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What are the things to take into account when working for 1 - 2 months in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah)?

What are some of the cultural aspects that I need to take into account compared to my normal working environment?

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knowing the city will be useful in answering this.. –  user1712 Sep 3 '12 at 18:17
    
updated my question :) –  Lucas Kauffman Sep 3 '12 at 18:18
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This seems to be a very vague question that would better suit a forum, and one for expats rather than a site for specific questions with "right" answers for travellers. –  hippietrail Sep 3 '12 at 19:28
    
Please read travel.stackexchange.com/faq . –  choster Sep 4 '12 at 5:17
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1 Answer

up vote 17 down vote accepted

First of all, Saudi is a normal working environment. You can say it is different but surely it is normal :)

  1. Do not believe CNN or any western media regarding Saudi. They simply exaggerate things to the maximum which will give a bad first impression that will be stuck for a long time.

  2. People are touchy. Saudi men do shake hands all the time and it is considered disrespectful not to shake hands. Also, men do kiss cheeks (Italian style). But most people will avoid that with foreigners.

  3. People greet each other all the time by saying Salam Alaykum which means "peace upon you". Try to use this as often as you can; it will give a good impression to people and make things easier.

  4. People do not sleep early. Most people sleep after midnight. Most shops close around 11:00 or 12:00 at night! Restaurants are open till 2:00 A.M. Fast food restaurants and Walmart-style malls are open 24 hours. You will be surprised that people go out at night more than morning. I think this is due to the hot weather.

  5. Avoid talking to ladies or staring at them unless they start talking to you. It is a cultural thing.

  6. People drive like crazy. So be careful whether you are driving or a pedestrian.

  7. Saudis have problems with queues so do not be surprised. Sometimes this is for your own good ;)

  8. Gasoline is cheaper than water. You can fill a big car for not more than 10 USD.

  9. English is not a problem. Most people do understand some English.

  10. All shops are closed at prayer times. Muslims have 5 prayers a day. When the prayer starts all shops will be closed, and most people will go to mosques to pray.

  11. Saudis love to talk about football, cars and religion. So expect people to ask you in the middle of any conversation, "What's your religion?".

  12. Kabsah is the national dish here. So if you get invited you may see a large grilled lamb in the middle of a huge plate filled with rice.

  13. Saudis are generous — sometimes to an extreme. You often see people fight next to the cashiers about who will pay. Everyone wants to be the one who pays!! If you go out with a Saudi it will be a shame if you pay. If you are the guest, then he has to pay! So let him pay!

  14. If the police stop you, you are the one who should get out of the car and go to them! it is ok if you wait in your car but that will take longer. Police rarely stop foreigners though.

  15. Most taxis do not use a meter. They are cheap in general. Just remember prices vary from 10 Riyals (2.6 USD) to 30 Riyals (8 USD) so if they ask for more, wait for another taxi.

  16. There are lots of sea activities here — boats, lots of sun and scuba diving.

  17. All restaurants have family and ladies section and single men section. So never enter the family section when you are alone! unless you are with a lady.

  18. Saudi Arabia is a very safe place. You can go out any time with no problems at all.

Due to the location of Jeddah (next to sea) and to the mixture of people from different places in it, Jeddah is totally different than the rest of Saudi. People in Jeddah tend to be less conservative.

BTW, I live in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah), and I tried to be fair and mention both good and bad things.

Please remember, being different is not a bad thing. Not all cultures are identical otherwise there would not be cultures!

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Deleted some comments here that were going off-topic. Andrew / Halabi, be nice to each other, okay? :) –  Ankur Banerjee Sep 3 '12 at 23:18
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I think this answer carried a giant implied "if you are a man" at the start of it. Perhaps you could clarify which pieces of advice apply to everyone and which only to men? For example a woman alone would go to the family side of a restaurant, no? –  Kate Gregory Sep 4 '12 at 17:05
    
@KateGregory I have updated the answer. check the update history to see what did i add. –  user1712 Sep 4 '12 at 17:08
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I'm not following you. As a woman, should I shake hands with a Saudi man? Point 2 says yes. Should I sit in the singles section when I am alone? Point 17 says yes. Should I avoid talking to other women? Point 5 says yes. I think if I actually went to Jeddah and followed this advice, I would regret it. You have edited to clarify about Saudi men vs Saudi women, but still assume the traveller is a man. –  Kate Gregory Sep 4 '12 at 17:20
    
@KateGregory I fixed it to mention "men" when necessary. No if you are lady you sit in the family section. if you are a lady you can shake hands with ladies only :) any way in the communities inside saudi where there are a lot of non-saudis things are different –  user1712 Sep 4 '12 at 17:29
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