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Living and teaching in Saudi

Living and teaching in Saudi

Global English graduate Alan Hood speaks about living and teaching in Saudi Arabia:

"Saudi Arabia is one of the most intriguing countries in the world. It is also one of the most difficult to visit so anyone who enjoys an adventure will enjoy working in the desert kingdom. It is a land of contrasts; old and new, conservative and modern, crowded and empty, hot and cold.

Daily Life in the Kingdom

I have lived in Saudi Arabia for just over 24 years and during that time the Kingdom has changed enormously.

Nowadays it is completely different, with uncensored satellite TV, internet access and better mobile phone coverage than the UK. The infrastructure is excellent, with motorways to all the main centres and a developing rail network that, in the future, will cover most of the Kingdom and surrounding Gulf countries. There are also superb modern shopping malls where you can find Marks & Spencers, Next and many other UK shops.

However the country is not for everyone, especially for women who can often find it hard. Shops close at prayer times for about 30 minutes each time. There are five prayers a day and the timing of these changes day by day depending upon the time of sunset and sunrise. Therefore when you are planning a trip to the shops, you have to take this into account and it can be quite frustrating. At the moment, women aren't permitted to drive and therefore have to rely on taxis or drivers. Quite possibly this will change in the future, but Saudi is a conservative country and therefore it will take time. Having said that, when you see the standard of driving I’m not sure that most women would want to drive!

One of the complaints about living in Saudi is the lack of things to do. Therefore if you live here, you have to rely on building up a good circle of friends. However, to me this is one the main attractions. It is easy to make friends and there are plenty of things to do if you look for them. Saudi Arabia is a vast country about the size of Western Europe but with a population of only about 25 million, which includes expatriates. Most of the population live in the three major cities, Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam and therefore there are vast areas that are not populated at all.

Things to do when you aren't teaching English

One of the main attractions for me is desert camping. This is obviously done when the weather is cooler; October until the end of April. There is nothing quite like camping in the middle of nowhere around a camp fire with a group of friends and with the nearest road being over 150 kilometres away. The silence and sense of isolation is fantastic.

There are also lots of historical sites to visit such as the Hejaz Railway which runs from Jordan down to Madina. This the railway line made famous by Lawrence of Arabia during the fight against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Going to the beach, sailing, diving are all enjoyable activities - and if you happen to live near Dammam, then a trip to Bahrain is easy to do, at just over an hour away by car. In Bahrain there are all the things that aren’t in Saudi, such as night clubs, bars and cinemas. Many people live in Bahrain and then commute every day to Saudi Arabia.

In the summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees centigrade (in the shade) though with air conditioning it’s not too difficult to deal with. Fortunately from October until April the weather is beautiful and even quite cool in January, when it can rain. The northern and central part of the Kingdom can get quite cold with temperatures at night well below freezing, even with snow.

So as you can see it is a land of contrasts.

Working in Saudi

With regards to working in Saudi Arabia there are plenty of employment opportunities. Most offer good salaries and working conditions and with it being tax free it is easy to save money. The Saudis are generally extremely nice and friendly people with a great sense of humour. To date I have taught adults and enjoyed it immensely but there are also many teaching positions within the school system.

With regards to qualifications most teaching and training establishments require a degree and a few years experience before being able to apply for a job. However there are others where a TEFL certificate will suffice. One word of warning - the process for a work visa can take weeks so you need to be patient!

Overall Saudi Arabia is great place to work and live if you enjoy the outdoor life and a sense of adventure. It is safe and you can walk around the streets at anytime of the day or night and feel completely at ease."

If you are a Global English TESOL course graduate, see the TEFL jobs in Saudi Arabia on offer via our site. Alan would be happy to communicate with any GE trainees interested in Saudi, so if this is you, please contact us in the first instance.

  • Author: Louisa Walsh
  • Date: Thursday 16th August 2012

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