Top 10 Best Things About Living in Saudi Arabia

10)  Labor Costs –

Neither Jamie and I are really used to this, but it is a nice lifestyle.  In the US and most other western nations, having a housekeeper, car washer, and gardener would be too much of a cost on the budget.  A couple of families on the compound have a live in maid, which we don’t think we’ll ever get, but certainly seems appealing if you have a few kids.  The men who work on the compound (mainly from Pakistan and India) have regular hours where the take care of maintenance on the compound itself; however, before and after work, they wash cars and do other personal maintenance request you may have.  Just recently, we had a guy build a fence and put in a doggie door for us.  We don’t mind helping these guys out because their service for us pretty much double or triple their monthly salary.

9)  Location for Traveling –

This year wasn’t nearly as busy for our traveling as our 2 years in China, but the area where we are is a great location to see 3 continents.  The only drawback is that the cost of flights are more expensive than they are in southeast Asia, but pretty much everything is more expensive than it is is SE Asia.  This year, we went to Bahrain, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, while I was able to go to Nepal and Jamie to Kenya.  With the birth of our child, it might slow us down a little bit, but we hope that in the years to come, we can take advantage of our location to 3 continents, mainly Europe.

8)  Bahrain –

Bahrain has pork, alcohol, a nightlife, movie theaters, and goods you can’t find in Saudi.  You can’t bring the pork and alcohol back into Saudi, but it has been nice to go over there on the weekends and enjoy these things.  Women can drive and Jamie doesn’t have to wear her abaya.  At a minimum, it takes about 45 minutes to get there if you can get through customs quickly; however, it can take nearly 2 hours if the causeway is busy.  Many people go on early Friday morning to avoid the traffic.  Ric’s Kountry Kitchen has a great breakfast and City Center Mall has been our favorite place to see a movie.  Overall, it is a nice getaway from the bore of Saudi Arabia.

7)  Shawarmas –

According to wikipedia, a shawarma is

“an Arab[1][2] sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture thereof. The meat is placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shawarma is a fast-food staple across the Middle East, Europe and the Caucasus.
Shawarma is eaten with pita breadLavash bread, tabbouleh salad, fattoush salad, taboon bread, tomato and cucumber. Toppings include tahinihummus, pickled turnips and amba.
Shawarma has many variants and names in preparation, serving style, and name. The word shawarma(pronounced /ʃəˈvɑːrmə/) comes from the Turkish word çevirme [tʃeviɾˈme] ‘turning’, though the dish is usually called döner kebab ‘turning kebab’ in Turkish. In Greek, it was formerly called ντονέρ /doner/, and now called gyros ‘turned’; in Armenian, it is “tarna”, literally meaning “to turn”.”
You can get shawarmas just about anywhere, but we have our favorite place downtown at this little hole in the wall.  It seems like every family has their favorite place to get their shawarmas, so it is nice to hear of other places.  We ate the doners in Turkey, but we seems to like the ones on Saudi better.
6)  Availability of Food –
In comparison to China, we can get just about anything we want in Khobar.  Obviously, pork and alcohol are out, but many items are available somewhere.  Tamimi’s (formerly Safeway) is our favorite place to shop due to availability of goods and location.  The prices are at most 15% more than US prices, although some items are the same or even cheaper.  Turkey bacon can be found sporadically.  Tostidos are also a hot item with westerners, so we always stock up if we can.  Cheerios are in and out, so if they are in, I usually buy 3 boxes or so.  Cheese is not as expensive, but fruits, fish, and nuts are very expensive.  Along with groceries, there are a wider variety of western restaurants, although they can be pricey too.  My favorite is Chili’s, although I’m glad there is Burger King and Hardee’s.  We have been to the Macaroni Grille with gift certificates and it is quite good too.
5)  Coworkers and Our Jobs –
Jamie is happy at the high school, and finding her a high school social studies position was one of our main objectives in moving schools.  I have settled in teaching 7th grade math/science at the middle school.  We are both pretty satisfied with our jobs.  We have the opportunity for some professional development opportunities as well as leadership opportunities that we wouldn’t have had in our last school.  ISG is a solid system to work for as a not for profit organization.  We are located right next to the US Consulate, so security is as good as it gets.  Our students for the most part are hardworking, although they have quite a bit of support from home.  The high school where Jamie teaches has 100% of its graduating students go to a university.  We have great and supportive coworkers, many of whom are also our neighbors and friends.  They have made the transition to Saudi Arabia easier.  We hope that we have these friendships for many years to come.
4)  Gas!!!
Not much I can say here other than… 40 cents a gallon, $9 to fill up my Chevy Trailblazer, and just as important, you don’t have to pump your own gas.  Many gas stations additionally give you a couple of tissue boxes if you fill up.
3)  Weather –
This one may shock some people, but the weather where we live is actually pretty amazing 8 months of the year.  During the summer, we aren’t there anyway, so we have to endure the heat during June and September, but the other months are pretty amazing.  Rainfall is less than inch per year and the winter is very mild.  During the winter, you thrown a light jacket in the morning and evening, but wear short sleeves during the day.  The heat is pretty unbearable beginning in May, but the humidity isn’t near where it is other places, so it is actually pretty bearable.  Overall, we’ve enjoyed the weather, despite the heat index in August reaching 146 on some days.
2)  Housing –
Westerners are required to live in a secure, walled compound.  Compounds vary in size and amenities.  Our compound is An Nassim, and overall we have enjoyed our stay there.  This year, we lived on the 2nd and 3rd floor of a 3 story villa.  There was a single lady who lived underneath us.  This next year, however, we have a full 3 story villa, which doubles our living space from last year.  We have a front patio, back patio, and even a grassy fenced back yard.  Many families have decorated their villas so well, it is hard to believe you live in Saudi Arabia.  The villas come furnished.  Some families replace all of the furniture and some keep it the same.  Jamie and I will do our best to make it look and feel like home as much as possible.  Home is where you make it.
Compound life for the most part is quite dull, however, there is a weekly poker night.  Some women get together for yoga, and we play Settlers of Catan every Friday.  About once per month, most people on the compound get together for some sort of pot luck dinner or celebration and Thanksgiving dinner is always prepared.  If you are lucky, you can also go to the Canadian thanksgiving.  If you’ve seen our compound video, you’ll see that we have tennis courts, a pool, and a pretty nice rec center and library.  My largest problem is that there is not a field where kids can play.  We plan on making villa 104 our home for a while, and I can think of worse places to live.
1)  Money –
No one, and I mean no one, moves to Saudi Arabia for the culture, scenery, or weather.  The lifestyle I have described above is what it is for one reason… money.  While we don’t make quite as much as we would in the states, our money is tax free, our housing is paid for, our health care taken care of, and insurance is pretty inexpensive.  Moving to Saudi has pretty much doubled our salary from China if you count the tutoring money.  Tutoring students has been a positive experience overall for us, and it can be quite lucrative.  My tutoring money alone takes care of our living expenses, so it allows for us to send most, if not all, of our money home to the states.  Our school’s package isn’t the best in the Middle East, but it is pretty good overall.

17 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Things About Living in Saudi Arabia”

  1. When you say teaching credentials, you don’t mean a teaching degree do you? You’ll mean something else, like a language school to TEFL?

    Great Post! x

  2. Hello i will like to move to saudi arabia to seek for better football career. i will likw to know more on hw is like playing football over there as career. pls reply me via email thanks eric

  3. The best thing about saudi arabia is that you can get expensive and luxurious things at very cheap and reasonable cost. The housing facilities are superb you can also find some great villas to stay.

  4. Hi Eric,

    Your site is a breath of fresh air! I’ve been going round and round in circles attempting to figure out how or where to apply for positions in countries like Saudi Arabia where my husband and I can live, work, and sock some money away before we retire in 5 years. I have a Ph.D. in psychology but don’t have any type of teaching credential, because I teach stress management in organizations. My husband speaks and could teach French, German, Japanese and English, teaches massage therapy and could give massages. Do you have any recommendation as to where we might start on our search for positions?

    Thanks in advance for any tips you can give us and thanks, too, for being so generous with your time and for writing such a great blog! You might be happy to know that your site came up first on a Google search for international teaching jobs.

  5. Greetings from Seattle! My wife and I are considering teaching abroad. (I am a classically trained music teacher/cellist. My wife is not a teacher.) I am in the beginning stages of my research to do this beginning the 2016 school year. What suggestions might you have to this process? Also- do you happen to know if there are support positions available for spouses int he schools? She currently works for a national organization called Communities In Schools as a School Outreach Coordinator- providing support to families and students. Thank you in advance for any suggestions and insight you may have.
    Paul and Mary Fowler

  6. Are teaching credentials required? Example I have BS, MS and 39 Ph.D. hours of engineering. I have conducted graduate engineering seminars/classes but do not have any undergrad experience. What are your thoughts?


    1. Greg,

      Teaching credentials will be required for all international schools in Saudi Arabia. Maybe some of the private Saudi schools might not worry about a certificate. They are picky with their work visas and you have to go to great lengths to get your degrees certified by the Saudi embassy.

  7. Hi Jamie and Eric,
    The Paugh’s here. Lots of good information on your blog! Since Shekou, we moved to Skopje and now Kiev, still with QSI. We are looking to move on after next year and will have our youngest daughter in high school. What about Saudi for a 14 year old girl? I’ve always heard salaries of $100,000+. Accurate or not? Then compound life…pretty boring you say?! Is is difficult or undesirable to get out and about, especially a woman on her own or is that not possible. Thanks for any feedback! Hope your school year is winding down nicely!

    Tim & Jessica Paugh

    1. Great to hear from you!

      Depends on where you work. Aramco will pay upwards of over 100K. Other schools, like ours, will pay somewhere around $50 – $75K depending on experience and education level. There are great benefits too. You main budget item here will be food. No expenses on anything else really except traveling.

      Women get around just fine. Jessica is pretty outgoing from what I remember, but I’m assuming she won’t be running around in her bikini, so she’ll be fine. Your children are also well traveled, so they understand cultural situations and expectations. You know the Saudi culture and how they feel and treat women, and she’ll need to know and understand that before coming; however, it really won’t effect her other than having to wear an abaya.

      Best of luck and let me know how we can help!

      [email protected]

      1. Hello there!! I’m 14 and I’m from Saudi Arabia and I would like to meet your daughter and I would love to talk with you and tell you a bit more about Saudi Arabia
        So please Email me as soon as you have the chance to

        [email protected]

  8. Greetings from Hong Kong.

    Excellent post. I am quite interested in moving to SA in the foreseeable future.

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