Monday, May 05, 2014

What dictates our lives in Saudi Arabia

As I mentioned in my previous post, a pharmacist couple from India have a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, and the male member, a Dr. Arif, called me to ask me if coming to Saudi was a good decision or not. He was worried about the "strict" Islam that is followed here, but the opportunity was a big one; according to him, they would both be employed as assistant professors in a medical college near Riyadh, and their joint salaries would be more than twice what they are making now in India.

After encouraging him to definitely take up the opportunity (we even had a skype chat), I brooded about this whole issue and here is what I think about the pluses and minuses of working as a doctor with the Ministry of Health in the Kingdom. I think that this might also selectively apply to other professions, and even labourers.

The first thing is that one has to be prepared to face some hardship. Whether it is about the strictness of Islam, or the comparative non-tolerance to other religions, or about the nature of the food that is readily available, the climate (the heat in summer), the culture (virtually completely different from the cultures of all the other 220 countries, the language (it is Arabic, of course, but there are so many dialects that, even with experience , you can sometimes fail to understand a single word) ... I can go on .,, there will be a learning curve which you will often not completely master even after being here for years.

The second thing is that you have to plan your stay well in advance. The money is great, but how much of this you will save depends upon - a) whether you will be alone or with your family b) whether your posting is in a large, multi-dimensional city or in a smaller town or village c) what kind of money are you planning to save ... I mean how much and over what time-frame and d) your particular requirements. At the same time, you also need to plan for what you will do AFTER  you complete your goals here and want to go back to your own home country. If your plans are in place soon after you have reached here, or, preferably, as in my case, BEFORE  you even come here, it is the best option, since you will be working to realise your local goals as well as plan for the goals to reach later on after you have left the Kingdom.

The third thing is relevant for those who work in the smaller, rural areas. They should plan about what they want to do with the spare time. There is always sleeping, watching the TV and surfing the net (if available ... I have heard that only about 60% of the population has access to the net). However, these are idle things. It might be a good idea to develop as a human being doing things like studying for a higher qualification, learning new skills outside the field of medicine (cooking, drawing, painting, new languages, driving, camping, travelling, hill-climbing, etc.) and acquiring life-style changers like a better, trimmer body/thicker body (if you are fat/extra slim respectively), adopting meditation, exercising, dieting, training yourself to be a better person (calming techniques, public-speaking, teaching, blogging, etc.). You can also, by interacting with citizens of different nationalities, imbibe diverse cultures, have a better understanding of the peoples of the different parts of the world and learn about their quirks, their culture, their habits, their attitudes, etc.

If you are a religious Muslim, Saudi Arabia is the final stop in this life. You can easily do Umrah as often as you want, visit Madinah (the Prophet's mosque) as often as you want, and perform the Hajj at extremely low costs and overheads ... perhaps more than once. Spiritually, this country is like heaven on earth for the devout Muslim.

Finally, it is all about how YOU feel. If you feel stifled, no matter what the environment, then this country is not for you. If, however, you learn to adjust, to assimilate, and to evolve, then, sure, you can not just survive, but even thrive in this country. I mean, if you discount the human rights and woman-rights problems and the language problem, Saudi Arabia is technologically advanced, culturally stable, and has great financial strength and stability. In the big cities, you will see malls better than those in the advanced countries of the Americas and Europe. They have great roads, an amazing infrastructure, superb housing and industries, trade and commerce, transportation, and the cheapest petrol rates in the world.

Hope this post will be of help to other people who are still weighing their options on whether or not to come to Saudi for work. And to those who are already here, this post may help them to seek out better things to do than just laze around or while away their days without any productive results.

Thank you for reading. Do leave your comments.

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