Subscribe to SmallPlanet

We Need Your Help

Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)
Submit a Real Post Report


What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known that it isn't as bad as people who haven't lived in Saudi Arabia make it out to be; in fact, it can be an enjoyable place to be posted. I also wish I hadn't been told tall tales about how I wouldn't be able to do any photography in the country. It's not true, and I in fact did a huge body of work in three years' time. You just need to be careful and unobtrusive, and remember not to photograph people without their permission (which they will often give). I only got stopped once, in a shopping mall, when I thought I was hidden from the view of the guards. Wrong, but I got my picture anyway. - Oct 13, 2017
Honestly, I wish I'd known it is actually way more open than you'd expect. A lot more "normal." I was so anxious about doing something wrong/wearing the abaya/etc. and the longer I've lived here the more I realize that as long as you are not actively trying to subvert the culture you can mostly do as you please. It is not 'scary'. People do not hate Westerners. Everyone from Saudis to other expats and third-country nationals have been really welcoming and friendly. - Jan 19, 2017
Bring lots of books because Saudi bookstores don't carry fiction, only religious (Islamic) and technical/how-to literature; same for CDs and DVDs, although you can order those from Amazon + APO (but sometimes the Saudis open APO packages and confiscate things they don't like). - May 20, 2016
How ignorant the people can be. No "three foot personal zones" here. They like to line jump all the time. They drive wherever they want, however they want. And fast. - Nov 9, 2015
I didn't realize how bad it was for women. I was more afraid of the religious police before I came - the religious police will yell at you, but it's not that big of a deal, they just want to intimidate you. - Oct 15, 2015
Spouses have a hard time finding work. You need special permission. Music is forbidden and you will not find any music stores or hear it in public spaces. - Jan 23, 2015
Not much to do. Motor pool a constant morale issue. Hard to sponsor drivers after the recent crackdown. - Sep 28, 2014
I didn't want to come here in the worst way because of what I had heard. I wish I had known that it isn't so bad and that there are interesting things to learn about the country and the culture and the people. My feelings might change in summer, but for now, I am enjoying our posting here. - Mar 26, 2014
I did a lot of reading and research, took 4 months of Arabic. I knew exactly what to expect and am quite content with my life. I still have 21 months left here. Time will pass quickly and it will be time to move on to the next adventure. - Dec 4, 2013