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RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Old Nov 9th 2008, 1:44 pm
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Default RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Hi there, my husband has been offered an opportunity to work in Riyadh it is a permanent position, as our name suggests we are unsure about taking these steps having never lived outside the UK before. Our immediate concerns are safety - how safe is the Kingdom? What is the cost of living and how easy is it to get onto a western compound? (from what I am reading these appear to be full with waiting lists???) - which ones are good? What is the cost of the living in Riyadh ? (we are a couple without children) How much allowance would you need to buy a car? I would love to hear from anyone currently living over there who can give me some guidance and assistance - all replies would be very much appreciated.

best wishes "The Ambivalent"
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 1:58 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

http://britishexpats.com/wiki/The_Ul..._to_Saudi_Life read this first, then hope that Nic comes on line, she is there now. I knew her when she was here in Dubai, she will give you good advice.
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 2:13 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by The ambivalent View Post
Hi there, my husband has been offered an opportunity to work in Riyadh it is a permanent position, as our name suggests we are unsure about taking these steps having never lived outside the UK before. Our immediate concerns are safety - how safe is the Kingdom? What is the cost of living and how easy is it to get onto a western compound? (from what I am reading these appear to be full with waiting lists???) - which ones are good? What is the cost of the living in Riyadh ? (we are a couple without children) How much allowance would you need to buy a car? I would love to hear from anyone currently living over there who can give me some guidance and assistance - all replies would be very much appreciated.

best wishes "The Ambivalent"
Hi there.

First of all I just want to say, most people are unsure initially about moving out of the UK, which is quite normal. As we have a sister company in Saudi I meet a lot of UK expats living in Saudi. I have also been there on many occasions myself.

However, you mention that security is your main concern, although being in a Western compound will make you feel safe, I have been told that there is a growing Anti Western sentiment there. To be quite frank if you are prepared to take the unwelcome looks from people in malls and on the streets (I have experienced this myself) then you will be ok. This was not the case about 2 years ago. There are a lot of areas especially in Riyadh and Jeddah which are no go areas for the westerner.

Living in a Western compound, despite the presence of security, does not make things any safer, the only benefits I can see is that you would have other westerners or expats to mingle with which I find is good especially for women and children.

But dont take only my word, lets see what others have to say.

My intention here is to highlight factors openly so you can make an informed decision.
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 2:25 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by Blue Cat View Post
http://britishexpats.com/wiki/The_Ul..._to_Saudi_Life read this first, then hope that Nic comes on line, she is there now. I knew her when she was here in Dubai, she will give you good advice.
Thanks so much for the quick response, if you do hear from Nic I would really welcome hearing from her with regard to her up to date knowledge and experience. Have a great week and best wishes. Thanks again!!
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 2:29 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by Duracell_Bunny View Post
Hi there.

First of all I just want to say, most people are unsure initially about moving out of the UK, which is quite normal. As we have a sister company in Saudi I meet a lot of UK expats living in Saudi. I have also been there on many occasions myself.

However, you mention that security is your main concern, although being in a Western compound will make you feel safe, I have been told that there is a growing Anti Western sentiment there. To be quite frank if you are prepared to take the unwelcome looks from people in malls and on the streets (I have experienced this myself) then you will be ok. This was not the case about 2 years ago. There are a lot of areas especially in Riyadh and Jeddah which are no go areas for the westerner.

Living in a Western compound, despite the presence of security, does not make things any safer, the only benefits I can see is that you would have other westerners or expats to mingle with which I find is good especially for women and children.

But dont take only my word, lets see what others have to say.

My intention here is to highlight factors openly so you can make an informed decision.

Thanks so much for the quick response, this is exactly the honest opinions we need in order that we can make such an important decision. If you are able to give any more guidance or indeed know anyone living in Riyadh I would love to hear from you. Thanks again, have a great week, best wishes.
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 2:40 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by The ambivalent View Post
Thanks so much for the quick response, this is exactly the honest opinions we need in order that we can make such an important decision. If you are able to give any more guidance or indeed know anyone living in Riyadh I would love to hear from you. Thanks again, have a great week, best wishes.
Your welcome.

Unfortunately the vast majority of the people I knew there were people working for various industries there who left the place due to the reasons I mentioned earlier. They often used to tell me that "Saudi is not what it used to be for the westerner".

However with the few people who are still there I can ask them anything you want to know about the place, I am sure they would be happy to help.

Can I ask what industry your husband has an offer from?
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 2:55 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by Duracell_Bunny View Post
Your welcome.

Unfortunately the vast majority of the people I knew there were people working for various industries there who left the place due to the reasons I mentioned earlier. They often used to tell me that "Saudi is not what it used to be for the westerner".

However with the few people who are still there I can ask them anything you want to know about the place, I am sure they would be happy to help.

Can I ask what industry your husband has an offer from?
Sure, my husbands offer is from a major US cabling systems manufacturer - he would be the Technical Manager for Saudi and Bahrain. It would be fabulous opportunity for his career but it is the unknown of Saudi that makes as so hesitant - if we were to be based in Dubai or Abu Dhabi I think our decision could be easier.

We too feel it could be harder for the westerner now, we believe that the Kingdom really do want their own to do the work for their economy. Could this be the reason for the negativity?

I really would welcome hearing from anyone out there now, who could advise us what to expect in order that we can make such an important decision.

Thanks again for being so responsive. Best wishes
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 2:58 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by The ambivalent View Post
Sure, my husbands offer is from a major US cabling systems manufacturer - he would be the Technical Manager for Saudi and Bahrain. It would be fabulous opportunity for his career but it is the unknown of Saudi that makes as so hesitant - if we were to be based in Dubai or Abu Dhabi I think our decision could be easier.

We too feel it could be harder for the westerner now, we believe that the Kingdom really do want their own to do the work for their economy. Could this be the reason for the negativity?

I really would welcome hearing from anyone out there now, who could advise us what to expect in order that we can make such an important decision.

Thanks again for being so responsive. Best wishes
Any chance you could persuade the company to base you in Bahrain, and then hubby can 'commute' to the various locations he will need to visit in the Magic Kingdom.

Much better idea............

Bahrain = Paradise Island.

Last edited by The Dean; Nov 9th 2008 at 2:58 pm. Reason: e
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 3:19 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by The Dean View Post
Any chance you could persuade the company to base you in Bahrain, and then hubby can 'commute' to the various locations he will need to visit in the Magic Kingdom.

Much better idea............

Bahrain = Paradise Island.
Thanks "Oh wise one" sounds good to us but currently they do not have an office in Bahrain. It would appear that you are the guru as I have just read the " Deans Unofficial Guide to the Magic Kingdom" so thanks for your comments and I thoroughly enjoyed the guide.

In your opinion what are the best compounds in Riyadh and if you have a relocation company assisting you are you more likely to secure a place on one?

What really is the cost of living out there -what could it cost a couple per month to live?

How long does it take to be given an 'iqama' and would you recommend this being in place before handing in notices at current employment in the UK?

Thanks for the support, best wishes
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 3:54 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Bahrain = BLT (Boring Little Island) Or so our friends reckon . . . .

Hi, What to say about living in KSA? Can't say I have ever received unwelcome looks or been made to feel unwelcome here by the Saudis. I meet many Saudi through my work and they are pleasant and polite like everyone else. My daughter has struck up conversations with Saudi ladies in the malls about travel, London, Paris, clothes etc. I feel no less safe here than I did in Dubai. Yes, there are areas you wouldn't go to - but that is the same in most large cities in the world. Compound living does give you a better sense of security, but I know people (Westerners)n who live off compound who have no problems at all. We find the Arabic people here, of all nationalities, warm and welcoming. It's a great place to meet people from different cultures and countries.

Best compounds are (in no particular order) apparently Al Hamra, Kingdom, Arizona, Arabian Homes, Cordoba. Depends on whether you want a private garden (Kingdom), golf course (Arizona), proximity to school (Al Hamra). Al Hamra is green and has quite a large percentage of Brits due to the British School being next door. Kingdom has a b**, Arizona parties apparently - the Dean might know more about that ?

Cost of lving for a couple ? Not sure, I have two hungry and expensive teenagers, but it is cheaper than UK. And cheaper than Dubai. But not as cheap as it was. Not much help there - sorry. However, there is little here in entertainment so you save by not going out - and if you do go out for a meal it's cheaper than at home as there's no alcohol (assuming you drink).

As a woman you can't drive out here so have to use a driver to get about, but you can go to the mall alone or with other women - and only with a man you are related to or married to. You have to wear an abbaya, but I have never been told to cover my hair and we very rarely see the muttawa in the malls at the moment. My family and I wander round Riyadh with no great concerns, have never felt threatened, unsafe or at risk. We have a wheel cover that obviously belongs to a Westerner and did wonder if we would get the car scratched etc. when parked in town, but to date no problems.

It's not the easiest place to live, nor the hardest. I always think the place you live is as good as the people you know and the friends you make. Some people love it, others hate it and others, like us, are somewhere in between.

Do you work in UK ? It can be a huge shock going from being an employed, independant person to a non-working trailing spouse . . . However, it is possible to work here - many women work in schools, nurseries, banks, and medical (if you have the right qualifications). Others get involved in voluntary work, coffee mornings (awful), golf, horse riding, homne crafts etc.

Anyway, hope this helps somewhat, a bit rambling . . . sorry.

Post any questions, queries etc.
Good luck
Nic
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 4:13 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by Nic1 View Post
Bahrain = BLT (Boring Little Island) Or so our friends reckon . . . .

Hi, What to say about living in KSA? Can't say I have ever received unwelcome looks or been made to feel unwelcome here by the Saudis. I meet many Saudi through my work and they are pleasant and polite like everyone else. My daughter has struck up conversations with Saudi ladies in the malls about travel, London, Paris, clothes etc. I feel no less safe here than I did in Dubai. Yes, there are areas you wouldn't go to - but that is the same in most large cities in the world. Compound living does give you a better sense of security, but I know people (Westerners)n who live off compound who have no problems at all. We find the Arabic people here, of all nationalities, warm and welcoming. It's a great place to meet people from different cultures and countries.

Best compounds are (in no particular order) apparently Al Hamra, Kingdom, Arizona, Arabian Homes, Cordoba. Depends on whether you want a private garden (Kingdom), golf course (Arizona), proximity to school (Al Hamra). Al Hamra is green and has quite a large percentage of Brits due to the British School being next door. Kingdom has a b**, Arizona parties apparently - the Dean might know more about that ?

Cost of lving for a couple ? Not sure, I have two hungry and expensive teenagers, but it is cheaper than UK. And cheaper than Dubai. But not as cheap as it was. Not much help there - sorry. However, there is little here in entertainment so you save by not going out - and if you do go out for a meal it's cheaper than at home as there's no alcohol (assuming you drink).

As a woman you can't drive out here so have to use a driver to get about, but you can go to the mall alone or with other women - and only with a man you are related to or married to. You have to wear an abbaya, but I have never been told to cover my hair and we very rarely see the muttawa in the malls at the moment. My family and I wander round Riyadh with no great concerns, have never felt threatened, unsafe or at risk. We have a wheel cover that obviously belongs to a Westerner and did wonder if we would get the car scratched etc. when parked in town, but to date no problems.

It's not the easiest place to live, nor the hardest. I always think the place you live is as good as the people you know and the friends you make. Some people love it, others hate it and others, like us, are somewhere in between.

Do you work in UK ? It can be a huge shock going from being an employed, independant person to a non-working trailing spouse . . . However, it is possible to work here - many women work in schools, nurseries, banks, and medical (if you have the right qualifications). Others get involved in voluntary work, coffee mornings (awful), golf, horse riding, homne crafts etc.

Anyway, hope this helps somewhat, a bit rambling . . . sorry.

Post any questions, queries etc.
Good luck
Nic
You have friends who think the initials of "Boring Little Island" are BLT?

I have friends too, but they all went to school.

And... Kingdom has a b** ??? Not any more - or are you partying somewhere without telling me???

Your questions, Ambi (crazy name, crazy girl!)..... and thank you for the comments about my 'Guide To Saudi Life' (must update it soon).

Nic1 and I both live on the same compound so we may not be able to give you a broad view of all of them but your initial comment was right - most compounds are full, with waiting lists.

My suggestion is to throw that one back at the employer - tell them firmly but politely that you have heard there is no accommodation, and ask them to arrange some. If they refuse, reject the job offer outright, as it betrays a woeful attitude to the welfare of their employees. Even if they agree to find you somewhere to live, post it on here and tell us where it is, and what it is, before accepting - we can give you an impartial view.

DON'T assume you can turn up to stay in a hotel for a few days and then find a place to live - you won't.
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 4:47 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Oh OK, so I'm dyslexic . . . . .

Yes, it does - you were away when it re-opened . . . I think, did you miss my post ? Friday night 8-12 - assume it's a Friday to accommodate the BMI crew ?

Agree with TD tho, you do need to get accommodation sorted before you commit. Being off compound is possible, but not preferable. Being out here without children will make it harder to meet people if you are not on a compound. Plus in the summer you will really want to have access to a pool and as a woman you can't use the pools at the hotels. Being on a compound also gives you some semblence of normality . . . .

N
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Old Nov 9th 2008, 4:54 pm
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by The ambivalent View Post
Thanks "Oh wise one" sounds good to us but currently they do not have an office in Bahrain. It would appear that you are the guru as I have just read the " Deans Unofficial Guide to the Magic Kingdom" so thanks for your comments and I thoroughly enjoyed the guide.

In your opinion what are the best compounds in Riyadh and if you have a relocation company assisting you are you more likely to secure a place on one?

What really is the cost of living out there -what could it cost a couple per month to live?

How long does it take to be given an 'iqama' and would you recommend this being in place before handing in notices at current employment in the UK?

Thanks for the support, best wishes

my 2p on the iqama bit... don't give notice until you've got it as it can take some time (and it's pretty variable) have a look at

http://britishexpats.com/wiki/KSA_Visa_Info

and

http://britishexpats.com/wiki/KSA_Misc_Immigration_Info

have a chat to Harley Medical services to give you a good feel for what's involved in the visa and how long it may take.

good luck!

and
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Old Nov 10th 2008, 3:30 am
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

I think the question I would ask to all our posters who are based in KSA would be - if you could leave tomorrow would you?
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Old Nov 10th 2008, 5:20 am
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Default Re: RIYADH - WHAT IS IT LIKE OUT THERE?

Originally Posted by Blue Cat View Post
I think the question I would ask to all our posters who are based in KSA would be - if you could leave tomorrow would you?
As I've said before:

Lifestyle is tough, especially for ladies, but you just get used to it - and it's not as if the locals are enjoying themselves either (random example: the Kingdom has no cinemas, not even for locals showing Arabic-language films).

Work-wise: no contest, the best place in the GCC. Well-educated locals, who genuinely respect your Western experience, especially if you are generous enough to try and pass it on to local staff. I'd take a 'weak' Saudi over a 'good' Emirati or Kuwaiti every time...........
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