Why did you take the job in Saudi Arabia?
To be quite frank, I wanted to do some more traveling in the Middle East and Africa. Saudi Arabia is the perfect location for me to achieve my goals because I can also save the most money here.
As a woman, how do you feel working and living in Saudi Arabia? It must be quite a different experience.
It’s been quite challenging being an expat here. As you already know, females aren’t allowed to drive or cycle in the Kingdom and many places such as parks, gyms, and eateries are off-limits to us. Plus, once I’m outdoors, I must wear the abaya – which is rather encumbering. So, being a very independent and liberal person, it took me a while to adjust to the Saudi lifestyle.
In terms of teaching here, it’s a bit frustrating because education isn’t really valued and most students aren’t interested in learning. They basically come to school because their monarch gives them a monthly stipend (approx. $265 USD) to attend an institution of higher learning. Additionally, due to the culture, fun learning activities with music and film that can be implemented in the classrooms in places such as South Korea are prohibited here. So, the teaching experience for me hasn’t been as rewarding as it was in other places.
What advice do you have for people who want to live and work in Saudi Arabia? Are there other jobs open to foreigners there – or is it mainly teaching positions?
I’d recommend that people who desire to come to the Kingdom do a bit of research on the culture to ensure that this is the right place for them. If they opt to come, they must remember that the only thing that matters here is Sharia law… To survive here, they’ll need to leave their Western moral sensibilities behind.
Other employment opportunities in the Kingdom are in the fields of Energy, Health, Construction and domestic work, but tend to be restricted by nationality. I’ve noticed that the male engineers at the oil companies such as Aramco are from the USA, the UK, and South Africa. The doctors and pharmacists are predominantly Egyptian, the nurses are females from the Philippines… The laborers/construction workers are primarily from India and Pakistan; while the housekeepers hail from Africa and Indonesia.
How does one get a job teaching if you aren’t in Saudi Arabia?
The best way to job hunt here is by networking. If you don’t have any contacts, the next best option is to use websites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe and Serious Teachers. They were very helpful when I was job hunting. Going through a recruiter is also an option since many institutions here seem to be leaning more towards the third-party method instead of the traditional direct-hire method. Once you’ve been offered a contract, you’ll have to return to your homeland in order to start the application process that I mentioned earlier.
I tend to prefer schools that are well established as opposed to start-ups. If I’m unfamiliar with the universities that I’m interested in working at, I’ll do a Google search of teachers’ reviews of those institutions to learn their experiences and opinions. The three things that matter most to me when considering a university offer are:
- The length of contract – I prefer one instead of two-year contracts because if it isn’t working for me, having a commitment for more than a year will be very painful.
- The promptness in paying salary – There have been many horror stories of institutions here not paying teachers on time or in full. So, I want to ensure that isn’t an issue at the university I elect to work.
- The standard of accommodation – I like to see photos of the compound / hotel where I’ll be residing. I’ve been lucky to have decent housing, but other teachers haven’t been as fortunate. Some live in decrepit spaces and have to share rooms.
Why do you think teaching is a good option for people looking to live abroad?
I believe that teaching overseas is an excellent way for people to immerse themselves in a new culture, plus hone their teaching and communication skills. Since there are numerous teaching positions around the globe, this is a wonderful employment opportunity for people who enjoy traveling and want to stay in a particular country for several months or years. Most teaching contracts offer generous vacation/leave days during the school year and summer break, which is ideal for teachers to indulge their wanderlust.
For someone looking to live and work in Saudi Arabia (in general, not specific to teaching), what are three pieces of advice you would give them?
- Bring as much Saudi currency (riyals) as possible with you to tide you over until you receive your first paycheck. Depending upon your arrival date and the employer’s policy regarding payment, an expat might have to wait a couple of months before receiving his/her first wages.
- Expats need to understand that contracts here aren’t as binding as they are back in the West. Sometimes benefits that are initially promised don’t materialize. For example, relocation allowances and bonuses.
- A positive attitude and sense of humor are essential for enjoying your experiences in Saudi Arabia.
If you want to read more about life in Saudi Arabia, check out Ceil’s travel blog.
Become the Next Success Story
One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way, but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world. I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who gave up living a typical life to explore the world:
We all come from different places, but we all have one thing in common: we all want to travel more.