Moving to Saudi Arabia from America was a culture shock – to say the least. And it was even more of a shock compounded by not knowing what to expect when it came to any aspect of everyday life. I didn’t know if there were nail salons (there are), I didn’t know how to get around (Uber/Bolt), and I certainly didn’t know what grocery shopping would be like. Would things be in English? Would I recognize any brands? All of these things went through my mind when I finally moved to Riyadh and headed to the grocery store for the first time.
Luckily, my experience grocery shopping in Saudi Arabia has been pleasant each and every time. With my guide for expats, you’ll know exactly what to expect and be prepared to go to the grocery store when you first move to Saudi Arabia.
For more about what it’s like living in the Kingdom, don’t miss: What it’s Like Living in Saudi Arabia (from an American Perspective)
What Every Expat Should Know About Grocery Shopping in Saudi Arabia
Grocery Stores to Shop at
There are tons of grocery stores to shop at in the city (some are even open for 24 hours), but below you’ll find the ones that I continue to return to.
- Carrefour – This is a French grocery store with 7 locations in Riyadh and 18 total in the country.
- LuLu Hypermarket – Overall LuLu has my favorite selection of foods as there are tons of American items you wouldn’t expect to find in Saudi Arabia. The store was originally opened in India and there are currently 26 locations in the country.
These two grocery stores are easy to navigate, with signs in English and tons of produce and ingredients available. You’ll even be able to order online and have groceries delivered to you if you’re not wanting to go to the store yourself.
Grocery Store Etiquette
To best fit in, and follow local customs, here are my etiquette tips when visiting the grocery store.
- Be quiet/talk in hushed voices – You’ll notice there isn’t background music playing in the stores and most Saudi’s are very quiet; be respectful when speaking.
- Be aware of your surroundings – People in Saudi Arabia tend to like their space and it’s a sign of respect for men and women not to get too close to each other. Make sure to watch out for others and be cognizant of your surroundings.
- Be patient – Saudi’s don’t always know how to “queue” so people may try to push around you or cut you without meaning to be rude. You can certainly cut back but do it with patience as this is bound to happen many times in the country.
- Respect prayer times – Everyday there are designated prayer times for Muslims, but Friday’s are the most holy days so the grocery stores can sometimes be closed down at random hours or there may be fewer employees working. I would suggest avoiding the grocery stores all together on Fridays and downloading the app “Muslim & Quran” to be mindful of other prayer times throughout the week. (For more apps to download in Saudi Arabia, read this post).
Random Things to Know About Grocery Shopping in the Kingdom
And finally, to round out your guide to grocery shopping in the Kingdom, here are other “random facts”/tidbits of information that are useful to know!
- When you purchase fresh produce you need to get it weighed and have a sticker put on your bag so when you check out the cashier can scan the sticker that indicates the price
- If you have a parcel with you when entering the store, you’re required to leave it at the front of the store and pick it up once you’re done
- If you’re in a grocery store in a mall you’re allowed to take your cart through the mall to the car and leave it outside
- All fresh fruits and vegetables have labels with where they are from
- Everything is in English (and Arabic)
- When checking out, someone will place your items on the belt and will also place your items in bags for you
And that sums up grocery shopping in Saudi Arabia. Good luck and welcome to the Kingdom! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
For more useful information on living in Saudi Arabia, don’t miss Opening a Bank Account in Saudi Arabia – A Guide for Expats