Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 10/08/19

Background:

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

Jeddah was my third expat experience. My previous two cities were Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and Cairo, Egypt.

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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?

Our home city is Washington, DC. Due to Fly America rules, we had to fly through Europe, usually on Lufthansa/United via Frankfurt. The trip would take roughly a day. Traveling to Saudi is about the same as traveling anywhere, though it's made more difficult because of the visa requirements. Also, there are rules about who can fly into Jeddah during the hajj season - basically, unless you can prove that you live in Jeddah, you are not allowed to fly there during hajj without a hajj visa. And yeah, they definitely stop people at Frankfurt trying to board the plane.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived in Jeddah for two and a half years.

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4. 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. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The vast majority of expats live on compounds, though of course non-compound apartments and single-family homes exist. If you're a Westerner, or otherwise non-Muslim, you will definitely want to stick to a compound, most of which are set up similarly to small vacation resorts, complete with pools, restaurants, shops, children's activities, playgrounds, tennis courts, bowling alleys, shuttles to popular shopping destinations, etc. Some compounds have more amenities than others. All usually offer apartments or houses, and serve a very international community. They are also very safe; we let our elementary-school son run/bike around the compound freely. Everyone knows everyone, so there's elements of living in a fishbowl, but it's a pretty big and varied fishbowl.

However, that was before the new American consulate location opened. My understanding is that all new incoming US diplomats are going to be required to live in the new compound space, where the only options are apartments with very small windows. There is no store, no children's activities, no restaurant, no bowling, only one pool that isn't safe for small children, no playground or sports areas, and no regular shopping vans unless the CLO arranges it.

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

Everything is available in Jeddah, including a wide variety of both local and international items. There were very, very few things I could not find in the local grocery stores - and I'm a huge baker and cook. If I can't find it, you probably didn't want to use it anyway. The prices were comparable to the US - slightly higher because of being imported, but nothing unreasonable. Except for the avocados, those were $10/each.

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

Aluminum foil and plastic wrap; those are always terrible outside of the US! Sunscreen and bug spray are very expensive, when you can find them.

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

Most restaurants will do take-away without much trouble. Food delivery is limited, because Jeddah doesn't use normal street addresses; most places that deliver will ask for you to send them a pin for your location, and then use a combination of the pindrop and the Force to find you. Sometimes your pizza arrives mostly warm.

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

Ants are everywhere and do not respond to typical ant traps.

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Daily Life:

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

We used the DPO. Local post is mostly dependent on independent couriers.

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

Household help is plentiful; expect to pay roughly US$8-10/hour for nannies, housekeepers, and the like.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a number of gyms in the community, including Gold's Gym and Curves for Women. I don't know the prices.

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4. 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, we used our credit card extensively and never had a problem. There are ATMS but I never used one.

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

Saudi Arabia does not allow any religious services for anything other than Islam.

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

I speak about five words of Arabic; I did fine. Jeddah is a hugely cosmopolitan city with lots of expats from all over the world; also, many Saudis receive higher education in the US, Canada, or the UK, so their English is excellent. There are plenty of tutors on the economy and in the compounds if you want to learn Arabic.

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

Yes, because ramps aren't everywhere and it could be difficult to get around.

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Transportation:

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

We were not allowed to use local transportation.

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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?

Most people drive SUVs. Gas is super cheap.

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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?

We had high-speed internet and never had a problem. Sometimes it went out but was back in about 20 minutes. It was installed within a week of arrival. Highly recommend getting a good VPN before arriving; Saudi has some of the toughest rules on internet use and it will be impossible to even visit VPN sites once you arrive.

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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?

We used a local provider.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

We brought our cat. Be aware that it is incredibly difficult to get an animal into Saudi; in addition to the USDA certification, you also need State Department accreditation and a stamp from the Saudi embassy in DC. I did this in four days only because I burst into tears at the State Department accreditation offices. I don't recommend doing it in less than a week.

There are plenty of vets in Jeddah as long as you want basic stuff. I had no trouble getting regular vaccinations. There was no quarantine for our cat. Be aware that there are a lot of feral cats around the city; some are straight up feral, most are friendly neighborhood cats. Our cat actually made a couple of friends and fre-nemies while we were there. People also do not like dogs, which are considered working animals and not pets. (The zoo in Taif has dogs in a cage as part of their exhibits.)

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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?

I didn't work, so I don't know. Most spouses didn't work, or tried alternative work arrangements.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a couple of women's groups who volunteer.

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

Formal-ish. Outside of the American/British schools and the consulate, women were always required to wear an abaya, so you could wear whatever you wanted under that. Most local men wore thobes as a general rule, as suits got too hot.

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Health & Safety:

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

Personally, we felt that the security we received was more than necessary.

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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?

The medical care is pretty good, if you can find a provider.

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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?

The air wasn't the best quality, but I've yet to be at a post where someone hasn't complained about the air quality, so whatever. None of us have asthma; we were fine.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Restaurants aren't very good about avoiding allergens, even when warned. I know of one case where a patron purchased cupcakes, having told the cupcake bakery not to include any nut products. Turns out they got peanut-butter frosting on one of the cupcakes, and a child had a severe allergic reaction. I have no idea if any action was taken toward the bakery, not that it would have gone anywhere.

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

Considering the cultural practice that gives women unequal rights (women can't do anything without their male guardians' permission, including accessing medical assistance, opening a bank account, getting a job, or traveling), yes, there are mental health issues.

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

In the summertime, Jeddah is both extremely hot, and in a fun twist, extremely humid. Most people leave for the summer months. There was a joke that people would pick up their kids from school and head straight to the airport. This joke was not far from wrong. Winter is fantastic, beautiful and balmy and not hot in the slightest. Sometimes you even want a pair of jeans. Not because you can't show your ankles without getting arrested, but because it's actually a little on the cool side.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many international schools. Most expats send their kids to the American International School (AISJ), the British School (CONTI or BISJ), or Jeddah Prep, which uses the UK system. We sent our oldest to AISJ. The first two years (1st and 2nd grade) were fantastic, and we were extremely pleased with the education our son received as well as the teaching staff. We had a less than stellar experience with the third year, mostly because the school tried to move campuses and there were serious issues with the organization of the move (which should no longer be an issue).

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Our son was in learning support all three years. We had a wonderful experience with learning support the first two years. We found the LS staff to be kind and thoughtful, and very, very thorough. They were also very attentive to our son and his needs, and strove to do the best they could for not only him, but every other student.

The third year, as said above, was terrible in our opinion. This was partially due to the move and a massive influx of LS students that year and the LS team was stretched thinner than they should have been, which meant services were at times patchy, and communication became much more infrequent, if it existed at all. We also felt like our son's LS assistance wasn't meeting his needs, or helping him keep up with his peers. Despite numerous attempts to discuss this with staff, we felt shut down and disregarded, so we gave up bothering after a while.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschools are available, and many of them are in English. The expense varies. We used a compound preschool which was very good and very inexpensive, and only available to those living on the compound.

US diplomats are allowed to use the day-care facilities at AISJ. Their facilities are very good, very well-staffed, and the kids are very happy. It tends to be more expensive, and the hours aren't as flexible since their primary function is to serve the teachers at the school and not the public.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are lots of activities for kids, including sports classes in English. Parkour, soccer, gymnastics, taekwondo, etc, are all available, though they tend to be somewhat expensive. Every mall has a playspace/arcade, and some malls also have carnival rides, trampoline parks, bowling alleys, softplays, ice skating rinks, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is fairly large, especially once you look beyond the diplomats. Lots of expats are there with banks, construction companies, and international businesses. The morale is mostly good; many expats live in Jeddah for years and years before moving away, but there's also a bit of stress because (a) Jeddah and (b) no one knows if they're going to be have to leave immediately or not.

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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?

There is a British International Women's Group that is very active. The British Counsel runs a lot of activities that are open to the public or for those in the know.

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

It's a great post for little kids; our boys were incredibly happy there because they had so much freedom to run around on the compound and there were so many things to do. It was a lot harder for their mom (see above, mental health). If you're a family who likes to go out and DO things... prepare to spend a lot of money doing them, or be bored. If you're a family who likes to spend a lot of time together at home - this is the place for you.

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

No.

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

I met maybe three Saudis the entire time we were there. They don't tend to mix with expats.

That said: it's a pretty international community, and my boys (who are both POC), were very happy and felt very comfortable. They both still miss Jeddah and want to go back.

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

Yes, I feel there are definitely issues with gender equality.

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

My favorite memory of Jeddah is actually flying into the country; not because we were flying in, but because there were always people on the flight who were going on umrah or hajj. You always knew who they were because they'd go change into their towels or white abayas either shortly before or during the flight. They were also so happy and excited to be there, and their excitement was catching. One flight, the guys were so thrilled that they were going up and down the aisles, happily singing songs and getting everyone to sing with them. And another, I was surrounded by a huge British family, maybe a dozen people of all ages, who went on umrah every year. Mixed in the group were a couple singletons who were on their first umrah. And the family spent most of the flight giving the newbies all their hints and tricks and advice, and it was just a joy to listen in. You couldn't help but feel their enthusiasm and love.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

I thought it was great fun when Saudi finally let me as a woman drive, and watch all the guys stare in shock.

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

No. It is not a shopping post.

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

You get to spend a lot of time assessing your priorities. You know, what you intend to do first when you leave.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How much the transportation thing was going to bug me. How much the abaya thing was NOT going to bug me.

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

Yes. And yeah, I know, it sounds like I wasn't happy. I wasn't, but my boys loved it. It was wonderful for them. And I'm glad I went and had the experience of living there. That said, I wouldn't agree to spend the third year.I would much rather have left after two and being only mildly irritated instead of full-out exasperated. Plus we could have avoided that disastrous third year at the school.

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

Cold weather clothes. Expectation that women are treated equally.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor. Patience. Stress relief.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Nope.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 03/21/19

Background:

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

Fifth overseas experience, I've been in other cities in the Middle East and South Asia.

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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?

United States. This is theoretically easy because there are direct Saudia flights to New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. However, if you have to deal with Fly America you will probably have to fly to a completely separate continent to switch planes on your way home.

Due to the hajj/umrah traffic, Jeddah has a lot of international connections, particularly if you want to go to another Muslim-majority country. Regular direct flights to the UK, France, and Germany as well.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. 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. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

U.S. Government housing is townhomes/villas in gated communities. Security at the gated communities (barbed wire, jersey barriers, crew-fed weapon) will surprise people new to the region. Inside the communities there are a mix of expats, including diplomats and non-diplomats, Americans, and other nationalities. We have two kids and got a four bedroom villa. The commute is not horrible; maybe 30 minutes each way, depending on traffic. Drivers can be erratic and traffic can stop, but I have definitely seen worse. Compounds tend to have a lot of pools, tennis courts, etc and activities for the kids.

The Consulate will, someday, move to a new facility where there will be housing on compound. These will be new, furnished apartments. Right now there are no amenities installed at the currently-vacant apartments, and though there has been a lot of talk about things to add nothing has been started yet, so it's a wild card. The housing was designed when this was still an unaccompanied post, so while they have made some adjustments the Consulate will almost certainly need to retain some housing in the city, especially for larger families.

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

About the same. Unless you like to drink alcohol and eat pork (in which case this is NOT the post for you), there's a lot available, right down to kale and soy milk. You will pay U.S. prices or above though. There are two major supermarket chains in town, Danube and Hyperpanda, and a Carrefour is open though it's a bit of a hike from where the Consulate people are.

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

A ton of stuff is available that you would be shocked by. Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs, Raising Cane's, Applebees, IHOP. If you eat at a Western chain, it will cost a lot more (especially Five Guys and IHOP), and sometimes it is the land of not quite right, but a ton of comfort food from home is available.

Locally, there's not much 'Saudi' cuisine. The most Jeddawi thing you can do is eat at al Baik, a fast food chicken place. Otherwise a lot of the 'local' food is really Syrian or Lebanese, so lots of hummus, mixed grill, shwarma, shish tauk, etc.

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

Ants are a big problem, I have backhauled ant traps on more than one occasion. There are occasional gekko sightings but again, I've seen worse and they help to keep the insect population down.

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Daily Life:

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

APO is generally reliable, except at the holidays when they are just overwhelmed.

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

About $10 per hour, give or take. A lot of expats have nannies and/or housekeepers. There are no yards to speak of, so no gardeners. I have not seen a Saudi in one of these jobs, it is all Filipinas/Sri Lankans/etc. The government is constantly hiking their residence permit fees, though, so I'd expect salaries to eventually go up as people leave the country.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I believe both compounds have gyms; there is also a gym on the Consulate and I suspect (though do not know) one coming in the new place as well. There is a chain of gyms in town called Fitness Time, but I'm not sure about cost and, just as importantly, how women might be treated.

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

Widely accepted and safe to use. I have not used an ATM personally but I do see them around. Best to change money at the Consulate though, the cashier will give you the official rate.

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

This is a monarchy and a theocracy. All religions other than Islam are illegal.

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

If you want to work on your Tagalog or Urdu, this is the place for you. You could easily go an entire tour without talking to any Saudis, as they are not for the most part working in service professions and there's not exactly a club scene in Jeddah. Because of the multinational nature of the city, there is a fair amount of English understood. Being able to read Arabic numbers and get by with some basic phrases is a nice to have but not critical.

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

I am not sure, to be honest. It's not a city where people walk a lot, so everything is built on the idea that people are driving or have drivers. However, I have not seen a lot of wheelchair ramps or other ADA-accessible setups, so my guess is it would be hard.

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Transportation:

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

No trams, buses or trains. Sometimes the compounds run shuttles around town but we are not supposed to take them. There is Uber and a local variant called Careem, check in with RSO when you get here about which, if any, is safe to use. There are also a lot of marked cabs. Traffic is erratic but it's not a thing where you are dodging scooters and cows etc., on the road; you just have some people who drive erratically and at high speeds, especially at night.

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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?

I have not heard of any burglary/carjacking. Toyota, GM, Ford, Kia, BMW, VW all have dealerships in town so I suspect getting parts is not difficult. Most people have SUVs, if you think you are going to go camping in the desert a lot I'd get 4WD.

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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?

It is available, cost is about USD 100 per month, some of the compounds have it installed already.

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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?

If you are here with a diplomatic mission, the biometric requirements can make it difficult to get a SIM card. Check with your work sponsor.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

It is a pain to bring a pet to Saudi Arabia, but it is doable, even if you have a dog. You need to block out your last week before PCS for running around to the Saudi Embassy, vet, and State to get the paperwork squared away though. I have heard vets are available but I can't comment on quality; I have not heard any significant complaints, though.

If you want a cat, there will always be strays where there are Americans around. I cannot figure out why.

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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?

I have not heard of any spouses employed outside the Consulate or the school. Everyone else is either in an EFM position or has a remote work arrangement with a firm back home. The school is always looking for good English-speaking help, but there are administrative issues there that I would be wary of.

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

Formal dress for receptions and there are occasional (like 1-2 times a year) balls. Office is mainly suit.

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Health & Safety:

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

The city is deceptive. There is a lot of nice stuff and features that look like home, and there is no question this post is safer in 2019 than it was in 2009 or 1999. However, there is literally a war going on next door in Yemen that spills over in the form of missile and drone attacks inside Saudi Arabia, though thankfully none directly in Jeddah yet. There was a major attack against the consulate in 2004 or so, and a suicide bomber at the gate in 2016. So it's a place that could change in a negative way in a hurry.

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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?

Air quality is not great, and you will get dust storms. There are a ton of doctors in town, a lot of whom were western-trained. The medical care generally is average, and certainly if you have anything life-threatening you want to get to London as quickly as possible.

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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?

Dust storms and pollution; again, I've seen worse, but I've seen better too. Humidity is a killer in Jeddah, and you have to have a dehumidifier to keep mold away.

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

Hot and humid most of the year, except in the summer when it is EXTREMELY HOT and EXTREMELY HUMID. Good news is that you can spend New Year's on the beach

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Schools & Children:

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

There are two main schools used by people in the community - American International School of Jeddah (AISJ) and British International School of Jeddah (BISJ). There are also French and Italian schools. AISJ has had a rough year. The administration of the school botched a move from the old campus to a new campus, resulting in kids missing about a month of their school year. The school move situation highlighted some long-standing problems the AISJ board and administration seemed to have with communication, and I heard that several parents felt that they were more focused on the move and their image than the actual education of the children. There are no board elections, so change seems hard. We had been generally happy with the school our first two years here, but the last year has really changed our opinion.

The teachers have by and large been good, a mix of Americans, Aussies, New Zealanders, Lebanese, and a bunch of other nationalities. Just like any school, some are better than others, but I would not point to the teachers and school principals as being significantly better or worse than American teachers/principals as a class of individuals. There is a pretty robust learning support program (see below), and the new facility, once complete, is a significant upgrade over the old campus. Much like the housing, AISJ is a wild card. I expect significant defections from the teachers and students based on how this year has gone. My understanding is that the superintendant will not return, but it may take them a couple of years to recover from how they handled AY2018-2019.

BISJ tends to attract high performers and there is a sense in the parent community that they have a more rigorous curriculum. Their administrative staff also has some communication problems, particularly when it comes to new parents/students seeking admission. If you go the BISJ route there are entrance exams and you cannot expect automatic admission. However, I feel like BISJ parents I talk to are generally happier than AISJ parents.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

If you have a kid who needs learning support, AISJ has an extensive program (from what I understand, much better than Riyadh's or BISJ's). They work with IEPs and have speech therapy, I think OT is more limited. I know of at least two U.S. children diagnosed with autism who attend AISJ.

Regarding physical disabilities I can't say, and I don't know if I've ever seen a kid in a wheelchair at AISJ. I would reach out ahead of time to them if you have physical disabilities to discuss. The nursing staff seems generally squared away.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are some pre-schools; one of the compound runs its own, and there are other pre-schools in town. We are at a compound pre-school 4 hours a day, 5 days a week and have been pretty happy with it, as it seems to have more structure than just a four-hour play time. Most people who need before/after school care hire nannies.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Depends on the compound; my sense is there is more going on for kids at one compound (Sierra) than the other (Basateen), but I could be mistaken. Because the consulate is physically so far away from the housing clusters there's not a lot of kids activities there (there was one movie night when I first got here, and nobody showed up), though the CLO tries to arrange some weekend trips. This may change when we move.

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Expat Life:

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

Jeddah has a significant expat community ranging from the mission to a variety of businessmen, engineers, consultants, etc. Morale varies; the hikes in residency fees have led more than one family decide they are not wanted and to decamp for home. This is probably the most gossipy expat community I have seen, and I think it's fed by a sense of isolation on the compounds.

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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 Red Sea is a stone's throw away, so if you are a diver or want to get a boat, this is the best thing to do. The CLO seems to be organizing a variety of activities and outings. Obviously a Hash is a lost cause in a dry country, but there's a bowling league at Raytheon. Generally I think its a lot of small groups of friends vice clubs and groups.

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

I'm not sure its a good place for anyone, honestly. My kids seem to like it, but the fact that my son panics a bit if my wife forgets her abaya or wants to drive is not a good sign to me. Obviously, Saudi Arabia is harder on women than men. It's generally a family-oriented culture, which is good (lots of play spaces, for example), but there's also an unspoken assumption that a man would never take care of his family in the absence of a woman; so the play spaces are all in the 'family' sections and not the 'men' sections of restaurants and public spaces. It makes it hard to give my wife a break.

I cannot fathom what a single person would do here if they were looking to date, but it seems like you would all be fishing in the same small pond. It might be a good place if you are getting over a bad break up and have sworn off the dating scene for a while.

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

See above re: theocracy. I know that LGBT officers have served here, but I cannot comment authoritatively on their experiences.

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

It is not as easy as you would think to encounter an actual Saudi in Saudi Arabia. However, once you get to know them they can be quite warm and hospitable. Jeddah generally is more relaxed and open-minded than the rest of the country, and there is a large section of Saudis who went to college or spent their formative years in the West (indeed, the returnees are how we wound up with Krispy Kreme and Tim Hortons). You will get so much more out of the tour and understand so much more about the country if you find a way to make Saudi friends, but it just not easy to do.

Jeddah is a port city and has had 1,000 years of hajj pilgrims coming in, some of whom stayed, so there's a multiethnic feel to the city. However, there is also some underlying prejudice by the Saudis against some of these nationalities, particularly the ones who occupy service professions.

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

Again, absolute monarchy and theocracy. Jeddah's more liberal than the rest of the country, but it's not like there are churches or synagogues. See above: re prejudices. Gender equality is a changing situation here. In the last year the Saudi government allowed women to get driver's licenses, and this has frankly gone more smoothly than I would have expected. There are strict guardianship rules for Saudi women, but these mainly do not apply to Westerners. In theory, it is Consulate policy that women do not have to wear an abaya or cover their hair. In reality, most women at least have an abaya, particularly if they do not look stereotypically Western.

I think women live a tough life in Saudi Arabia, and a lot of Saudi men still are learning how to deal with women, especially women who are not direct relatives. There is still a large faction of this society where men believe it is their role to tell women how to dress and behave, and no matter the de jure changes, the de facto situation is going to take time to resolve. The guardianship issue is a real mechanism of control in conservative families, and men need to be cautious in engaging with women in public who are not related to them.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Red Sea is what makes Jeddah livable, and in my mind what separates it from Riyadh. There are a string of private beach resorts north of the city where the rules are much, much looser than the rest of the country - women in bikinis, smoking in public, etc. No drinking, but otherwise you would forget you are in Saudi Arabia. We have been to Taif, which is worth at least a day trip to see the wild baboons in the mountains and to get a look at another part of the country; it is also a welcome relieve from heat/humidity in the summer.

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

Probably, but I've been in the region a while so nothing really stands out.

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

It's better than Riyadh. If you have to go to Saudi, Jeddah is the place to be.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I did not know the country well when I arrived, and figured that due to its proximity to Mecca that Jeddah would be the most conservative place in Saudi Arabia. It is the most liberal, but for the same reason - Jeddawi have been exposed to 1,000 years of pilgrims from around the world who practice Islam in different ways, which combined with its status as a port city gives the culture a very different feel from Riyadh.

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

It is a fascinating place to be right now as there is a lot of change, both positive and negative. So I'm glad I came, but I will be glad to leave.

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

Winter coats and alcohol.

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4. But don't forget your:

Swim and diving gear.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The bin Ladins by Steve Coll. The bin Ladin family is an institution here, and seeing the family dynamic beyond their most infamous son is a good way to learn about the area as a whole.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The Royal Court moves from Riyadh to Jeddah for about four to five months a year, typically from before Ramadan to after hajj. During this time it can be nearly impossible to get hotel rooms.

Getting visas for family to visit can be a real pain.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 01/16/19

Background:

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

No. We've also lived in Africa, other countries in the Middle East, and in Asia

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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?

Washington DC. The trip is long, but there is a direct flight. Jeddah is the gateway to Mecca so there are lots of direct flights to any country with a large number of religious pilgrims.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

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

US mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is one of the best parts of Jeddah. There are two housing compounds and when the new consulate opens, there will also be housing available on the compound. Our housing compound has a lot of green grass, several pools, playground for children, playroom, a burger restaurant, etc. It's a great place for people with children and most people live their back door unlocked so kids can run around freely.

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

Prices are about the same as they are in the U.S.,if you shop at the grocery markets. Our commissary options are insane, pretty much everything under the sun. It's also much better than Riyadh because we don't have to drive anywhere to access it. In Jeddah, you just send an email and everything is delivered weekly to the consulate for you to pick up.

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

We don't actually long for a lot here. Between the incredibly well-stocked supermarkets and commissary, there's very little I can't get and I could probably get it if I was willing to accept another brand.

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

Eating out is probably one of the biggest activities in Saudi. Tons of western restaurants, every chain in the West (Shake Shack, Cheesecake Factory, every fastfood, Red Lobster, Texas Road House, Nando's, etc.). A lot of Italian, Pakistani, Indian, some excellent Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Lots of healthy places focused on quinoa salads and the like. Pretty much everything will deliver on an app. Talabat, Hungerstation, and Lugmety are the most popular.

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Daily Life:

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

APO and Pouch. Anywhere between two-three weeks.

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

Household help is a struggle. You really have to spend time searching for a good person. People will be late to interviews, unresponsive, and so on. If you stay in the compound pool, help runs about $10 an hour. If you are willing to spend a lot of time advertising and finding someone else who's not already in the pool, it's about $550 a month for full-time, live-in. Big cost difference.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a free and decent gym on each of the housing compounds, at the current consulate, and at the new consulate. They're all free and usually empty. If you want to take specialty classes (yoga, martial arts, aerial yoga, etc.) there are gyms in town, classes are about $20 per class.

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

There's a cashier at the consulate. Credit cards are used in most places that you'll go to, hole in the walls will require cash. I don't use an ATM.

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

There are monthly faith services for Catholics, Protestants, and Church of the Latter Day Saints.

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

We have blind officers in the mission, but anyone in a wheelchair would have trouble on the sidewalks and lack of elevators.

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Transportation:

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

You're only allowed to take the expensive version of Careem, ride with friends, ride in consulate cars, or drive your own car

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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?

Driving is not something for the weak here. Bring something that won't make you cry if it gets hit.

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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?

You can have your social sponsor install it before you arrive if you want.

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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?

Office will provide a phone for you. Always practice good communications discipline.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine and okay veterinarians. Since we all just live next door to each other, most people just have someone watch their pet when they go on vacation. We have a pet and haven't found it to be an issue. People will say that dogs aren't liked here, but most of the people you'll interact with are incredibly Westernized and love dogs. They're also common enough that people don't seem to mind them.

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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?

Every person who wants an EFM job at the consulate will get one. There is no bilateral work agreement. Some spouses have telecommuted with their home organizations.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Animal rescue and orphanages.

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

Jeddah is much more relaxed than Riyadh. Definitely no need for a headscarf. Most consulate women don't even carry one around. Abayas are worn completely open and are in all colors and patterns. Not black. A few of us go out in town without abayas, in jeans and tunics and there have been no issues. The difference between Jeddah and Riyadh cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to this.

On the housing compounds, you can wear whatever you want. Same at the beach clubs. Bikinis are the norm. For consulate work, female officers can wear whatever they want. There is no expectation here that female American officers would ever wear an abaya to a meeting and the vast majority do not.

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Health & Safety:

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

Obvious issues in every Middle East post.

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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?

Medical care is hit or miss. There is a health unit on the consulate and a local doctor who is always there. Medevac point is London although some people are planning on giving birth here.

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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?

It does get dusty so people with allergies can struggle sometimes.

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

It's humid. Into the 100s during the summer; a very pleasant 80s in the winter. Not as humid as the rest of the Gulf.

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Schools & Children:

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

There's an American school, a British school, and a French school. People are generally pleased with the British school and very unhappy with the American school. Part of that is because the American school has not managed their move to a new building very well. This might improve once the move is officially completed.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschools at the international schools are available. The French school is the cheapest. There is also a well-loved daycare on Sierra Compound that is well priced.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Swimming classes on housing compounds, gymnastics, soccer, horseback riding, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

Not small, but getting smaller due to economic reforms happening in the country. Expats outside of the diplomatic community tend to have been here for 7+ years. Morale among them is good. In many ways, Jeddah can be an easy life if you're a homebody or happy just hanging out by the pool every weekend. For the consulate community, it's a mix. Few love it, some hate it, most don't mind it but are waiting to leave.

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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?

Beach clubs are huge. Go there to feel like you're escaping the Saudi vibe. Otherwise it's hanging out at people's homes or by pools.

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

Great for families.

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

A surprisingly very, very, vibrant gay scene.

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

Yes, but here's the key: you have to make a conscious and solid effort. It's easy to stay on compounds and only hang out with consulate people. If you aren't active in seeking out outside groups, it won't happen. The local scene is a lot of fun, but you have to meet the right person for them to introduce you to it. Once consulate people are in it, they're hesitant to bring in others for fear of it just turning into a massive consulate crowd and defeating the purpose of outside groups.

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

Obviously gender equality issues in Saudi. It's not as obvious with Western women or with the people you will hang out with, but you may sense it in more rural areas and if you are speaking to Saudi women. You'll get used to people not looking at women in the eye or shaking their hands. Do not expect equality like the states.

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

The underground scene here is great if you can find it. Beach clubs which rival the ones found in SE Asia with dance music and quinoa bowls. This place is far superior than Riyadh because at least we can always either 1) go to the beach or 2) hang out at the compound pools and grill or hangout. People living on the DQ in Riyadh don't have either of those options or have to go to the Embassy to use the pool. I prefer to not go to work when I'm not working.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Rock climbing, beach, geocaching, dune buggies, and desert camping.

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

Bazaars are big for women. Lots of events organized around shopping, but it's all imported from India/Pakistan/Afghanistan/Lebanon so prices are much higher.

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

This is a 25% differential post with a lot of Western conveniences (nice beaches, western restaurants, and shopping markets). The differential mostly comes from the psychological differences and the social isolation that can happen if you're not getting out there and trying to find out what's happening. If you can overcome that, this is not a bad 25% post where you can bring family.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's much better than you think. There are posts with less differential that are much more difficult to live at. That's not too say this is the best post, but it's all relative. I would rather be here than a lot of other places.

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

Yes. I would not come back, but this is an easy post to make some money.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 04/25/16

Background:

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

No, have served at other posts

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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?

Washington, D.C. Flights are 14+ hours. Connections via Dubai or Frankfurt

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived there 1 year

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Two nice apartment complexes. Large apartments with nice amenities.

Commute time is over an hour to/from Consulate.

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

Lots of grocery stores. Expensive!

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

Sunscreen, board games to play when it's too hot to go out which is 85% of the time.

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

Pretty much any American fast food restaurant you could want. Cost is about double of the U.S.

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

Ants and roaches

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch and DPO

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

Limited and expensive.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Small gym at the Consulate.

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

No problems.

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

None

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

Yes

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Transportation:

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

No and no.

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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?

Any type is fine.

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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 and affordable on housing compounds.

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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?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but there is a LOT of red tape to get your pet into Saudi. Cats are easier than dogs to import.

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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?

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

No

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

Very modest in public. Business attire at work.

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Health & Safety:

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

Terrorism

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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?

Medical care available but extremely expensive. Lots of pollution in the air.

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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?

Unhealthy. Terrible dust storms.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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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?

Hot and hot

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Schools & Children:

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

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

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

40 direct hires. Low morale

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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?

Having friends over for cook-outs and game night.

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

Better for families and single males. Single females have a more difficult time.

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

Yes from what I'm told. No first hand knowledge.

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

Religious prejudices as it is a strictly Islamic religious country. Women are highly discriminated against.

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

Rug shopping at the Souq

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Traveling outside the city, but the MOI will accompany anywhere you go.

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

Rugs

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

Saving money because it's hot and people don't go out a lot. Especially in the summer.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How badly women are treated in public. Harassment by the religious police. Having to wear an abaya anytime you are not on Consulate or apartment compounds.

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

Absolutely not!

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

Winter clothes!

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4. But don't forget your:

Sanity!

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 11/07/15

Background:

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

We've been in several places in Europe and the Middle East.

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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?

California 24 hours you stop in Frankfunt

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year and 6 months

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

EFM American consulate

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

This is maybe the best part of this post.
The homes we live in are the 2 best compounds in Jeddah: La sierra and Basateen.The compounds are great, la sierra has several pools, tennis courts, bowling alley, sauna, restaurant, spa, clinic, supermarket, ATM, park, etc. Anything you need and a gate to the American school, so your kids have lots of freedom. The kids just go out and play, swim, have tennis classes - everything is on the compound.

The homes in the compound are not the best; some are small and the barrooms are the smallest I've ever seen i my life; there's no storage, small bedrooms, horrible closets, but living on the compound is great. Remember that a new compound and consulate is being built.

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

A little bit cheaper than in the States; you can find imported stuff but it's very expensive. We prefer to order some stuff from walmart or amazon.

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

scuba diving stuff, mosquitoes repellent, sun block, light clothes, dog food.

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

Most of them but more expensive than in the States.

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

mosquitoes, a lot of them...

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Daily Life:

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

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?

Another issue, it is VERY difficult to get a full time nanny here. You have to be her sponsor, and no one can be here without a sponsor, so you have to wait until someone is ready to go to transfer the sponsor. It is a big deal.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

In the compound they have aerobics, yoga, zumba, core, personal instructors, aquaerobics, tennis, classes for the kids; a lot of activities for a very reasonable price, around US$7 per class or even free.

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

the ATMs do not charge commission and there is one in the compound.

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

Only Islam is allowed here.

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

i do it OK most of the time with English, most of store employees are from the Philipines, Pakistan and Sri Lanka


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

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Transportation:

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

THis is another issue here; we are not allowed to take public transportation and women are not allowed to drive. The consulate do not provide private drivers, They have drivers there and you have to call them but when VIPs visit you have to be grounded because there are no vehicles available.
Now we have a small supermarket in the compound, as so as the school, gym, and extra activities for the kids, but in the new consulate's compound we will not have this, so this is going to be a problem.

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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?

People like to bring 4*4, to camp in the desert.
Gasoline here is the cheapest in the world.

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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?

The internet here is terrible!

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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?

STC

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There is only one vet who attends to dogs.

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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?

in the American school maybe.

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

Women have to wear abaya and believe me, in the middle of the summer this is inhuman.

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Health & Safety:

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

this is an issue, threats to the American school, etc

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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?

Corona virus and dengue. There's terrible medical care here.

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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?

not bad

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

From May to October it is really hot, I've never experienced that hot and humid weather in my life - you get out of the A/C and feel like you can't breathe. From November to April it is great, but mosquitoes are a problem during these months.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American school is OK; there's a British and French school as well.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

This is a reason to not come.

The American school is unaffordable, they charge around US$4500 for capital fees per year plus around US$1000 per month. There is a nursery in the Sierra that people says is OK and is affordable, but again, they are going to move families to the consulate's compound where the American school is located.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not to much at school but at the compound they have soccer, basketball, they can take tennis, swimming, gymnastic,ballet, zumba, tae kwan do.
The Consulate's marines come once per week to the compound to give boot camp to the kids, and they love it.

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Expat Life:

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

It was OK, but now that they took the danger pay so the EFMs are kind of disappointed.

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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?

On the compound there are expats from all over the world, so there is a lot of social life in the compounds.

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

Now it is good for families with elementary school kids, with PreK kids it may be difficult since it's so expensive to find a nanny and the international schools are unaffordable. For teenagers it's hard as dating is illegal and there are no movie theatres.

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

It's illegal here.

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

Religious - yes, you can't even wear a cross.

And gender is a big issue here: women cannot drive, have to wear the islamic abaya (black long dress with long sleeves) the mutawa can be nasty if you don't wear a scarf to cover your self. In the restaurants, banks and some other places there is an entrance for women and families and an other one for men.

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

The life outside is kind of difficult. The best part here is the life in the compounds, the families are now in Sierra, and it has a gate to the American school, so the kids just take their bikes and go to school. Trips to marina sleh, Taif. and go to the beach but the beach is not free, you have to pay around US$37 per person.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

No to much to do.

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

Living in the compound is nice for the kids and money is the reason that most of us came here. how ever, they are not paying danger pay anymore. And they are going to build the new consulate; most of the families are going to live there.

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9. Can you save money?

I guess, there is nothing to do here, you have everything you can need in the compound.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Not in a million years

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2. Do you have any other comments?

It is a difficult place to be, the only thing that makes this place a good place is the compound life, and the money, but they took off the danger pay and they are going to move to the consulate to most of the families, so this place is going to be a nightmare.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 10/25/15

Background:

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

No, We've been in Europe

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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?

California: 24 hours, We fly from here to Frankfurt, wait around 4 hours in the airport, then we travel to the States
We have 3 R&R's in this post

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3. How long have you lived here?

17 months

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

EFM

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

La sierra and Basateen, in the mornings you can take around 45 minutes to the consulate. the homes are small, no storage, the smallest bedrooms, barrooms,and closets you've seen in your life, but the compounds are great, is like live in a five star SPA.In Sierra the compound has a gate that goes directly to the school, the kids take their bike and they are there in 5 minutes. Basateen has a gate to the british school.
But again, this is not going to last to long, We are moving to the new consulate.

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

The fruits and vegetables are not the best, but they are okay. You can find some imported ones, but they are very expensive. No organic ones.

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

All of them, but they are more expensive here. There is nothing to do outside the compound, so going to restaurants is the only activity that you can do.
Be prepared to gain weight.

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

Mosquitoes. a lot, specially during the winter, is when you can be out, but then the mosquitoes bother you a lot

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Daily Life:

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

APO and Diplomatic 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?

It is difficult to find full-time help. You have to be her sponsor and wait until her last sponsor transfers her to you.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

They have gym classes at the compound for a very reasonable price, around 6 USD per class.
I went once to Gold's gym and asked about the fees. It was ridiculously unaffordable.

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

We used them often, but they are not accepted in many places.

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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?

You can survive with English.

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

I don't think so

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Transportation:

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

Mobility is a big deal for women here. We are not allowed to use public transportation or to drive. We depend on the motor pool, and have to call and ask them like they are doing a favor to you. And often they just tell you to wait because they don't have vehicles available. and you have to wait sometimes even an hour for them to come.

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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?

4X4

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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?

Internet service is bad here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

This is expensive. There is only one doctor who treats dogs, and I heard that he charged almost 1800 USD for a dog's surgery.

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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?

There are some jobs for EFMs in the American School. There are also some jobs for EFMs at the U.S. Consulate.
But they took away the danger payment, so be prepared to work for very little money.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are some.

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

Abaya for women.

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Health & Safety:

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

A lot, threatens to the consulate, the american school, etc..

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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?

There is no good medical care here.

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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?

not too bad

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Lots of dust and sand storms, bad for allergies.

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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?

HOT!!!! the summer here (From May to October) is a hell, and is humid.you can not even swim because the pool is to hot
The winter is not to bad. but cold, you will never be.

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Schools & Children:

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

American school, We like it so far, kids are so happy, The only problem that we see is that they don't have sports programs and they have a lot of free days.
British school, they say that is good, but is very difficult for the americans to enter.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I heard that they have help for special kids at the american school, they have extra support with speech therapy in english and some other services.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

This is a problem here. The american school charges for PK 4500 usd of capital fee, and around 1000 usd of monthly fee. There is a little nursery at the compound, but again, We will not live at the compound anymore, so if you have PK aged kids, this is not your place.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Within the compound there are private tennis classes, swimming classes, zumba for kids, gymnastics, ballet, and tae-kwan-do classeA for very affordable prices.

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Expat Life:

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

During the past year it was okay. But now that they have removed the danger pay and we are going to move to the new compound ... who knows?

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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?

Expat parties at the compounds. Going to the beach.

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

This is a great post for families with elementary-school kids now. I am not sure about the future when we move to the new consulate/compound. Families with preschoolers may find it difficult and expensive to have a nanny, and there will not be pre-school when we move from the compound. unless you want to pay a lot of money at the American School there will be no options for the pre-schoolers.

For teen-agers it is difficult for lots of reasons. Alcohol is prohibited, so they have parties with fake alcohol, which is worse, because you don't know what is being consumed. Dating outside the compound is prohibited, and there are no movie theaters, or anything else, so some teenagers have problems with drugs. This is also n a good place for singles.

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

Defititely not, but I've seen a few.

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

Yes! I've heard that sometimes people of African or Philippine or Hindu heritage are not treated well.

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

The compounds.
You can go to the beach, but is not free, you pay around 40 usd per person.
you can travel to the emirates

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Just scuba diving. But you can have a lot of social life in the compounds: they have groups, such as the Korean speakers, the French speakers, Spanish speakers, Russian speakers, etc.

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

Travel, restaurants, going to the beach.

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

Now is nice because We are living in Compounds, the kids just take their bikes and go to school, they have a lot of activities here at the compound for the kids, they have bowling, tennis, basketball, soccer, lots of swimming pools, a big park. The kids are really happy here.You have the gym, the supermarket, the restaurant here, getting out from the compound is difficult, you have to call motor pool, they take around 40 minutes to arrive,When they have vehicles available, from 4-5 you can not ask for any vehicle because is shuttle time,in addition you have to calculate the prayer time, is every 3 hours but it last for around 40 minutes.And you have to wear an Abaya( islamic black dress long and with long sleeves) And believe me, with 120 degrees, wear this is really uncomfortable.. But you don't have to leave the compound a lot, We have everything here.
However they are building the new consulate, and most of the families are going to live there. This is going to take the best and only advantage of living here.

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10. Can you save money?

I guess so, if you don't travel. However, there is no danger payment anymore, so it is not as attractive as it used to be.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No way! This is a difficult place to live in, and now that we will not be in compounds, this is going to be hell on earth. And without the danger payment there is no reason to make this sacrifice.

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

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hair treatments. The water has really bad quality; they take off the salt of the ocean with lots of chemical substances, so you are going to loose a lot of your hair, and your skin will be dry as paper. You are going to look older and fatter when you leave this post.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 10/01/15

Background:

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

No, Africa , Asia , Latin america , and Europe.

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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?

Washington DC, 8 hours to Frankfurt and 5 hours and half from Frankfurt to Jeddah.

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3. How long have you lived here?

From 2013 up to now.

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

Working with US Consulate in Jeddah.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Some houses are in the U.S. Consulate compound, and the rest are in two different compounds: Sierra, near by the American School, and Al Basateen, near the British School.

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

Everything is available but very expencive.

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

Nothing.

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

Everything is here, but it costs as much as in the States.

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

Various kinds of ants.

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Daily Life:

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

APO or DPO.

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

Around US$10 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they cost as much as in the States.

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

You can use them.

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

None.

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

It is important, but you can use English also.

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

Maybe not. the city has some ramps.

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Transportation:

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

Public transportation is not available. US Consulate folks are not allowed to take taxis.

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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?

All American and Japanese brands can be seen here.

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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?

Very poor service at $26 dollars a month.

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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?

They have three providers.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

You have to bring your pet with you. They don't like dogs here at all. Pet care is available but very expensive.

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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?

Not really.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, but you have to look for them.

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

For women: a black long-sleeve max-wide dress you wear over your regular clothes. Men can get by with anything except shorts.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, especially lately (the last 9 months). Read the news and the country reports.

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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?

Medical care is very poor. Fancy hospitals have very poor service and are very expensive.

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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?

Bad.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There will be dust storms and bad air quality from time to time.

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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?

Very hot and humid from May to November, and just hot from November to May.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have the American International School, the British International school, and a French school. Not very strong schools at all.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None or very basic.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but they are very expensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No. You have to arrange for a private coach to train your kids. One hour costs 100 SAR (around 26.00 US dollars).

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Expat Life:

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

The morale in post is very good.

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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?

Beaches and getting together.

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

It may be good for families, but not for couples or singles --- especially women.

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

Not at all.

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

Of course, the only accepted religion here is Islam.

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

Nothing. I guess being Muslim is good because of Makkah and Medina.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beaches, old markets, and ruins, but you have to drive at least 3 hours, after getting permission from the security office in the consulate and informing the Ministry of Foreign affairs, which is a long process.

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

Carpets.

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

We have some museums, ruins and the beach around 45 minutes from the town. It is a very expensive city. You can't save money, especially since they cut the 15% danger pay and the SND. It is very humid and hot, and we get dust storms from time to time.

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10. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

What the schools are like. Women can not drive at all. The black dress which you must wear on top of your clothes. There is nothing to do but hang out in the mall and at restaurants.

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

No.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Light clothes - plus a lot of books and movies.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Think twice before you come.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 08/03/15

Background:

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

Yes, but we've been on temporary assignments to several other cities (Port-au-Prince, Amman, The Hague, Lima, Brasilia)

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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?

State-side is SLC, Utah - 1 connection in Paris but approximately 20-24 hours total. It costs about US$1200 round-trip.

Germany - we can get there in 6-12 hours, depending on whether we can get a direct flight. It costs about US$600-800 round-trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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

State Department

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

2 compounds - Al Basateen Village and Sierra Village - both in North Jeddah. The compounds are both very nice, maybe a little dated, but have great pools, tennis courts, beach volleyball, playgrounds and restaurants. The British International School is attached to Al Basateen Village, and the American International School is attached to Sierra Village, so most families with school-aged children live in Sierra.
In the future Consulate, which is supposed to be finished in 2016, the majority of staff will live there.

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

Due to the big expat community, availability of Western and Asian products is great, but not perfect. As in many other countries, expect to pay a lot for some Western products like Greek yogurt and almond/soy milk. Pork and alcohol are not available.
Riyadh based U.S. military provides many items not available on the Saudi market.

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

More carpets for our house.

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

Many fast food places and familiar American chains (McDonalds, Hardees, Cheesecake Factory, Red Lobster, FireGrill, Papa Johns, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Shake Shack, and Texas Road House (no pork). Costs are about 20% higher than in the U.S.
There are plenty of Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants with relatively cheap prices.
There are also some Asian restaurants (sushi, Japanese, Korean,...)

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

Mosquitoes, especially when it gets "colder", but it's not that bad.
Some people also have problems with ants. We only get ants when we leave out food.

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Daily Life:

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

For U.S. Consulate staff, APO and pouch mail are available and fairly unrestricted.

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

Going rate seems to be US$7 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

On compound gyms are available at no cost to Consulate employees. Housing compounds usually offer it as well. Gold's gym for serious gym goers are also available at a cost, but we've heard that they are pricey.

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

Both are widely available, easy, and safe to use. Less modern stores are cash only.

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

Islam is the only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia. CLO office has more details.

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

None, English gets you by well here. Arabic helps though in downtown areas and hole in the wall restaurants.

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

Yes, it is not a handicap (or stroller) friendly city.

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Transportation:

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

USG employees are not allowed to take taxis or buses. A POV is highly recommended and necessary for a normal life.

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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?

I'd bring something with good road clearance as rare rainstorms flood the streets - not a must, though. For brands, Hyundai, Toyota, and Kia are most popular.

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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, but the local company can be difficult to work with. Cost is approximately US$30-55 per month.

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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 options for unlocked phones available. Local phones available to purchase as well.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there are restrictions, but not familiar about the rules.

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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?

No, but there are several jobs on the Consulate for EFMs and a few positions at the international schools.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Perhaps at the schools, but not really aware of this.

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

Business casual and business formal for work at the consulate - depending on the section that you're in.

Women are encouraged to wear the abaya in public and as typical for men in the middle east, shorts are discouraged.

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Health & Safety:

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

Due to Islamic extremism, there are some concerns, but they're not noticeable on a daily basis.
Small numbers of Westerners are attacked every year, but it's usually more on the Eastern part of Saudi Arabia or close to the Yemeni border.
We feel safer than we thought we would before coming here.

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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?

Health care services look good at some hospitals, but can be lacking in some regards.

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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?

It's okay. Not great, but also not bad. It's very dusty, but we haven't had any health issues because of that.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Lots of dust/sand for those who are allergic to that.

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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?

Hot and humid from April to October. Pleasant and less humid fall and winter months. It's never cold during the day, but it can get a little chilly in the evenings from Dec-February.
It rarely rains here, maybe 3-5 days a year, but when it rains, it pours and parts of the city are flooded.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have no kids in school, so we don't know too much about this. Most, if not all, children either go to the British International School or the American International School.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

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

44 American FTE @ the Consulate. Many others working for companies in the Kingdom. Overall, there is likely 3,000+ western expats.

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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?

All things revolve around food it seems like. Hosting people for dinner, going out to dinner.

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

Good for couples and families, but bad for singles, especially for female singles. Dating is restricted and mingling is rare.

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

No. But even for heterosexuell couples, public display of affection is not allowed here. During our time here, we've only seen one young couple so far holding hands in public - that's it.
We heard that there is a small gay scene here, but we don't know more about it.

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

Non-Arab and non-white colleagues have faced issues, but not as bad as in other places.

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

Definitely our trip to Mada'in Saleh - "Saudi Arabia's Petra". 7-hour drive away from Jeddah.
Some people find a lot of things to do, but with a new baby and the bad traffic here, we haven't been too adventurous around the city.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Al Balad - old downtown area, fish market, grilled fish restaurant "Al Murjan," Al Wahbah crater, Taif region, several souks, plenty of Western-like malls, but they aren't unique shopping destinations. We haven't done too much exploring outside of the city.

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

Before coming here, we thought that it would be easy to find neat Middle Eastern decorations, but we have yet to find something we like. We have found a few things we liked, but the cost has been a lot higher than expected.
Some people buy dresses, carpets here, but we've heard that other Middle Eastern countries have even better prices and selection.

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

Great flight connections out of Jeddah to the Middle East, Europe, and even some to Asia.
High differentials allow easy saving as long as you don't go too crazy on travel. Although many stores are available in Jeddah, most are either out of our price range, only sell junk or are too cumbersome to go to.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't go too crazy on travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

When we first got to this post, people told us that most people get tired of being here and that they need to get out of the country every once in a while. Being on our 2nd year here, we can see what they mean. Save your R&Rs for your 2nd year :-)
It's really not a bad post, but it does feel nice to get out. Especially for women, who are not allowed to drive here and have to wear the dark abaya every time you leave the compound.

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

Probably. We've had a good time here so far.
It hasn't been as culturally enriching as we hoped it would be, but we really like the community here and made many good friends.
We've also been able to save money as we had expected. For women who are more independent and see the Saudi social norms as significant disadvantage may want to seek another post.

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

anything that's warm - winter clothes, thick bedding,...
road rage and most driving rules you've learned

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4. But don't forget your:

diving and snorkeling gear

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Wajda - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2258858/

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 02/17/14

Background:

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

We have also lived in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jerusalem.

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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?

This is maybe the worst part of living here. Our home is in DC. We fly to Frankfurt - 6 hours flight and then stay there about 6 more hours. Then it's another 10 hours to DC so you have an entire day of traveling. If you have small kids, this is a nightmare you don't want to live more that once per year.

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3. How long have you lived here?

20 months.

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

U.S. consulate spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in Sierra compound. The American school is on compound as well as a supermarket( you can find pretty much everything here), a restaurant that is bad and expensive, a beauty salon, a taylor, a few boutiques, a gym, a bowling alley, a dry cleaner, lots of kids activities (some free), one pool for every 5 or 6 little town houses, tennis courts, basket ball courts, soccer field, big playground with a little nursery for pets, and a little pond with ducks.

The new Consulate is going to be ready in about 3 years, and there is going to be a new compound with the American school set to move there.

Some other families live in al Basateen compound that is attached to the British school. This compound is not as nice as la Sierra but is nice, has just one pool, a restaurant and grocery store as well.

Again, the homes in la Sierra are not the best - they are small town homes with 3,4 , or even 5 bedrooms, but they are all the same size (no matter the number of rooms). The rooms are generally small and there is no storage at all.

There are also about 3 homes in Catalonia that are bigger and better.

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

Fruits and vegetables are not too bad. We order cleaning supplies. Local diapers are terrible.

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

Mosquito repellent, diapers, healthy snacks,shampoo (the water here has lots of salt), pool toys for the kids, beach toys, swim suits, tennis raquets, scuba diving equipment, more toys (expensive and poor quality here).

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

All of them: IHOP, Cheesecake Factory, UNO Chicago pizza, Ruby Tuesday - of course, no wine or pork in the restaurants.

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

Ants and mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

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?

Generally Filipinas and African nationals - for full-time, you pay about US$1,000 per month plus having to be a sponsor (costs about US$600 per year).

It is VERY VERY difficult find good help good (rely on referrals).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

In the compound there is a tiny gym, tennis classes for kids and adults, aerobics, yoga, pilates, zumba ( you pay per class about US$8 or less, tennis lessons about US$26 per class or less).

There is a big and nice Golds gym - one part for men and one for women (expensive but not sure how much).

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

No problem generally but credit cards are not accepted at all places (carry cash).

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

No churches.

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

Everyone speaks English but some Arabic helps a lot.

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

Yes - I have problems with a stiller; I can't imagine a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

We are not allowed to take taxis.

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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?

Some people don't bring their own car. This is a big mistake - motor pool is sometimes a headache to organize and they can only wait for you for about an hour (and shopping takes time here!). The most inconvenient part of this culture are the prayer times - this means that the stores are closed for about an hour and then open 2 hours etc. Sometimes you get kicked out of stores due to prayer but the supermarket is generally open continuously.

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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?

STC is the best - some other ones have limited downloads. We had a very bad experience with Zein.

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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?

The consulate gives you one, but for the spouses STC is very reasonable about US$10 per month. If you want internet on your phone, you pay about US$6 per month. All the phones you buy here are unlocked.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There is a good Spanish vet who speaks English. Note that you cannot let your dogs run free at the compounds.

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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?

In the Consulate there are some EFM jobs but spouses don't apply for them! They prefer to stay at home.

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

Women have to wear an abaya (black dress). Men and kids can wear what they want.

I do not use my abaya very much as you don't need it at the compound, at the school, at the consulate, at the beach, and other compounds.

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Health & Safety:

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

I think a car accident is the biggest concern here. I've been in several counties, and NEVER seen something like this. There are no rules, people drive with kids on their laps, kids are running around in the car, no respect for rules. We've seen terrible accidents here.

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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?

Serious and urgent matters require medevac.

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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?

Dusty and humid.

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

Hot all year: from May to September, it is really hot (July and August you better run away from the 120F heat!). From November to the beginning of March, it is great, hot but too bad - the nights would be great to be outside but beware of mosquitoes.

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Schools & Children:

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

In the past, the American school was a mess, but with the new administration, everybody is very happy. The principals are very nice and always available to talk.

In the past, the British school was the best, but it is difficult for the American kids to get in. I heard stories of kids who arrive during the summer and have to wait 2 weeks after school starts to take the admission test.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I haven't heard of any.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is one in the compound, while not great in the past, the new administration is better.

The American school has a nursery for kids of the teachers and they now allow consulate families to take the kids there as well. The nursery has a 8:00am to 3:00pm schedule, and there are 1 adult for every 3 kids. It's about US$ 320 per month.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not that much. In the compound there is soccer and tennis for free but if you want private lessons for you kids, you have to pay a lot.

There is no basketball or football at all; there are instructors for ballet and gymnastics for girls.

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Expat Life:

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

People with young kids are actually happy. Couples and singles are miserable.

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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?

There are parties at the consulate every 2 weeks. And, you will keep busy at the compound.

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

For families - yes. Singles and couples do not like it here. Actually, couples who live at the Sierra compound ask for change of housing because of too many kids.

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

I don't think so.

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

I think so, but not against Americans, they love blond kids!

Saudis are actually gentle with us.

Men can be weird, some of them don't want to take the elevator if you are there, and don't even look in to your eyes.

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

Scuba diving, finding this to be a great place for kids.

It is not true that women can't go out alone, I always go out by myself, and have never had any problems. It is true that women have to wear an abaya, a black dress, when you go out, you don't have to cover your hair (just when the "mutawas" - the religious police - are around, you have to carry a scarf to cover your hair but in almost 2 years I only saw the mutawas 2 times - and in those cases, people around you tell you so you cover yourself before the police tell you).

Women can't drive here, but honestly, you don't want to drive here! It is crazy.

We use motor pool and it is one of the most difficult aspects here (sometimes there are no vehicles available).

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Swim, scuba dive, go to the beach, travel … you will have lots of friends from all nationalities.

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

Carpets and travel, go to the beach, domestic service, camping in the desert, extra sport activities for the kids.

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

Money, there is not to much to spend here.

I think honestly this is one of the best places I've ever been with kids: the compound is very safe, the kids go to the playground every day and play all day long, you don't have to be worry about anything, We live in Sierra compound which is, for me, by far the best compound. I've been in some others and this is the one I like the most. The American school is attached to the compound, so our boys just take their bikes and go to school. The boys don't even want to be out of the compound. From 8 years on, kids can take scuba diving lessons here in the pools of the compound. And, you can go to the beach - it is important to say that the beach is not free (you have to pay) but there are good beaches, clean and with most expat people, women can wear a bikini etc. Some people travel to Dubai, Thailand and some other places - travel in the region is not far and not expensive.

It is important to know that the new consulate is going to be ready in about 3 years and they are going to move the American school and the compound there. I've seen the proyect, and no doubt the homes are going to be better than the homes in la Sierra (the compound is great but the homes are kind of small and simple; the bedrooms and bathrooms are tiny, in some of the bedrooms if you have 2 twin beds you cannot even open the closet).

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That the motor pool service is so inefficient and the prayer times close everything down.

That there are no religious services and that is so dificult to get a good maid or nanny.

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

Yes, the kids really like it here, but I don't know if it is going to be the same when the Consulate moves in the next few years.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Summer clothes.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 12/07/13

Background:

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

I've also lived in Amman, Jordan (2 years) and Damascus, Syria (1 year).

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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?

It's approximately 24 hours, including connections, from Jeddah to my home base in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Flights generally stop in Europe (Frankfurt, Paris, London, sometimes Amsterdam), then again at a U.S. gateway (usually New York or Chicago for me), then direct from there to Portland, Oregon.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I've been in Jeddah for a little over 14 months.

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

Diplomat with the U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

A lot, if not most, Westerns live on Western compounds. I'm only familiar with a few such compounds, but the ones I know are equipped with decent security, grocery stores, and all types of sports and fitness facilities (i.e. tennis and squash courts, gyms, bowling alleys, etc.) and restaurants. Some expats only very rarely need to leave their compounds (which in my opinion is a bit of a shame, but to each their own I suppose).

I live in the newer, northern portion of Jeddah and commute between 20-40 minutes to work in the southern, older part of the city. My sense is that most Western expats live in the same general area as I do, though I suspect that many do not work as far from home as I do. Traffic is unpredictable but almost always less than good. Saudis and third-country nationals almost universally drive abhorrently, which only worsens the traffic woes caused by really, really poorly planned roads and intersections.

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

My sense is that you'll pay here about what you'd pay in a big U.S. city like Washington D.C. Produce can be a little cheaper here in the right seasons.

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

Everything you can find in the U.S. is easily accessible here. Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Appleby's, Burger King, KFC, and seemingly all the other chains. I'm not big on eating out, but my friends indicate there is no shortage of excellent upscale local restaurants with food ranging from Saudi to Western to choose from.

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

Insects aren't really an issue here, at least in my admittedly sheltered experience. Mosquitoes are annoying during the winter but not a huge problem with a little bug repellent and keeping doors and windows closed. Ants can sometimes be an issue in my house.

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Daily Life:

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

I use the U.S. Consulate's APO and pouch system.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I just use the facilities on the compound. There are a few fitness centers in northern Jeddah that Saudis use. I don't know any Westerners that use them.

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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?

It's not a problem at all around Jeddah, as long as you're okay with the fees. Outside Jeddah, forget about it.

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

It's easy to spend years in Jeddah without any Arabic. Outside of Jeddah it really does open up a lot of doors to be able to speak Arabic with reasonable proficiency. It's not necessary but sure does simplify things.

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

Yes. Avoid Saudi Arabia if you or someone accompanying you have physical disabilities. Saudi Arabia today is akin to the U.S. in the 1940s or 1950s (if that) in terms of accommodating those with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

We, as U.S. diplomats, aren't allowed to use taxis, but I think they're reasonably safe. For males. I wouldn't recommend a female use one without a male. It's not fair but it's just the way it is here.

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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?

Some people say get a 4x4 for offroading, but I've been able to go everywhere I want to go, and I think I explore more than most, with a 2 wheel drive Suburban. Toyotas and American makes like GMC, Ford, and Chevy are most popular. I see a lot of Nissans and Hondas too. There's no comparison though to Toyota -- it is far and away the most popular make in the Kingdom. Saudi won't let you ship in something older than 5 years. Also, bear in mind you'll be marginally safer in a bigger car than a smaller one when it comes to the inevitable traffic accident.

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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?

They have 4G internet from a variety of providers. We pay about US$275 for six months of "unlimited" Internet. However, if you go beyond the limit of your "unlimited" monthly allotment, your internet becomes mind-numbingly slow for the rest of the month in punishment for your transgression. No one at Zain has yet been able to explain why it's called "unlimited" even though it is limited.

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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?

You can bring anything that's unlocked and just buy a sim card here. Expect to pay US$50-$100/month for calls and data. The three main companies are STC, Mobily, and Zain. I use Zain and I think I pay more than I should. Friends who use STC get the same service as me and pay less. But there's a Zain store walking distance from my house, and since online bill pay is unreliable, it's worth it to me to be able to just walk to the store to pay my bills and other weird, unexplainable charges that come my way.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Saudi men typically wear white thobes (essentially dresses for men), and women wear black abayas (essentially tents with a hole in the top for the head). Men from other countries wear jeans and t-shirts, sometimes even shorts. Work dress for Saudis is really clean thobes, Westerners tend to wear typically business clothing.

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Health & Safety:

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

Obviously Saudi Arabia is known for austere, conservative Islamism. There is some truth to this Western stereotype and caution is necessary: be aware of your surroundings and avoid places where Westerners congregate. Try not to stand out too much. The truth is though, you are much, much more likely to be injured or killed in a traffic accident on the horrible Saudi highways and roads than you are to fall victim to a terrorist attack, which are exceedingly rare nowadays (but still possible).

Other than that, I also avoid parts of Jeddah where poor foreigners are clustered, as these are places where more traditional crime is more likely to occur. That said, a nice thing about the Kingdom -- and the Arab world in general -- is the very low levels of petty crime.

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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?

There were a few scattered reports of dengue fever in Jeddah. Nothing huge. I won't use the medical care here for anything apart from teeth cleaning, a regular office visit for a checkup, or an eye checkup. If I or a family member needed to be cut open at all, for anything, I'd send them to Europe or the U.S. I'm not exaggerating that a lot of Saudi doctors paid others to do their homework for them during med school, and a few even outright bought their degrees.

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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?

It's not great. Particularly in the summertime the skies are hazy with dust. Jeddah has a big water desalination plant that dumps brown smoke into the air all day every day. Dust storms are not common, but they happen. I imagine living here would have added challenges for those with respiratory issues.

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

Skies are almost always clear, meaning cloudless. Rain may fall a time or two per year between October and February, but typically very little. Humidity rises and falls during the summer months -- it's stifling when the air is heavy with water vapor but not bad at all when the humidity is relatively low. Temperatures hardly vary at all in the summer, with highs between 100-105F and lows in the 80s.

Winter is also almost always cloudless with a few rare rain episodes. Highs only rarely drop below 80F and most often in the mid-80s. Lows hardly ever get below 70F.

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Schools & Children:

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

The best schools for Westerners, hands down, are the British school (Continental or Conti) and the American school. The British school is co-located on a large and very nice Western housing compound, so families living on that compound can walk their kids to school in minutes flat. The same is true of the American school, colocated on another Western housing compound. Our kids attend the American school and we live on the same compound as the school; we simply open the front door and send them to school in the morning. It's pretty nice.

In terms of school quality, my sense is that the British school is a little better at this point in time. The American school suffered last year through an ugly period of poor leadership and open verbal warfare between different factions of school officials and parents. A new school board and new school leadership has really righted the ship this year, and things are on the right track, but it will take a little more time to completely heal over the issues of last year. Also, the American school is currently looking to build a new school at a different site in the next 5-10 years.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Our housing compound has a preschool/daycare. We don't use it but I haven't heard complaints about it.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Kids can join baseball and football (soccer) leagues through the international schools. We've found the leagues to be unnecessarily expensive so we haven't participated. Also hauling kids through traffic to practices and games seems unpleasant.

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Expat Life:

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

There aren't a great many Americans in Jeddah, but the overall Western expat community is fair. Morale varies among those I know. Some are counting the days until they can leave this backward country, others are delighted by the place. I suppose it's what you choose to focus on. Focus on the bad drivers and the despicable way women are treated and you'll probably be unhappy. Focus on the fascinating culture and the fact that you're in the midst of an experience so few Westerns can ever have, and you'll have a pretty decent time.

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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?

A lot of people don't do much outside of eat out and go to the beach. That stuff is fun, but it gets old. I try to take a trip outside Jeddah one weekend every month or two. There's so much to see and experience.

I also am grateful for iTunes so as to watch movies. No theaters in Saudi Arabia. That said, if you're willing to get out and make friends, you will find that every once in a while you can find a group of (usually young) Saudis putting on a play or screening a movie.

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

Jeddah is good for families and couples. Single males probably do okay. I really couldn't in good conscience recommend it for single females though. Saudi society simply does not view women the same way the West does, and Saudi customs really do stifle single females. Unable to drive, they are dependent on the almost nonexistent public transportation (taxis, which, at least for U.S. diplomats, are off-limits). Even going out in public without a male could subject females to harassment from religious police or even "secular" authorities, since it's considered illegal for ladies to be in public without a male "guardian." These "laws" aren't always enforced in Jeddah, but it's extremely annoying for single females that the possibility even exists that they could be confronted for simply going out alone.

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

Obviously not the best. I have heard that there underground gay scenes in large Saudi cities but I can't confirm.

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

The truth is that Saudis are, broadly speaking, racist against non-Saudis. The way that Saudis treat their domestic workers, drivers, etc. is, frankly, appalling. They seem to observe a racial hierarchy, with Saudis at the top, followed by other wealthy Gulf Arabs and white Westerners, then other Arabs, then South and Southeast Asians, which typically work in the Kingdom in jobs Saudis deem beneath them. I don't have a sense for how Saudis view East Asians or Latin Americans.

Obviously, Saudis don't do so well at tolerating religious differences, and I don't think I need to elaborate further on gender prejudices.

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

Exploring green southern Saudi mountain valleys filled with striking Yemeni architecture, being invited to meals by hospitable desert bedouin and eating chicken and rice with only the stars for light, diving WWI shipwrecks off the coast, evening strolls along Jeddah's seafront "Corniche" with a cool seabreeze blowing by.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Scuba diving in the Red Sea is a must. There's no reason to live in Jeddah and not certify. Hiring a boat and spending a day on the sea is a great way to spend a weekend, and the sea is warm enough year-round to dive without wetsuits. Mada'in Saleh is spectacular and nobody goes (no tourism in Saudi). Dhee Ein, just down the mountain from al-Baha, is also amazing. And there are seemingly innumerable nameless ruins along the mountain and desert highways that are awesome to explore.

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

I have yet to tire of the weather in Jeddah. It's hot in the summer, but not as oppressive as one might think (highs rarely get above 105F) but very pleasant for about 5 months during the winter, with temperatures topping out in the mid-80s and lows rarely going below 70F.

I've also been surprised at how much there is to do outside of Jeddah, if you are a little adventurous, speak decent Arabic, and are male. I acknowledge that a lot of what I have to say simply won't be applicable for single females, for whom living in Saudi Arabia would be quite stifling. Within 8-10 hours of Jeddah one can find ancient Nabatean cities (Mada'in Saleh, a sister city to Petra), rock cities built on marble escarpments (Dhee Ein), cool mountain towns (al-Baha and Abha), and amazing vistas from winding mountain highways looking off toward the coastal plains. Desert camping away from city lights is also very worthwhile.

Also the scuba diving in the Red Sea is world class.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Gas is super cheap, and when traveling it's easy in the larger towns to find cheap and clean hotels if you know some Arabic. There's just not much to spend money on in Jeddah outside of eating out, going to the beach, and scuba diving.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known how much latitude I would have to get out of Jeddah and see the country. I thought I'd be stuck in town for security reasons and that Saudis would scowl at me all the time. The truth is, Saudis -- at least in and around Jeddah -- are pretty great.

Again, I caveat this by pointing out that getting out and about requires being a guy and being able to speak decent Arabic.

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

Absolutely. I wouldn't stay here long term -- my positive attitude has its limits (about two years, I'd say) -- but I've been pleasantly surprised at how decent life in Jeddah is.

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

Road rage and long sleeved shirts (you will not survive in Jeddah if you are prone to road rage -- your blood pressure will build day by day until your veins explode on your way to work and you die).

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4. But don't forget your:

Scuba gear and positive attitude.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 05/11/13

Background:

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

No. We have also lived in Jordan, Syria, Portugal, and Cape Verde.

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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?

West Coast, USA. The trip takes about 25 hours, depending on connections. We connect in Chicago, Denver, Portland, or Salt Lake City.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Nine months.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats (and even some Saudis) live on compounds. Westerners who live in apartment buildings save money but often feel very isolated. I suppose this could depend on your personality and social circles. All USG employees live on secure compounds. Commute time to the consulate is 20 to 45 minutes. However, a new consulate is under construction, so this will change within a year or two or three.

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

Aside from pork, you can generally find whatever you need or want. Most good grocery stores have a large import section that has the foods that you are likely to be accustomed to. Things that tend to be expensive or of poor quality on the market include: chocolate chips, canned goods, and corn chips. Fruits and vegetables are pretty inexpensive and generally of good quality. Although you cannot get pork, you can get substitutes like turkey bacon and turkey ham. USG employees have access to the commissary, where they can generally get whatever they lack.

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

Children's summer clothes, shoes, books, swimming suits.

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

Tons of U.S. chains, all at about U.S. cost range. Shawarma shops are plentiful, and the food is cheap. Hummus is disappointingly hard to find and is generally not good.

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

There are ants in pretty much every home. Mosquitoes, too, but compounds try to keep them down by spraying DDT regularly. Lice infestations erupt in the schools occasionally. I learned the hard way that my girls must have their hair up every day they go to school.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Non-USG expats use Aramex.

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

Widely available. For expats, costs range between USD5 and 7 per hour for part-time cleaning and childcare. I think it best to pay on the high side --- my capitalist way of redistributing wealth to those who really need it and earn it well.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The compounds almost always have a gym available. Some are good, but some are not so good. The consulate also has facilities. A lot of people feel bored in Jeddah; some of them see the gym and fitness classes as a good escape. Swimming pools are everywhere.

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

We generally use cash at stores and restaurants. Although most big stores accept credit cards, it is safest to avoid using them. Petty crime is very low, so I don't worry about carrying cash.

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

Yes. Just ask around. They are all underground services.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, but I have no idea of the cost because we are not TV fans. I think there are some free channels on the compounds.

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

Most expats seem to get by without Arabic. But if you are exploring the wilderness or the poorer parts of town, you will definitely need Arabic.

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

Because the climate is so hot and humid, a lot of time is spent indoors. Anyone in a wheelchair should be fine in shopping malls and hospitals. You would just need to be dropped off at the door. Generally, wherever there are stairs there are also wheelchair ramps or elevators.

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Transportation:

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

USG employees do not take these; we use our motorpool instead. Compounds often have buses, cars, and drivers available to take you wherever you need or want to go. These are very safe and are reasonably priced (and sometimes free).

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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?

SUVs are preferable. They command the road, and gas usage is not an issue because it is super cheap. In terms of service, the best brands to go for are Toyota (ForeRunners are very popular) and GMC. Toyota dominates the market.

We bought our vehicle here, but it was a headache. Shipping is a headache too, however—it often takes 5 months or more to clear customs. If you buy used, endeavor to purchase from an expat because locals trash their cars and sometimes make adjustments so that the reported kilometers appear to be less than they really are. Vehicles don’t depreciate in cost much, so you generally don’t lose much on resale.

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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. It runs about $60/month for us. It's fast and reliable enough for our needs--telecommuting, VOIP calling, social media, etc.

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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?

Cellphone shops are often the scene of hilarious conversations between attendants and their bewildered expat customers. If you bring your smartphone from the U.S., get it unlocked before you come.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets are available; not sure about quality.

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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?

Not much if you are a male with no Arabic. Pretty much nil if you are a female, although some find low-paying jobs in the healthcare field. Occasionally you can get jobs that involve tutoring or entertaining really rich children. Sometimes you can get jobs at local schools.

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

Women, even foreigners, wear abayas outside and in public areas. However, there are exceptions. At the consulate and at international schools and on compounds, Western women don't wear an abaya. At all-female events (such as their children's birthday parties or wedding parties), women will remove their abayas and head coverings. The nice thing about wearing an abaya most of the time is that as long as you are wearing nice shoes and have a nice handbag (the accessories that show), you can be as comfortable as you like underneath --- pyjamas are okay! Outside of Jeddah, expat women (unless they are on business) should cover at least their hair with a headscarf. You rarely see any Saudi women when traveling outside Jeddah, and when you do, every inch of skin is covered. Even with my hair covered, I felt like I stood out and was stared at constantly. However, many expat women refuse to veil even when they are outside the city. In a country that is home to many who are ultra-orthodox, this seems like an unnecessary risk to me. I think it best to maintain as low a profile as possible. Business attire for expat men is similar to what you would find in the States or in Europe. However, Saudi men wear primarily white thobes (long white gowns) and head coverings at business functions. Expat men need not wear a thobe except, maybe, at very formal events such as wedding parties.

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Health & Safety:

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

Terrorism: predictably terrifying but also very rare. Westerners are targets, so Western compounds, hangouts, and workplaces are also targets. But traffic accidents are a much more likely way to die.

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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?

I don't trust any Saudi doctors. Cheating is too endemic in their culture, and they do it even if they attended Western medical schools. Plan on medevac for any significant medical concern, and avoid being in one of those nightmare stories . . . or avoid not living to tell your own nightmare story.

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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?

Occasional sandstorms can aggravate respiratory problems. Otherwise, skies are clear.

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

Wonderful in the winter. Amazingly hot and humid in the summer. Not much rain. Ever.

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Schools & Children:

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

My kids attend the American International School of Jeddah. The elementary grades appear to be the best. Middle school has been dysfunctional this year, but the school just got new management, so everything could change within a year's time. The British School (Continental) gets high marks from all of the parents. Its facilities are very good and are rumored to be even better in the new school they are building. Their rules for kids' school lunches seem a bit impossible to me (no peanut butter, no crackers---even Goldfish, no sugar of any kind). All schools require uniforms, which is new for us, but I love it! No fussing over clothes, and no class distinctions based on appearance.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Because there are a lot of family intermarriages among Saudis, there are also a lot of children with special needs. So special programs and schools can be found for special-needs kids, but their quality and quantity can make life hard for an expat. If your child's special needs are mild enough to integrate into a regular classroom, you might be able to find a spot in one of the better international schools. But places for these children are limited and often require extra parental involvement.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The international schools all offer preschools, and you can find independent preschools as well. Rather than daycare, most expats simply hire a nanny.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Tons. My son participates in weekly free soccer activities, but there are also paid soccer teams available. You can also find baseball, horseback riding, squash, tennis, swimming, tumbling, dance, etc. Most classes are available on the compound or in schools (which are often attached to the compounds). The heat makes some outdoor sports uncomfortable to play and to watch, but if you're devoted, no biggie, right?

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Expat Life:

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

Big. There are a lot of expats working for banks and infrastructure companies.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally content, but they occasionally flip out. Your morale will depend on your temperament. The people who seem to complain most are those who don't know much about the Arab world or those who don't care to know. If you're just coming to Jeddah to punch your time card, don't expect to get much more than your salary out of it.

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

This is a huge part of life, both among Saudis and among expats. If you are male and working on the local economy, you might never meet (or see) the female members of your Saudi coworkers' families, even at company parties. In diplomatic circles, women are much more of a presence.

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

It is not great for singles because of social restrictions on mixing of the sexes. But you can find your niche among single expats. And if you are into Saudi men, you will have no shortage of good-looking suitors. (But be sure you know what you're getting into before you start a relationship . . . and then rethink it extremely thoroughly . . . and then, just to be safe, give yourself some distance).

Great for couples—you can earn enough to travel frequently, and there are some unique and awesome places to see in the region.

I think it’s pretty good for families, but I might be in the minority with that opinion. Many people complain about the country. For us, the compound is what makes this place awesome—my kids are safe to roam free and have scores of friends their age (from all over the world). The compound has playgrounds, pools, a recreation center, a grocery store, tennis courts, and plenty of free activities as well as paid classes for kids. I have lots of friends from all over the world—although, ironically, I don’t personally know any Saudis. That’s partly because compounds are a big social bubble that I haven’t tried to escape and partly because Saudi society is very difficult to break into.

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

Homosexuality is against the law here, but of course that doesn't stop homosexuals from being homosexual. It's just called by different names so that people can justify it to themselves. However, if you're a gay/lesbian expat and can't avoid coming to Saudi, then to avoid running into serious trouble, plan on abstinence during your stay. (This is just my take, however, and I have no real experience with what it's like to be gay/lesbian here.)

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

Yes. Asians and Africans run into racism a lot. Christians are discouraged from wearing crosses or anything that advertises their religious differences. Women aren't generally seen as equal with men, and in my observation the more religious a man is, the less likely he is to shake a woman's hand or even look at her when he speaks to her.

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

Mada'in Saleh, meeting awesome people from all over the world, spending time at the beach.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you speak Arabic, it is fun to go out into the smaller towns. USG employees need permission from the government for most trips outside Jeddah, and they are often accompanied by police (who are a bit of a bother, because they have to trade off with another set of police in every town). But you can camp in the desert, hike, visit ruins and old palaces, see the Hijaz railroad, visit Taif, go to the beach, snorkel, scuba dive, go for boat rides, ATVs, horseback riding, camel rides, paintball, etc. For some destinations (such as Mada'in Saleh), government permission is required for all visitors.

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

Airline tickets, dates, carpets, sheep skins, perfume, knock-off sunglasses, kitsch.

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

A rare view of what it's like to live in Saudi Arabia and also to see places that few non-Muslims ever see. Easy access to Makkah if you're Muslim. Dates (the edible kind, not the social kind). Saving money. Resort-like living quarters on compounds.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't spend it all on air travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. It is much better than I expected. I love our compound!

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

Warm blankets, winter clothes, compact car, alcohol, and pornography. Alcohol is against the law here. I don't drink, so to me it's no big deal, but if you do drink, rest assured that you will not go thirsty in the expat community.

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3. But don't forget your:

Swimming gear, SUV, holiday decor (very difficult and sometimes impossible to find here, and despite reports to the contrary, you can get your stuff through customs as long as you label it innocuously. So, a Christmas tree becomes a "fake tree", etc.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don't expect the locals to perceive things the way you do. The Arab world didn't undergo an Enlightenment period in which society started favoring reason rather than religious clerics as the ultimate authority. So concepts like egalitarianism and openmindedness and tolerance don't hold nearly as much sway in this society as they do in the West. Also, Saudis grow up in a religious (and even gender) monoculture, which creates a lot of differences between their perceptions and ours. If you can appreciate those differences rather than disdain them, you will be in good shape.

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 11/12/10

Background:

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

First

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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?

14 hours form WDC through Frankfurt

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3. How long have you lived here?

Feb 2010 - Feb 2011

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

US Consulate, Jeddah

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Some are large and comfortable, some v. small apts, it's the luck of the draw - shortage of housing as of the time this report was written.

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

Slightly cheaper than in the States.

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

My girlfriend

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

All US fast food is available for comparable prices.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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

mosquitoes, ants

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Daily Life:

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

APO, it's fine.

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

500 riyal for a maid to come by once a week.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Marines have a decent gym, housing compound gyms are like apt gyms, no real free-weights, some dumbbells. There are gold's gyms etc in town.

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

It's easier to take large sums from the ATM and then use cash for all expenses.

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

No. It's Islam all day here.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Available at the CG, I never really look in town for US papers, but I'm sure you can find them.

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

I speak Arabic and use it far less than I would like to. Most Saudis speak English and other expats (Bangledeshis, Pakistanis, Filipinos) don't speak Arabic.

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

Probably not terrible. Everything is convenient here. Huge malls, huge cars, etc. It's not like you're negotiating narrow, ancient streets.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are available but drivers are weird with women, as I understand it. Most people at the CG use motorpool if they don't have a car. I've taken a few cabs and it was fine.

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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?

4-wheel-drive is nice if you want to be adventurous but it's not needed. A large vehicle is good for safety, people drive badly to quite badly here. You can bring a nice car if you want - the roads for the most part are decent and parking is usually v. easy. Everything is made to be convenient. No crime to speak of; I've never heard of anyone getting robbed or broken into, etc.

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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?

Internet is ridiculously bad.3G internet works depending on where you're sitting and compound service is v. bad and they have a monopoly so they have no reason to improve it. It's expensive and barely works. The GSO should put the hammer down on the compounds to improve it; but we all know that won't happen.

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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?

You'll get a cell issued by the CG.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There's a vet here. Some people have dogs on the compound, but there's no strolling around town with the dog. One, it's too hot and two, Arabs are not traditionally dog people. I don't think dogs would be well received in town. Again.. sadly.

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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?

Probably. There are many Americans working with Saudi firms or partnering with Saudi firms. Lots of capital in the Kingdom, just hard to free it up as I understand it.

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

Business attire at work - no one has ever said anything to me for wearing shorts in town, but I typically don't just to avoid scrutiny.

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Health & Safety:

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

Terrorism; the greatest danger is probably a traffic accident.

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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?

I wouldn't have anything major done in Saudi. No child birth, surgery, root canal, etc. I would try to get to the states for anything that counts.

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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?

Not unbearable.

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

It's hot and humid

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Schools & Children:

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

American School; British School; French School and others. American School organizes events with the CG from time to time - softball games etc.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At the American school I think there are.

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Expat Life:

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

This is my first expat experience, but I think it's large - there may be more foreigners here than Saudis. If not, it's close.

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2. Morale among expats:

People make the best of things - it's Saudi and people generally know what they're getting into before they come here. That being said ... low?

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

Consulate and Marine parties are the hottest ticket in town. Sadly.

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

Good is a strong word. Saudi is one of the most restrictive countries on earth - I wouldn't use the word "good" for any family situation here, single or otherwise.

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

I doubt it.

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

Probably more than any other country on earth.

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

Money, visiting the al-Wab'ah crater, camping in the desert.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beach, diving, four-wheeling, desert trips.

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

I don't think there's much unique in Saudi anymore. You can get carpets etc, shish pipes.. but it's not like you're getting them handmade in tehran, i'm just not certain this is a destination for that type of thing.

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

Witnessing social change in the Kingdom is history in real time.

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11. Can you save money?

Yup.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Eh - it was a one year tour and it went quickly. Saudi is oppressive. Oppressive heat, oppressive laws, etc. I'm glad I did it, I made some money, and certainly learned a lot. I don't have any plans of coming back.

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

Anything other than summer clothes. Your bike.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, sunscreen, light suits, swimsuit, positive mental attitude.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Succession in the Kingdom

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Lawrence of Arabia

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There's a golf course at KAUST, about 45 mins north of town but it's hard to get on. You need a member to sponsor you, it's far away, expensive, and it's v. hot here so you have to get up v. early to get up there and play. Saudi is an important country and an interesting place to serve. If you're interested in coming here for the right reasons, you'll be fine. If you're just trying to secure a comfortable follow on and check a box, you'll prob. complain for two years.

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