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Lifestyle in Saudi Arabia

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If you wish to move to Saudi Arabia, it is best to be aware its inhabitants' lifestyle beforehand. Expat.com gives you an insight.

Saudi Arabia is known to be a strict country. Thus, you are advised to inquire on existing rules and beliefs beforehand if you intend to move there. You will also be exposed to a completely different lifestyle to what you are used to. Note that the country is governed by the Sharia, which is the Islamic Law. Hence, Saudis are required to comply with particular regulations in their everyday life.

Public places

First of all, unrelated men and women have to be separate in public places. In public transport, for instance, front rows are reserved for women traveling alone or with their family. Men, for their part, can access to the rest of the seats. This also applies to restaurants, gardens, etc. This might seem difficult for foreigners to conceive and accept, but bear in mind that you have to pay respect to these regulations if you wish to stay in the country.

Clothing

Men are required to wear trousers and shirts or t-shirts when they leave their home. As regards women, they are required to wear the abaya which is a loose kind of dress so that body shapes cannot be distinguished. Head-scarfs are not mandatory, but women generally carry something in their bag to cover their hair, just in case.

Gastronomy

Saudi food mainly consists of wheat, rice, lamb, chicken, beans, yogurt and dates. Pork is strictly forbidden in the country as per Islamic Laws. Alcoholic beverages are also prohibited although some foreigners manage to find some for their private consumption. However, make sure to avoid drinking beer in public. Otherwise, you will have to deal with local authorities. Note that products containing alcohol and pork will not be allowed into the country by the Customs department.

On the other hand, Saudis often get together for a family lunch after Friday prayers. They usually sit cross-legged around a low table and eat with their right hand fingers. You are also likely to find restaurants which have separate sections for men and women while some sections are reserved to couples and families.

As regards foreigners, they usually mingle with one another in their compounds around barbecues and drinks.

Leisure

You are certainly not likely to find nightclubs, bars, cinema halls, and theaters in Saudi Arabia as these are prohibited by the Sharia Law. However, you can still enjoy many leisure activities such as sports, hiking, desert trekking with locals or foreigners, a day at the beach, etc. In fact, life in Saudi Arabia is far from being dull and boring.

Censorship

Freedom of expression and opinion is supervised and monitored in Saudi Arabia. Thus, the access to some websites is blocked in the country. Moreover, bloggers must have an official authorization. In general, this authorization has a limited duration and is renewable. Hence, whatever their opinion regarding freedom of expression, foreigners are required to comply with these regulations.

In general, Saudi authorities make sure that the 5 million foreigners among the country's 20 million inhabitants comply with secular laws governing its society. In case of failure to comply with these, you risk having to pay severe fines, an imprisonment or expulsion.

 Useful links:

Expat.com - Saudi Arabia forum
Kwint Essential www.kwintessential.co.uk

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Member since 01 June 2008
Small earth, Mauritius
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This is predominantly but not exclusively for expat women in Riyadh during this summer. Just something to provide some ideas and information on what's out there to do this summer; particularly useful for any newcomers to Riyadh spending their first summer.
Just some researched information, source: http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/ which may help your preparation into the country.

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