Expats in Saudi see changes over decades as positive

Published:  14 Feb at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, Australia, Canada
Saudi Arabia is now a favourite destination for expatriate professionals, but how much has changed over the many decades since oil was first extracted?

The first expatriates to arrive in the Kingdom during the 1930s were USA oil workers employed by energy giant Aramco, sent to assist the country in managing its newly-discovered oilfields. The majority stayed in the kingdom, forming its first long-term expat community and bringing up their families in the then unfamiliar location. Decades later, USA expatriates as well as many from other world countries are still arriving and adjusting to their new lives.

Until recently, this adjustment caused issues with Western incomers due to regulations such as restrictions on taking photos, visiting certain places and, for women, the wearing of Western clothing and the ban on driving. If expats were lucky, they made new friends within the Saudi Arab community who helped them understand, appreciate and respect the Kingdom’s lifestyle. If they still couldn’t get used to the difference and diversity, they usually gave up and left.

Books written by USA expats who’d spent time in Saudi as children make for fascinating reading, with tales of making friends with Saudi royal children, being given gold coins by rulers and loving every minute of the genuine hospitality. Many who’d arrived several decades or more ago never left, and are now witness to the present-day changes in society and its rules. One older female expat is happy about the new policies empowering women, as many excel and can now receive recognition for their work.

Another delight for long-term Western expats is the way in which the quality of education and the resulting literacy rate have soared, thus giving young Saudis the opportunity to compete with their counterparts in the West. According to one expat educator, the speed of improvements has been faster than in many other world countries. From these and other reports by long-term expats, it’s clear the Kingdom has followed a path leading to excellence and integration, thus allowing many foreigners to stay in a land they’d be reluctant to leave.
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