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A Day in the Life of a Saudi Arabia Expat

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post on my peace. joy. pancake blog about what a day in my life in Kosova looked like.

So, one day  I thought to myself: Why not do the same thing for Saudi Arabia, too? As you can tell by the title of this post, I thought that was a great idea, so here you guys go!

While other people around the world are still sleeping peacefully in their beds or are suffering from insomnia, I force myself to get up while being kind of jealous of my European comrades. This is not even because I wake up with the morning prayer calls,which I love the most, at around five in the morning, but because where I live now, the week starts on Sunday.  

So once I manage to keep my eyes open for more than ten seconds without falling back into a deep coma of sleep, I can already hear my cat approach my door and open it, greeting me with his cute, little “feed me, human!” expression on his face, accompanied by a whining meow. At the same time I can hear my alarm go off like there is no tomorrow and whenever I hear that sound of ringing bells anywhere outside of home, I shrink together instantly. My psychology teacher was definitely right: Never set your favorite sound as an alarm. NEVER!

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get from people who don’t know much about life in Saudi, is: “What do you wear outside?” Well, once I have gone through my morning routine and am running out of the house with my coffee mug in one, and my textbooks in the other hand, I have to try really hard not to fall over the long ends of my abaya, which is a black sort of cloak that ALL women have to wear over their regular clothes when leaving their houses. 

The next 45 minutes I spend in a large, American style school bus, with a lot of either very sleepy or very noisy kids, most of which are either in elementary or middle school. Despite the variety of noises going all the way from someone in the back playing the clarinet to the two little kids who are watching Cat in the Hat on their Ipad right next to me, and who probably never have heard of that awesome invention called headphones, I still manage to catch up on some sleep for the next 40 km.

By the time the sun has come out entirely and the air has become significantly warmer, I arrive at school and get ready to make it through a day of workload like I haven’t known since I left German college prep four years ago. I have found out however, that even if the amount of work sucks (What else can you expect from IB?), it’s the people around me that help me to get through the day and say to myself: “That move across the globe was so worth it!” International schools are quite awesome in that aspect. You get to meet all sorts of people from all over the world and if you spend enough time with them, you will find that you become more and more like a completely new person. Maybe even for the better.

Throughout the day I hear the prayer call for another time or two. For those of you who may have been wondering, I should mention that in our school classes continue when the calls go off.

By the time I feel like my head is going to explode from all the knowledge I receive and all the things I have to keep in mind for later, the last bell has already rung and I find myself get my abaya from the locker and return to my bus back to the compound. That trip lasts almost as long as the first one with the only difference that the kids are now way louder and that I can’t fall asleep anymore, even though I would love to.

Riyadh is quite an interesting place and despite the limitations, such as no social mixing and the absence of public transport and places like movie theatres, there are some places that one could visit at the end of the work or school day. Malls are pretty impressive mainly because of their size but I am more of a bazaar or souk person. There’s way more to observe and many more interesting things to find. If you chose to visit a souk, a mall or just go out for dinner, beware of the prayer times because unlike our school, everything else shuts down when the call goes off.

Since I happen to be an IB student as you read at the beginning, you can probably guess that my evenings mainly consist of doing homework and studying (and I’m not even in the full IB, to be fair to my fellow students who suffer even more). But then, there are also the weekends where I find myself on a road trip with my family (that I wanted to write about for two months now) or a visit to the “edge of the world“.

So this is pretty much how I have spent the last couple of months. The awesome thing about living abroad though, is that it pretty much never gets boring. Every day becomes more and more of a new adventure, a new lesson, a new experience and that even more than in my home town. My advice to you: If you ever get a chance to live abroad, go for it!!

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  • Reply
    January 8, 2014 at 3:06 am

    I love your blog! You are so positive and real about your experiences there, and it’s great to read. I am in the process of applying to work in Saudi Arabia, and your last post about being patient really struck a chord with me, thank you!

    • Reply
      January 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      I am glad you are enjoying this blog and more than happy that you find it helpful! Good luck with the job application. If you have any other questions in particular, don’t hesitate to ask. It may give inspiration for a new post. 🙂

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