I’m an American expat living in Saudi Arabia and to say it’s been challenging… would be an understatement. But it’s also been the most incredible, life-transforming, and thrilling experience too.
The reality is… this past month has been a rollercoaster ride. One that I can’t seem to get enough of.
In a 24-hour day, I experience a plethora of emotions. One minute I’m on cloud 9… and the next minute I’m crying my eyes out wondering what the hell I’m doing. On one hand, I think it’s “easy” to follow the (sometimes strict) rules of a foreign country. And on the other hand I just want to raise hell when someone looks at me funny for showing my elbows, or I get asked to get out of a rideshare because I shut the door too loudly. I would be a fool to say that I haven’t felt nervous or haven’t had my guard up. And the reality is, it hasn’t been that long now that Saudi Arabia has started to ease up on their strict laws. Sure you can’t drink alcohol, wear shorts in public, or have sexual relations with someone you aren’t married to (or at least you’re not supposed to be doing these things). But the country has turned a corner and we can’t turn a blind eye to that. Women are now allowed to drive, I’ve been at the gym with men (something that was once illegal), and restaurants are mixed gender – no specific side for men and no specific side for women.
But this post is about the beautiful people of Saudi Arabia and appreciating the culture. Not the laws of the country.
A majority people in Saudi Arabia happen to be the most kind, friendly, and welcoming people that I’ve ever met. The hospitality in this country is on another level with Saudi’s wanting to feed you, welcome you into their homes, and make sure that you see the beauty in the Kingdom. I’ve had my meals paid for because, “I’m a guest of the country”. I’ve had the chance to sit down with locals who share Arabic treats and Qahwa (“Saudi coffee”) with me. The people are what make this historic and controversial country so damn amazing.
And as I write this I’m wondering how it will be perceived by those who haven’t traveled quite as far or wide as me, who haven’t ever left their comfort zone in search of something more than what they already know. People who don’t quite understand that a country is a complex web of hundreds and thousands of years of history and that no two countries are the same – nor should they be.
So next time you want to criticize a country that you haven’t yet visited, turn off the news. And instead get out in the world and experience things for yourself. You don’t have to travel far or wide to realize that people from all over the world are just like you. Searching for love. Searching for safety. Searching for companionship.
So, from an American perspective I can say that while a rollercoaster, I’m sure glad that I decided to experience living in Saudi Arabia for myself.
Read more about my decision to move to Saudi Arabia: I’m (Actually) Moving to Saudi Arabia