Tonight I started with the first chapter of the book that I may eventually write about my stay in Saudi Arabia. It may not be entirely structured like a blog post but it answers a question that some of the readers of this blog may have as well, so I thought of sharing the following with you:
Most of the Western people that will pick up this book and open to this page, will probably ask themselves why I chose to move to a place like Saudi Arabia at my own wish. Why would I give up my freedom, my rights, the ability to wear what I want, go wherever I want at any time without male permission or supervision and all the other “luxuries” that people (including women) enjoy in Europe, where I originally come from?
When I was ready to leave for Riyadh, I heard my family and friends say things like: “How can you want to wear the huge black cloak? Won’t you have to put on a hijab? Why would you do that? Isn’t it dangerous there anyway? So why go?” I have to admit that Saudi Arabia may not be a place for everyone but the main reason why I decided to go there despite the possible culture shock was that I wanted to see these things with my own eyes, while the original inspiration for this huge step in my life came from my previous stay in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, which has declared her independence from Serbia in 2008.
People often think that looking things up online or believing every single word that the media says is more than enough to know what is going on in the rest of the world. If you happen to be one of those stubborn individuals, I would suggest you to stop reading right here because you will surely not like what I will say next.
TV and the internet are not always right. In fact, there are many absurd facts communicated to the public, when it comes to the way of life in other countries in the world. I am not saying that media is a lying so- and- so, but don’t think that what you hear on the news is really the way things are.
The main flaw of media is that there is always a heavy bias in it. Let us take my stay in the Balkans as an example before moving on to Saudi.
All I ever heard about Kosovo on TV was that there was another riot in Mitrovica, the north of the capital, or that more KFOR soldiers have been sent to Pristina to guarantee national security. So what was I and the rest of the public supposed to think after hearing this? Of course I was convinced that Kosovo must be the most dangerous place ever and that the last thing I should do is move there. The information on the website of the Grman ministry of foreign affairs did not make my inner situation any better.
What the news did not talk about, as I figured out after the move, was how the people of Kosovo celebrate their independence day. Full of life and joy. Or how they build up their country after the war at a remarkable speed. Or about the fact that if there are any riots between Kosovars and Serbs, they actually happen in the north of the capital for the most part and not necessarily all over the country 24/7.
If the bad news are more profitable for the media, you will get to hear the bad news only and nothing about the good things. What showed me the actual truth about the situation in Kosovo, was my decision to move to the Balkans back in 2010 and see for myself. See that Kosovo turned out to be even safer than some cities in Germany, that foreigners are always welcomed with a smile etc.
Here is where I get to my follow up move to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2013. After the cultural and enlightening experiences I have made while living in the Balkans, I decided to complete my senior year of high school in the capital of my new destination Riyadh instead of back home in Germany. Because I wanted to know how things REALLY are.
I couldn’t help myself but do some research on the internet before actually moving to the kingdom. I know that I may sound self-contradictory at this point but let’s be honest: What other option did I have other than researching online before the big move? So I read through several websites and news reports that I could find.
Several months later I was talking to one of my schoolmates who happened to be one of the few Saudi students at our school. I have been in Riyadh for about two weeks by then and told him about some of the things I read about Saudi online before coming there. Long story short: I didn’t know I could make someone smile like that by telling him or her about what the internet says about a country.
At the end of the day I was convinced that everything is not as bad as people, who have never been to Saudi Arabia, think it is. This is why I have decided to write this down, so that others know it, too.