Fazli: « It is comfortable to live in Riyadh as long as one has a decent wage »

Expat interviews
  • Fazli in Riyadh
Written by Expat.com team on 06 November, 2014
Fazli, Sri Lankan expat, settled in Riyadh with his family 35 years ago. After his retirement from a long IT consultant career, he has been spending his leisure time in reading, writing, poetry and researching genealogy...

Where do you come from Fazli and what are you doing nowadays?

I am Fazli, from Colombo, in Sri Lanka. I am 66 years old. I have been living and working in KSA since 1979 and my family and I have been extremely comfortable and happy with the environment and life here. I have been involved in IT since 1970, from the old 3GL and punched card days of computing.

Why did you choose to move to Riyadh?

My family ad I came to live and work in Saudi Arabia in 1979. Initially, we came here in Riyadh on a 2 year contract. I had taken up an assignment with Citibank Technology to join their team involved in rolling out new technology solutions to their services. Having worked for the bank for 20 years, I spent another 10 years with the technology division in a private sector corporation.

Are you currently working?

I retired in 2008. I am presently carrying out some private IT consulting in Riyadh through the grapevine.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

We don't really feel out of place here as this has become more home than our country of origin since we have lived here for 35 long years. This has been even longer than the time we have spent back home.

How do you find the Saudi lifestyle?

Adaptation is the key. There is so much to share and enjoy here, within the laws of the land, if only one seeks it in the right places and takes a positive step in trying to meet people (other expats) and interact with them.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

That was an afternoon in Nov 1979 when I first stepped on to these Arabian lands at Dhahran Airport. The heat was the first thing that hit me. Driving to the hotel from the airport, I was able to capture a land that reminded me of the 1,001 Arabian Nights. Those were my first impressions.

What does your every day life in Riyadh look like?

I usually keep myself busy in reading, writing, poetry, playing Scrabble and Bridge, travel, history, culture, and researching genealogy.

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

The most shocking experience I encountered during my very first days in Al-Khobar (Eastern Province) was to see the gold shops totally open with not a single salesman inside it when the call for prayer sounded and everyone went to the Mosque to pray.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Riyadh? Is it easy for an expat to live in the country?

Yes, it is comfortable to live in Riyadh as long as one has a job that pays a decent wage and provides the basic comforts. Everything is available and in plenty, and generally affordable to most expatriate workers here. No doubt, the cost of living has tripled in the past 2 decades. Yet, Saudi Arabia is a much cheaper place to live than any of the other GCC countries.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

Usually driving down into the desert on week-ends, camping, BBQ's, and socializing with other expats from many different nations. The multiculturalism that prevails here has been of great value to me and my family in integrating, sharing and learning about other peoples and cultures. I also play Jazz drums and would love to learn to busk on some double bass too.

What are the differences between life in Riyadh and in Colombo, your home city?

Initially, I missed the hustle and bustle of life and extended family back home, the tropical weather, the abundant rains, and the non restricted lifestyle that we enjoyed back at home.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?

Come here with an open mind. Be objective and try to understand the religion, culture and lifestyle of the people of this land. There is no point in complaining about what one cannot find here because of their laws and restrictions after having chosen to come and live and work here.

What are your plans for the future?

We have ended up spending 35 years and it will certainly be very difficult for me and my family to relocate anywhere else, even back home, since we have adjusted well to the way of life here.
Our grand children (one was born in Riyadh), 20 & 17, will probably move to spend their future in Canada since they already have citizenship in North America. One is already attending University in Toronto and the other will join her in 2015 after he completes his High School education in Riyadh. The two daughters, 39 & 33, are both successfully employed in English education at a large international school in Riyadh and seem to be quite happy with their jobs, friends, and lifestyle.
Personally, I would prefer to spend the rest of my life here in the desert.

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