Recent experience of KSA?

(11 Posts)
diggerdigsdogs Thu 18-Feb-16 14:20:07

DH has been head hunted for a position in Jeddah. Salary is 70k riyal a month (maybe double our current salary) plus housing/schools/health care/flights home

Does anyone have any recent experience?

It's DH, 5 yr old dd, 3 yr old ds and 1 year old dd and I going. We're in Aus now but did 11 years in China and I did 7 years in India in the 90s. im not afraid of a hardship posting but worried about the DC, safety situation and being bored out my brain.

I've had a good Google but need to hear "it's ok, it can be worth it for the money" or "fuck no, it's awful because..."

Also I'm aware the human rights situation is dire there. That's also a consideration but after an awful 18 months for DH work wise and this would allow us to pay our mortgage off and get DH away from where is now.

GreenSand Fri 19-Feb-16 09:27:19

Part 1
We're on the East coast.
I've given up my job to come out here, and its been the break I needed. Recruitment in our fields in the UK has gone down the pan, and loads of people are struggling.

I've never felt unsafe. Were living in a compound (I wouldn't do it without a Western compound), but I go out several times a week, either on my own, with the other girls, or DH and the kids. The driving, however is seriously scary, and personally, I'm glad I don't have a decision to make re driving or not. I cannot drive as a women, which makes me upset for everyone else, but relieved on a personal leval.

Look carefully at schooling for the 5 yr old. Getting primary places, especially the early years, was hard. The older the child, the easier. Also easier for younger kids, as all the applications go in now ish for September, so if your not here, you miss out. Very difficult to access schooling when not in Kingdom.

You'll save a fortune on that salary, if that's the aim.

GreenSand Fri 19-Feb-16 09:27:46

Pt 2
The human rights is difficult. It seems to be hidden, or very public (think, caught with alcohol or publicly spoken against house of Saud). Everyone I've seen has been very happy with the lot. But then, maybe living in a Western compound means they get respected a little more????
Women's rights is definitely improving. Even in the time I've been here, I've seen jobs open up to women, them get the vote (in the third ever public election), and Niqabs discarded in family sections of restaurants. Just remember it's still 1437, and you'll be fine.

The first few months, just living here was a full time job. Doing anything takes forever, and usually half a dozen visits to places. Want bread yeast, AND Marmite, that's two different supermarkets. And those half decent biscuits are in a third. And someone has just mentioned the supermarket on the other side of town has boxes of cereal, so you need to go there to stock up.

Now I've got my head round the logistics of living here, I'm starting to look for some work, BUT there is no way on gods earth I'm staying in Saudi over the summer holidays. I saw the car thermometer read 56 in September, and the humidity earlier in the summer is a killer too. So I'm going to decamp back to the UK for June /July/Aug. That means I want a part time, term time only job. Some people work in the schools, others teach English, and some work from home. It's possible. Tho given the age of your kids, might involve a nanny.

For us, as a family, it appears to be the right thing to have done. Only time will tell.

GreenSand Fri 19-Feb-16 09:28:41

Pt 3.
Sorry, kept getting "Invalid message", and breaking it up was the only way I can find round it.

Feel free to ask questions publicly or via PM.

I usually get bashed for saying KSA isn't as bad as the Western press makes out on MN threads. I truely believe, while this place is far from perfect, it is not nearly as brutal as the press try to insinuate.

jomidmum Fri 19-Feb-16 19:27:20

I'm also in KSA, in Riyadh, which is a rather conservative area. My husband travels regularly to Jeddah with work and he says it seems to be less strict there: colours abays rather tha. The black of Riyadh!
I have been here for 5 months now and have mixed feelings. I do find life claustrophobic and frustrating here: I miss the spontaneity of just popping out and about, I miss the arts, cinemas, parks, countryside, etc. I do worry about security: last week we went to a huge festival and after we'd got home we heard there was a terrorist threat made against it, there are frequent raids and arrests re terrorism in the city, there was a car bomb here 2 weeks ago. Many people seem to just take this in their stride but it does worry me and I am concerned about the increasing instability of the region.
BUT we have had an amazing time in other respects: the opportunity to live in another culture, meet so many amazing international families, witness the generous Saudi hospitality and friendliness.
Human rights is a tricky one: we just ensure that we model kindness to others, so our kids see this constantly. We treat others well, are polite, kind, generous.
So mixed feelings from me being here: loads of people totally love it gets, but an increasing number are leaving and heading out of KSA.
All the best whatever you decide.

diggerdigsdogs Fri 19-Feb-16 23:20:36

You're both so kind to reply, thank you.

Do many families have drivers? It was quite common in China to have a family car for the wife and kids.

Sorry I'm going to ask a heap of questions...
-do people home school if they can't get into a school? (If DH got the job) I imagine he would leave to go in a month but I thought kids and I would stay here until maybe a few weeks before start of the school year in sept. Is this a mistake if we couldn't sign DD1 up for school until she arrives?

I won't be looking for a job at least to begin with so that's ok.

Do many of the compounds have shops or do you HAVE to go out and go to 3 shops just to get a weeks worth of food?

Can family get tourist visas to come visit you?

What is cost of living like? We spent a fortune on food in China - eating out was cheap but cooking at home was expensive.

What are the hospitals and air pollution like? DS2 has asthma that is triggered by catching a cold.

Is there anything you would specifically try to get included on a contract beyond housing/flights/schools/healthcare?

I can't think of anything else just now. smile

Thank you again! flowers

GreenSand Sat 20-Feb-16 04:24:33

No one would bat an eyelid about a driver. However, most people I know have a friendly taxi driver who knows you need school pick up on Sun, Tues, Thurs later than Mon and wed, and fits other jobs around those "permant bookings".

I believe jomidmum is permentaly home educating. You may exclude yourself from the possibility of some schools if you use home Ed as a stop gap for more than a month or two. Tho at aged 5 you may get away with " this is a first school, no previous schooling history".

A shop was on my essentials list when DH was compound hunting. It's more like a corner shop. We use it for mid week milk, bread and icecream, and other top ups, rather than a full shop. I'm sure you could if you wanted to. The other reasonably sized compounds I've visited have similar.

My parents are coming next month grin it's been a paperwork head ache but perfectly possible to get close family in.

Cost of living. Food can cost peanuts if you eat like a local. But as soon as you start wanting breakfast cereal, crisps (walkers/lays) biscuits, ie the imported stuff, prices rocket. Petrol is cheeper than water (£10 to fill a tank). Utilities are included in our rent. Eating out, I'd say is similar to UK, but remember no alcohol which keeps it down!

Talk to Jo about hospitals. We have access to the company hospital (!), so haven't experienced local hospitals. The only negatives I've heard is the ease at which drugs are handed out, and maternity care. Most people seem to leave Kingdom to give birth, those that haven't have less than positive stories.

It's very dusty here. I don't think the air quality is too bad. Canadian friends think it's awful. No bad colds in the 6 months we've been here.

Look at getting a relocation allowance, and either shipping / furniture and other stuff you need replacing allowance. ie get them to cover your moving and set up costs. Our house came fully furnished- most seem to be (and not a decision factor, but unusually, we also got TV, ironing board, sheets and towels of furnished).

GreenSand Sat 20-Feb-16 04:25:25

Oh. And check when school starts!!! Were back in Aug. Some aren't back til after Eid, so end of Sept!!!

jomidmum Wed 24-Feb-16 10:45:16

Hi again!

Hospitals: we've had a few experiences of hospitals. My son was in a nasty accident about 7 weeks after we arrived. He lost a front tooth, smashed the inside of mouth which required extensive suturing, and split open his chin badly. It was a pretty hideous experience BUT our local hospital was excellent. They got an emergency team including dentist and plastic surgeon literally within 2-3 minutes of him arriving at A & E, and they have all done a fantastic job. It wasn't a hospital covered by our insurance policy, but my husband's company now are helping him claim for the cost: my husband paid for the treatment at the time. The staff have been totally amazing. We've had another couple of minor hospital visits which again were fine. It's a strange system, as you self-refer to a consultant, although the pharmacists are very helpful too.

Air quality: I find dreadful at times in Riyadh! Maybe on the coast it's different but the air here is very often sandy and gritty. A humidifier helps. Riyadh is a huge sprawling capital city (built out into the desert rather than into the air) with no public transport system and the roads are very very busy, the volume of traffic very high and all the pollution that comes with it.

Food: my husband kindly does out grocery shop each weekend. I am slightly paranoid about the produce here: I do worry about BSE etc! The vast majority of fresh produce is imported and I don't particularly enjoy it. But I was used to a huge local farm-delivered veggie box in the UK! We find the price of food very high. Even the local things. Fast food is very inexpensive and restaurants are similar to UK with with no alcohol bill smile

Driver: We don't have our own driver, but a number of families on our compound use the same Indian driver who is fantastic. Find a recommended driver. yesterday he stopped us being in a nasty crash when a car was reversing at high speed towards us on a motorway. Not nice sad

I do enjoy some aspects of life here though! The questions you've asked are certainly about the things that I generally struggle with. It's a great experience to live in a country which is SO different. The people I have met are delightful.

Oh, and re schools. Some will take a deposit even if you're not yet in KSA. Most will not let a child start on a visitor visa, but some do. A friend of mine had difficulty with that, as getting the residency visa can take a long time.

All the best! Let us know what you decide!!

Cathpot Mon 14-Mar-16 11:47:00

We are leaving this summer and will have done 2 years - we came for similar reasons to you in that it got DH out of a job he hated and allowed us to stabilise our finances. I have lived in various gulf countries over the years and this is a conpletely completely different place. I genuinely can not think of anything positive to say about the country or the system running it and that's something that has never happened to me before - I am someone who does try and look for the positives. That isn't to say I've hated my time here- I live on a lovely compound with high security and great facilities. We are in the East so can nip to Bahrain for a weekend when it all gets too claustrophobic and we have had some great holidays on from here. My kids are at school on the compound and I study and do some work from home and so I'm busy which is vital. With 3 small kids your key to happiness will be a decent compound - westernised in that you can walk about in normal clothes, and access to a pool. Compounds can be socially very cliquey and occasionally startling , I've made a couple of good friends and watched alot of crazy. Traffic here makes traffic in the UAE look sensible and restrained, and I don't say that lightly. It makes me reluctant to go anywhere unless I have to and I don't like malls so that's the major activity off the menu. Some friends have just been glamping in the west at 'Saudi's petra' which looked lovely and people do canp for a weekend round here in the cooler months.

I would get your DH to get EVERYTHING in writing to do with money and conditions. Do not take assurances for anything at all. Be aware that companies are being saudi-sed and in our case we are being told having signed on with a UK company, we will have to sign a new contract with the new Saudi backed company and get paid in local currency rather than sterling. Your DH is likely to be coming to a work environment that will need him to adjust his expectations of professionalism. Some people adjust and go with the flow, some people find it very frustrating. You are welcome to pm me but I realise how negative this sounds so you may not want to! Best wishes with your decision.

Dowhatyoulove123 Wed 16-Mar-16 08:02:19

Just wanted to say best wishes for the move - my husband has just moved roles from KSA to Bahrain which we find much more agreeable - he's decided he'd never like to set foot in KSA again though.

Be aware of the culture shock on every level - little things like finding tampons etc..

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