Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/08/21

Personal Experiences from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 07/08/21

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

USA - Trip to post usually had multiple connecting flights with usually about 24 hours of transit time.

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3. What years did you live here?

2018-2020.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything was readily available except banned products (pork, alcohol).

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2. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons of U.S. restaurants available plus lots of excellent cuisine from varying parts of the world. The Indian food was amazing!

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

US Embassy mail (APO and Pouch).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Many have housekeepers and/or nannies. Housekeepers typically make $9-10/hour.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, no issues during our time there.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Unaware of any locally available religious services outside of Islamic services. Any other religion must be practiced privately in your own home.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It depends on the disability. Most facilities are very modern, but sidewalks are not often wheelchair accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

US Embassy community was only permitted to use Uber Black.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Something good for exploring the desert.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, embassy housing has it installed prior to arrival.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local SIM acquired through the embassy.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most EFMs work at the embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work would be business casual. In public, expat females generally wear an abaya or very loose, modest clothing.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I felt very safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Modern hospitals, but health unit at the embassy for all routine care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality isn’t always great because of sandstorms.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

The restrictive nature of the city can lend itself toward needing a trip every 4-6 months.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Extremely hot and dry.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Lots of international schools. The academic rigor of the American School was lacking in my opinion.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Lots of expats and most really enjoyed living in Riyadh.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The embassy has lots of activities, but options outside that can be limited. Gender segregation with kids over 10 at places like trampoline parks can make things challenging for families with opposite gender children.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Familie are readily accepted and kids are loved.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Not in my experience. Persons of color may experience discrimination.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes to all.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Overall, Saudis are very hospitable. Exploring the desert was a lot of fun. We enjoyed the horse races as well.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

YES, so many artisans. The souqs are amazing!

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Family friendly, very modern.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How amazing of an experience that it would be for me and my family.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothing.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and breathable clothes; if you’re a light sleeper, earplugs (morning prayer call is early and loud).

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Understand that prayer call shuts down all of the restaurants and shops (5x a day). Going to dinner is likely going to happen after last prayer call between 6-7 pm. It’s very much a night culture. Be prepared for the food/water restrictions during Ramadan. Overall, it was an incredible tour and I would return in a heartbeat.

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