Teaching English in Saudi Arabia: Blog Story by Taiwanda Bason

Teaching Location: Jouf, Tabuk and Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Type of Teaching Job: Universities and Private Language Institute
Student Age Group: Young Adults and Adults
Monthly Salary: 12,000 SAR (~3,200 USD)
Monthly Rent: 0 (Provided)
Living Arrangement: Shared villas/flat
Monthly Savings: 2,700 USD
Contract Bonuses: Airfare, End of contract bonus

Teaching English in Saudia Arabia - Blog Story by Taiwanda Bason


Experiencing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

By Taiwanda Bason

Like all places, Saudi Arabia has its favorable and unfavorable points. Most people in Saudi and outside of Saudi believe that Americans will have a hard time because of the stark contrast between its culture and the West.

However, I think because of my desire to see what life was like in other countries outside of America, I was the ideal candidate to go because I wasn’t looking for and really didn’t want the familiar.

Kingdom Yeas: Benefits of Teaching English in Saudi Arabia

The Weather

One of the things I appreciated about my locations in Saudi Arabia was the weather.

I absolutely DO NOT like humidity. So, being in the northern and central areas of the country was superb! I could style my hair as many ways as I liked and not worry about it changing so quickly. So this one was a personal joy.

Middle Eastern Cuisine

Oh my goodness! I also got slightly plump while there. Why? Because I was fed some wonderful food by those wanting me to dine with them. I really DO NOT enjoy cooking. So, just about every invitation to food was accepted. It’s one of the things I look forward to when traveling to other countries.

Middle Eastern cuisines are pretty good! From Egyptian to Jordanian, from Saudi Arabian to Lebanese, I had opportunity to eat several. I probably ate more Pakistani food than any others since I was invited to dine many times with the guys who worked on the compound at my last assignment in the country.

Might I add that I believe Pakistani food is the SPICIEST food on earth, and I love it!

Tabuk, Saudi Arabia
Lovely day walking around our compound in Tabuk

Vacation Time

Another joy, actually a SUPER JOY, was the absurd amount of vacation time! It was wild! Don’t get me wrong, when we worked – we WORKED. However, when it was time to indulge in vacation – I did that! Each and every time, I was leaving the kingdom for an adventure outside.

For Ramadan, we got over a month which I decided to spend in Israel – a place I always read about in the Bible but to have a firsthand experience there was surreal. I stayed almost a month and learned so much from the people I met – Jewish, Muslim and others – and my observations.

Then, there was my totally fantastic trip to Egypt where I had personal tour guides and drivers the whole week and picked up my absolutely FAVORITE dress which is still pulling in compliments to this day.

Kingdom Nays: Drawbacks of Teaching English in Saudi Arabia

Transportation for Women

Something I didn’t like about the kingdom was the fact that there was no mass public transportation for women.

Since men and women who were not related weren’t allowed to socialize, it didn’t make sense that women who couldn’t legally drive and may not have had access to someone to personally drive them around had to rely on taxis and private drivers who they didn’t know to get them to where they needed to be.

It seemed quite contradictory that women couldn’t socialize with men but had to be alone with them in cars with men they didn’t know. Unfortunately, some of those men would say and do things they shouldn’t, like making sexual innuendos or trying to touch you, and some actually doing so – as happened to one of my roommates from the UK and myself as well. And it wasn’t just limited to foreigners, but some of my Saudi students have told me about situations that happened to them or others, as well.

Ad Dir'iyah, Saudi Arabia
Sightseeing in the historic district in Ad Dir’iyah

Some Students’ Attitudes

Another thing I wasn’t quite a fan of was teaching in the public universities where I was assigned.

You see, when I chose to go, I specifically wanted to work in a university because I preferred to work with older students. However, I found that many of the young ladies presented behavior like that of the younger children I used to teach which is what I wanted a break from. Actually, some of their behavior was WORSE.

So, I asked some of my students at one of the universities to write why they were there. It was then I got a better understanding of why. You see. A couple of the young ladies were brave enough to cut to the chase. They said they were there because their families were forcing them. While this was not the case for them all, there were also those whose only aspiration was to get married, have a family and stay home – not work.

Then, there was the other fact, that with already limited opportunities for women to work in Saudi at that time, these young ladies were even more limited being that they lived in small cities with far fewer jobs women could have.

There’s also the little thing that these cities were mostly desert, so with little entertainment opportunities outside and sometimes not being able to visit their friends, some utilized school as their chance to socialize which resulted in behaviors like skipping or leaving classes under false pretenses to be with their friends, disrupting class with talking and so forth.

Some Foreigners’ Behaviour

However, probably more annoying than those things was the behavior of some foreigners. In my observation, most of the negative issues related to foreigners there stemmed from other foreigners instead of the Saudi locals.

There were those who decided to make themselves the cultural and moral police. There were also those who wielded the authority of their positions to manipulate things for their benefit or inserting their personal feelings into their decisions and interactions with other foreigners.

For example, one manager, who called me to her villa the very first day I arrived in their city for what I thought was to give me some orientation on working at the university, took it upon herself to insinuate that my roommate was an alcoholic and other teachers were bad for business to get close to, which was just SO inappropriate.

It was things like that that just didn’t make sense to me. I mean, we were all foreigners in the country. So, I would think that instead of trying to cut each other down, we’d try to foster an environment that we could all be successful in.

Zoo in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Visiting the zoo in Riyadh on a hot summer day

Conclusion

All in all, though, I feel I had a good experience in Saudi because I accomplished my goal which was to experience life in another country outside of the USA. That’s why I believe setting goals are the most important thing we need to do when we decide to go abroad. Our goals remind us why we’re there and help us decide if it’s worth staying to the end or not.

Now, many have asked the question, would I go back?

My answer is yes, just in a different capacity for visiting or business, and next time the experience will be even better since I’ve been there before. As you may be able to tell, it was an experience I’ll never forget and because of it, I’ve consulted others who made their way to the kingdom to have their own.

Who knows? Maybe you’re next!

Get a copy of my guide: “7 Tips for Teaching Abroad: Your Guide to Success” at taiwandabason.com/products.html

Contact Taiwanda Bason

Website: taiwandabason.com
Email: taiwanda@taiwandabason.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taiwandabason
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