi makes sure to answer every comment, regardless of tone or content, in a caring and tactful manner and you cannot help but feel when reading her words that she is your friend. And a very good one at that. In my opinion, she is an amazing woman, doing amazing things in an amazing land.

Basma wrote 5 years ago:

I really enjoyed reading this! It is lovely to read the positives about a country in which you hear a lot of negatives. Thank you for that, Mandi!

Connie wrote 5 years ago:

Great writing as usual. Saudi is lucky to have you sharing its positive side.

Jennifer wrote 5 years ago:

I always enjoy your writing!

Peia wrote 5 years ago:

I'm about to became an American expat living in Saudi Arabia myself, and I really enjoyed this post.

Gert Viljoen wrote 5 years ago:

I'm heading for KSA in a few weeks to be stationed at Jizan as expat from South Africa. Very excited to compare knowledge gained in global refineries with those of Saudi.

Elicia Carla Du Toit wrote 5 years ago:

Hi im coming to work in saudi for 12 months personal training a princess is there a society or a group i could join meet people from other countries that live there

Rawabi wrote 5 years ago:

Seriously i live in saudi Arabia and my life wish is to get the hell out here i mean seriously , we don't have good prices to hang out in and we as womens we don't get to drive and it's not safe to go to or have a walk and he can do any activities besides drawing and Talring we don't even have a librarys in most of the citys , we can't go on a dite or meet a guy before we get married to them and if you born in here they force you to be a muslim and women's don't get to leave the country or get married until a guy of her family says yes even if he is her younger brother which is so offensive , you can't be gay in her they but you i in jail and people in her so races and stupid and you as a women you forced to do what man say you do and ok some man let you kinda free but a lot don't some don't let you even study or go to school i can't leve the country so it's like big jail to me and i hope some day i be free I am a human and I deserve to live and this is not life

Raj Padhiar wrote 5 years ago:

HI... actualy i m not found of reading much but when i read yo first few lines it made me feel to keep on reading till it ends!! Very nicely written!! If i go well with ma studies i probably can get an chance to work in Riyadh n after reading yo article i dont think i will let go that opportunity... just wishing the day comes...!! Have a great life ahead... Take Care!!

Naeem wrote 5 years ago:

hi i have been offered a school job there and getting family visa too. Though i am a muslim but being an Indian woman i am afraid of coming there. do they pose too many restrictions on women? are women not allowed to go out without their male counterparts. if i dont have any car then will there be any public conveyance to reach my work place? can i go to my school without accompanying my husband? kindly help in this direction.

Marie wrote 5 years ago:

Thank you for recommendation, but basically all these things you mentioned - meeting new people from all over the world, enjoying exotic food and historical sites - can be done elsewhere, in a country that actually allows me as a woman to drive, travel freely without constant guard behind my back, work, vote, etc. Sorry, from me it's big NO.

Fahad wrote 4 years ago:

im from saudi arabia the worst thing in there is the weather its hot but sunny that type of sunny that makes you feel that the rest of the day well be awesome and try rice its very good its what most saudis eat for launch and its not like any rice in the world rice and chekin

RS wrote 4 years ago:

How does a highly trained professional from the USA seek employment in SA?

Waqar Hassan wrote 4 years ago:

I am planning to move to KSA with my family this year and this post has been very helpful for my wife and I in clearing some doubts that we had. Thanks Mady; great share indeed!

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