Saudi Arabia – The Culture Shock

It’s been 36 days and six hours since I left Ireland for Saudi Arabia. So, I suppose I should tell you all how it’s going? I haven’t been able to write recently about my time here in Saudi Arabia. This was partially because I’ve been waiting for something to happen that I can awe and amaze you with, but I haven’t been so lucky…

It takes a lot of pride swallowing to admit that you are having a horrible time, that this was a bad idea and I am slowly going insane here. Buuuuuuuut because I am slowly but surely losing my mind and I am all about staying positive, I’m not going to say any of that stuff. Also, I’m very sure that “they” are watching my internet activity very closely so maybe I shouldn’t say anything too terrible about this beautiful, wonderful, country. I’d absolutely hate to get deported- or wait, Hmmm…

So let’s talk about this wonderful Kingdom.

I can not drive here but I do not feel I can complain about that because I never made it to the full licence in Ireland. It’s not too bad having a driver drive you everywhere, which I don’t have, so don’t take my word for it. This guy seems to know the craic though.


I can not walk around on my own, God forbid I get attacked, kidnapped or run off to commit adultery and corrupt the men of the country. If only I had known I couldn’t corrupt the men of the country here, all I ever wanted to do was to run around with Omar Borkan (the man who was made leave the country for being too good looking) flailing our arms and screaming  “CORRUPTIONCORRUPTIONCORRUPTIONTWITERCORRUPTIONCORRUPTIONKIMKARDASHIANCORRUPTIONCORRUPTIONCORRUPTION”. Why must you spoil my dreams Saudi whhhy!?

WARNING: Do not stare directly into his eyes.  You will turn to jelly.

I can not walk into the local shop without covering my face because some men will literally and oh so shamelessly stop in their tracks to blatantly stare at me. Back when I was here in February, my father brother and I went to a seafood restaurant where we had a “Private Family Booth” or as I like to call it “The Hide your Wives Box”. (Cosy albeit. Hey, I just said albeit.) Halfway through the meal I discovered that there was three men right outside our stall, staring at me through a gap in the curtain while pretending to fold napkins.

“I’m just checking to make sure she’s okay brother”

I can not speak English without getting strange looks. As a ESL qualified teacher it really disappoints me that more people don’t speak English around here. I have spoken English to woman (at English centres) who instead of telling me their English is weak and they didn’t pay enough attention in class to understand my very, very neutral accent. They will give me “the look”. Can you picture “the look?” The “I’m an over privileged, self righteous moron who doesn’t appreciate feeling stupid when it comes to light that there is something out there that I do not know”. Yes that look. The one that will have your fake smile drop in a split second to an intense serious stare and drops the cue to instead speak Arabic and show the imbecile that it is indeed possible for someone to speak Arabic in a tone that does not speak “Hellloo how’dyoudo, incase you haven’t been able to tell from the sour lemon sucking look on my face I’m a complete bitch trololol”.

If you don’t get this reference please go watch Pulp Fiction.

I can not understand shopkeeper Arabic. Seriously!? Why must every shopkeeper mumble their words. Just tell me clearly, how much is it? I’m sick of throwing money at them hoping I have the right amount. In most of the local shops you couldn’t dream of seeing tills or fancy card swiping machines, so it’s usually just a very tired Arab man with a calculator. The shops are usually stocked to their fullest and you can buy most things in boxes (which is nice for someone like me who is obsessed with tiny chocolate cake bars). I have to hand it to them though – not only do they work ridiculously long hours but because most of the things are not priced, they pretty much know the prices of everything in the shop and type them on the calculator at quick speed, before you’ve had enough time to count everything in your head to confirm that the calculator isn’t CORRUPT (#omarborkan) they’ve already bagged everything. It really puts me and my few months work at HMV to shame. Anyway fair play t’yiz with the whole memorising prices thing but bjaysus, would ya stop mumbling or else I’ll bring one of those sour faced lemon bitches to come and give you “the look”. We both know they don’t like it when they don’t understand things.

This isn’t from Saudi but it’s all crowded and shizz so ya git

I can’t be afraid to be a bitch. Not a sour-faced lemon bitch, just a take-no-shizz bitch. A little background, everyone here’s name is Mohamed. Well, it isn’t really and no it doesn’t get confusing but if you’re in a shop and you need to know the price of something (remember labels are rare), you want to call the shop keeper dude over you say “Ya Mohamed” (which roughly translates to “Hey Mohamed”) and he”ll come running (*walking very very slowly). Yup even if he’s name’s “Gary”. Handy eh. So yes, let’s speak. If you’re in one of the big fancy malls where everything is labelled and they have big shiny swipey machines the top floor is usually a massive and delicious food court. If you hit any of the junk food stalls such as McDonalds you’ll note that there’s usually a board to separate the women’s queue from the men’s. This is something I quite like because there tends to be a lot of pushing and shoving (sour-faced lemon bitches strike again!) and my brother and I had a wee race and discovered that the ladies get done much quicker.

You could be in one of those queues, waiting quietly, silently, politely – just like they taught you in Ireland – waiting for that delicious Cinnabon (queues not segregated because they tend to be much smaller than McDonalds queues which eliminates all the pushing and shoving) and some entitled lil’whatsit will come along “Ya Mohamed!” and tap on the glass with her obnoxiously large nails at the one Cinnamon bun you’ve been staring at since you’ve joined the queue. This is the cue. This is when it’s completely okay to be a bitch. Some women here think that just because their face is covered they can do whatever they want, say whatever they want and get away with it. Ladies, if you come to Saudi, perfect your tone. Work on how to use it. Most importantly you have to perfect a “Ya Mohamed” and a hand gesture that says “Oh hell naw bitch, you did not just try to skip me and steal my Cinnabon. Ye cheers, I was here first and I’ll take that bun too. THX”. Try it out a few times and make sure you have it right. There’s a fine line between self defence bitchy and sour-faced lemon bitchy. Use it wisely my friends. With great power, comes great responsibility.

I can not wear runners because they look really bad under my abayah.

I can not escape Lady Gaga and the Kardashians. Arabic references everywhere.

I can not do a handstand. I wasn’t able to do that in Ireland either.

Having said that, it’s not all bad, the food is amazing, the people are actually lovely, the history is overwhelming, the job offers are a-coming and the mosques are beautiful. I suppose I should put together an “I can…” post soon. Maybe. I’ll think about it. If you’re good.

God speed.


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