Perhaps you’ve gone through the process of being interviewed - usually on Skype - had the relevant documents translated into Arabic, and had your medical exam at a British clinic. Equally, you may have just landed at one of the big airports in Riyadh or Dammam. What’s next? Now you should be thinking about the best way to acclimatize yourself to a completely new culture. Here are a few pointers to consider during your first foray into Saudi culture:
- Normally an English speaking driver will be at the airport to pick you and your loved ones up. It’s a good idea to pick the driver’s brains to find something out about your accommodation. If you have been offered a house off compound, you might want to ask where the nearest shops are for groceries and essentials.
- Once you’ve settled into your new home, you’ll probably want to get an internet connection. Many compounds supply this but you’ll need to register to get connected. Often these internet packages are not that great. Alternatively, once your visa has been converted to an iqama (residency permit), which takes about 10 days, you can get an internet connection and a SIM card with one of the two main Saudi telephone companies: Saudi Telecom Company (STC) http://www.stc.com.sa/ or Mobily - http://www.mobily.com.sa. Packages and payment plans vary.
- If you are planning to drive in KSA, you might think about arranging to get an international driving licence prior to your arrival. This will allow you to drive a rental car in KSA or, when you receive your iqama, a car that you have bought. You can also use your British driving licence to obtain a local Saudi licence. The Saudi licence is also valid for up to 10 years and can be used in all of the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as well: handy if you want to drive to Bahrain, Oman or the United Arab Emirates for a holiday. The driving centre where you can do this in Riyadh is called Dallah Driving School and Test Centre - http://www.saudi-driving-license.info/procedure.php
- Areas where you might have time adjusting are things like prayer times which occur five times per day. Often, you may find that just as you have arrived at a shopping mall, you will hear the call to prayer from a nearby mosque or in the mall itself. When this happens most westerners head for a local Starbucks and wait approximately twenty-five minutes for the ubiquitous loudspeakers to signal that it’s now over.
- In order to know when the prayer times are, you may want to get an app for your smartphone or you can also activate a service with one of the phone companies which will let you know of impending prayer times thereby keeping you in the loop.