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Updated 3 months ago

Moving to Saudi Arabia can be a bit of a culture shock for many, but find out the best ways to get accustomed to their everyday lifestyle here.

Saudi Arabia is famously known for its conservative society and rules of modesty. A country that is tightly run by the religious law Sharia, it can be a bit of a culture shock for many new expats. However, as long as you come with an open mind, learn the customs, and cultivate a deep respect for cultural differences, things should be fine.

Public places

It is still common practice that unrelated men and women are not to interact in public other than for official or legal reasons. Segregation of genders is still enforced in restaurants, cashiers, business offices, etc. where they are divided into sections for families and single men.

Recently, the strict rules that once applied have become a bit more relaxed, and in some places even lifted. The new Saudi society has moved more towards a more liberal society where the intermingling of sexes isn’t seen as taboo.

Where once music and entertainment were forbidden, now there are malls and stores playing the music of their liking. An assortment of music concerts and entertainment shows now runs periodically throughout the year.

Dress code

Women were required by law to wear an abaya. An abaya is a long black robe that covers your body from shoulders to ankles. The abaya is worn over your everyday clothing while in public. It was once limited to a heavy black material, but nowadays you will find the abaya closely resembling a long dress. You can now find them in different fabrics, colours, and designs. Now, however, women are still required to dress modestly and cover up, but the abaya is no longer mandatory.

Men are freer to wear whatever they want. The exception is that shorts above the knee and tank tops are frowned upon in society. On Fridays particularly, wearing of shorts is a common reason to be refused entry into heavily family populated areas such as malls, restaurants, and entertainment parks.

Gastronomy

The official and most popular dish in Saudi Arabia is the rice dish kabsa. Kabsa is an aromatic rice dish that is served with chicken, beef, or lamb. Depending on the region, camel meat is also served with kabsa. The traditional way of eating Kabsa is for it to be served in one large sharing dish, whereby everyone sits on the floor and eats using their right hand. The dish is very appetizing and can be found citywide at various restaurants.

Saudi Arabia has developed into a huge food gastronomy hub. You can find cuisines from all over the world, everything from sushi to gyros. Not only have the cuisines of the world opened up in Saudi Arabia, but so has the fast food giants. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hardees, and Burger King are just a few of the hundreds of fast food restaurants serving the Saudi region.

Leisure

This is a great time to be in an expat in Saudi Arabia when it comes to leisure time activities. The common entertainment venues of concerts and cinemas that were once forbidden in the Kingdom are now allowed. Nightclubs, however, are still not allowed.

This year will introduce the first cinemas the country has seen in over 45 years, with concerts have already taken place and several more scheduled.

Censorship

In Saudi Arabia, everyone needs to be mindful of their actions and behaviours. The rules governing your freedom of expression and opinion are strict. There is no grey area when it comes to what cannot be said. Anything viewed to be negative towards the ruling family, authorities, notable religious leaders, religion, and the country are not allowed.

Displaying any form of critic towards the list above will result in harsh punishment. Some of the consequences include imprisonment, hefty fees, blacklisting, and in the most severe cases, death.

Furthermore, censorship in Saudi Arabia is very controlled in various areas. These include the internet where you will find several websites banned and inaccessible. Television is censored on some levels, where only certain shows and networks are allowed on air, and programs with material deemed immoral are cut out.

 Good to know:

It was just announced that the Ministry has appointed 64 million dollars towards entertainment in the Kingdom.

 Useful link:

Kwint Essential

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