Kristine wanders

Expat of the month
  • Kristine wanders
Published on 2015-09-01 at 00:00
Howdy, I'm Kristine. I'm originally from Kelowna BC, Canada, but am currently living and working in Saudi Arabia as a Registered Nurse (RN).

Howdy, I'm Kristine. I'm originally from Kelowna BC, Canada, but am currently living and working in Saudi Arabia as a Registered Nurse (RN).

When and how did you decide to move to Saudi Arabia? Is it complicated to settle down there?

I previously lived in Saudi Arabia in 2010/2011, and decided to return last October. It is a very difficult country to settle down in. I was hired by a recruiting agency, and the employment process is quite complicated and tedious. There is a mountain of paperwork, visa applications, not to mention all the medical tests that are needed to ensure you are a healthy employee. Luckily, the agency was very helpful in assisting with this, but the process can be long and drawn out.

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

Besides my previous time in Saudi Arabia I spent the better part of 10 years working all over the U.S., specifically in North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California and Washington state. Seattle Washington feels like my second home. To date I've visited 40 countries.

What do you like the most about Saudi Arabia?

My most favourite thing is that I get nearly 2 months of paid vacation with my work contract. Saudi Arabia is very centrally located to allow for quick trips to other Middle Eastern countries, Europe and Asia. Also, coming from Canada the winter weather here is delightful. The summer months, however, are brutally hot.

How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with Canada, your home country?

As this is my second time in Saudi Arabia the culture shock was not as pronounced as my first time. For most people the culture shock is extreme though - especially for western woman, as Saudi Arabia can feel like the polar opposite from home. The most obvious difference for women in Saudi Arabia is that they are not allowed to drive, and that they must wear an abaya when outside of the house, and carry a scarf in the event that they are asked to cover their hair by the religious authorities. Other differences are a pronounced lack of mixing of the sexes when out in public. Men eat in the singles section of a restaurant, women eat in the family section. Alcohol is illegal. There are no movie theaters (except on western compounds), women can't try on clothes when out shopping (unless in a ladies mall). These are just a few of the differences that can affect daily life.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

Oh yes. My friends and family is a given. I miss having the freedom to get into my own car and drive myself where ever it is I want to go. I miss having a nice glass of wine after a bad day at work. I miss going shopping and being able to try clothing on right there and then.

Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

Living in Saudi Arabia you will create so many wonderful memories. I have found the people, especially the younger women to be very warm, and it's not uncommon to be out shopping or at dinner and have a group of young girls come up and want to have a photo taken with you. You also will work with other ex-pats from around the world and will make new friends from the Philippines, or India, or Egypt with whom you will keep in contact long after you've moved away. My favourite souvenir from Saudi Arabia was a beautiful Arabic tea set I bought that last time I was here. They are ornate and extravagant.

What does your typical day as an expat in Saudi Arabia look like?

On work days I work 12.5hr shifts at a large teaching hospital. I balance the day caring for adult VIP patients, or working with mother's who have just had a baby, and their newborns. I co-ordinate the care of multiple patients and interact with doctors, family members, respiratory and physical therapists, and the numerous other departments of a large hospital. On my days off when I'm not away traveling I work on my blog, tan by the pool, catch up with friends, and am often planning my next adventure.

When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

I kept a blog the first time I lived in Saudi Arabia, but kept it private mostly for my friends and family. This time I wanted to keep a more public blog as I think as a western woman living and working in Saudi Arabia this offers a unique perspective on the Middle East, and I wanted to help other nurses who were considering a move to this part of the world.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

Yes. I get emails from curious nurses interested in working in Saudi Arabia, and it's nice to offer them the insider scoop.

Why did you register on and what do you think of the website?

I registered with Expat Blog to increase my blog readership, and to offer a western woman's perspective on what it's like to live and work in Saudi Arabia. I think the website is a very useful tool to connect with other expats and to get a feel for what's happening in the country you live in/want to live in.

Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Saudi Arabia?

Be open to new experiences and people. Not everything we are led to believe by western media is true. Make sure you take advantage of traveling in Saudi Arabia, as you won't be able to after you leave. There are several great places to see such as Jeddah or Mada'in Saleh. Bring a suitcase of patience with you because things run on Middle Eastern time once you arrive, meaning that they are not anywhere near as efficient as what you are used to. Just go with it, and trying to constantly change things will only add to your frustrations. Try and learn some Arabia phrases before you arrive - they will go a long way when interacting with locals, and help to bridge the culture gap.

Kristine wanders