Expat Workers Treatment By Saudis; How Expats are treated in Saudi Arabia
How are Expats Treated by Saudi People
If you asked me "how are expat workers treated by Saudis?" as a westerner working in Saudi Arabia (I am from the UK and I look and dress like a “typical” westerner) I will tell you that I am treated in general with respect and in most cases people are very friendly in the workplace and in public. However, this can be very different for expats working in Saudi Arabia from less affluent countries.
This hub will go through how I personally have been treated in Saudi Arabia and what I have seen in the way of abuse towards other expats here in Saudi Arabia. I will also recount stories told to me by my wife and other expats with regards to their treatment at the hands of their Saudi employers.
As a Westerner, my general experience is that the treatment of expats in Saudi Arabia depends very much on the Saudis educational level and ability to speak English, the higher the level the better the Saudi will treat you. A Saudi that speaks no English is likely at best to just ignore you.
I have on the whole found most Saudi’s very pleasant towards me and have been invited to parties, events and weddings just because I am a westerner, often by people I have only just met. Something that has rarely happened in the west.
How Saudi Class affects how they treat you
There appears to be a number of different levels, both socially and educationally within the Saudi society in much the same way that there is in any country, each group treating you very differently.
I have had little experience of mixing with the true “upper” classes here, having never met any big sheikhs or princes or the like so I have no idea myself only what others have told me. Again, these upper levels of society treat us westerners in much the same way that we treat each other if not far more generously.
The lower end of the scale, however are a very mixed bunch, varying from very aggressive arrogant, idiots to shy, retiring non English speakers, the latter generally avoiding any sort of contact at all. The “arrogant idiots” are a strange bunch, they look at you and treat you as if you are a low life as a non-Saudi and non-Muslim, I have never seen any abuse or shout at a westerner, however god help any Indian, Filipino or other similar nationality that should be in sight when they get pissed off, which they often do!
Treatment of Expats in the Saudi Workplace
Treatment of Expats in the Saudi Workplace
I guess that the bulk of the Saudis that I mix with on a day to day basis whilst working for a company in Saudi Arabia are on the whole quite well educated, having degrees, well traveled overseas, with a good grasp of the English language. In my experience these people act and behave in much the same way as any westerner in most situations, they are however very reserved in general with regard to their behavior in public and try to maintain a very decent front, but more about this a little later in my ramblings.
Treatment of Expats that have come from countries other than western countries is however far from ideal. I have witnessed verbal and physical abuse of staff from India, the Philippines and other countries that would have resulted in people being fired and staff making huge claims for compensation in the west. However, many Saudi's show no tolerance or respect for workers from these countries.
Treatment of Women
General Saudi Behavior
I guess the best way to describe the average Saudi is as a petulant teenager, they are on the whole mostly happy and friendly, however, take away their toys, tell them no, or fail to give them attention when they want it and you are going to get a tantrum.
They have no patience, jump any queue that does not contain other Saudis, interrupt everyone regardless, expect instant service and complain loudly and bitterly if they don’t receive it. I have seen them shout at shop assistants, even strike them and have to be restrained and treat maids and drivers in much the same way (I have never seen a woman strike anyone but have seen a few shouting at “lesser” races and at each other on several occasions!)
Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some of the best, most compassionate behavior from the Saudis as well as the worst! I have been offered help by almost every driver passing when I have had to change a tire, and seen Saudis handing money, food, drinks and other gifts to beggars and lowly paid street workers (no, not that kind of street worker, I mean the Indians and Bengalis that are employed sweeping the streets.)
How Saudis Treat Women
Discrimination in Saudi Society
The society is strange with regard to racism, the Saudis are a very mixed race varying from almost western “white” to African “Black” and all treat each other equally as much as I can tell, most wear traditional dress, the long white Thobe, and they treat each other with respect in most cases. However, they treat other races and non-Muslims very differently, other Arabs are generally OK, but still not treated with the same respect, Westerners are tolerated and treated to their face with respect, other races such as Pakistanis, Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians and the like being treated like 3rd and in some cases 4th class citizens publicly!
Basically, they practice discrimination, but it is based very much on social class, many of the Saudis driving the biggest and most expensive car they can and acting as the wealthiest man in town even if they have nothing else.
How non-western Expatriates are Treated
Results of Saudi Abuse
How are non-western Expats treated by Saudis?
If you asked me as a non-westerner "how are expat workers treated by Saudis?" then I would be giving a very different answer to the one above.
Most of the Expatriates working here are from countries like India, Pakistan, Philippines and Indonesia; they work in mostly manual or domestic jobs and are paid a very low wage (although still very good for where they came from).
They generally have to put up with verbal and physical abuse in the workplace, either industrial or domestic. Some of the treatment is truly horrific, there is a case of a maid who had nails and pins inserted into her whenever she upset her employer as her punishment! I know many maids and drivers who have run away from violent, abusive employers as well as various other general laborers who cannot bear their working conditions.
A large number of Saudis treat these poor expat workers in Saudi Arabia as animals, I have witnessed both physical and verbal abuse of workers here, something I have never seen in any other country! The treatment of expats in Saudi Arabia for these poor souls is on the whole terrible and I have found it very difficult to bite my tongue at times.
So difficult to bite my tongue that when a group of Saudis tried to convert me to the Muslim faith I used this as an example of their totally hypocritical behavior which they had to agree with and were totally unable to defend.
Problems Mixing with Saudis
As an expat working in Saudi Arabia I have had only three minor incidents in my three years here, none of which were serious. I was spat at from a moving car by a group of Saudi youths (around the 20’s mark I would guess), and I had another group of bored Saudi Youth overtake me whilst driving only to open both passenger doors on my side and the youths to hang out of the car shouting at me in Arabic and making gestures – they soon jumped back in when I put my foot on the accelerator and drove at them (Probably not a good move on my part!)
The worst by far was a driving incident (nothing to do with my nationality) which I include in the hub about traveling by car in Saudi Arabia.
On the whole I feel safer and more comfortable walking the streets here in Saudi Arabia than most other countries that I have visited or lived. I have had more problems walking in the streets in major cities in the west than I have here and felt far less comfortable!
However, I would still not like to be a non-westerner or a woman walking alone here in Saudi Arabia. A woman in my mind should never walk about on her own in Saudi Arabia, read the hub on Saudi Arabia rules, regulations and laws for examples.
Treatment of Expat Women in Saudi Arabia
If you are a woman and coming to KSA to work or be with your family, then this article about Saudi Arabia Women will help to keep you informed. Just remember that once you are in Saudi Arabia the only way you can leave is with your husband's permission or your sponsor.
If you are a western woman you will almost certainly be treated well within the workplace and even publicly; although you may get hit on by Saudi men quite aggressively if you find yourself alone with them; something that you should avoid under any circumstances.
If you are from a less than wealthy country, beware; many Saudi men will see you as a fair target and will treat you as an object for their sexual gratification (Many Saudi men believe it is their god given right to have sex with their slaves!). I have met many runaway maids and other workers whose main reason for running away is due to physical and sexual abuse including rape at the hands of their sponsors. I have known women walking alone in the street be grabbed by Saudi men in broad daylight. Even my own wife was dragged into a car outside a souk (market) and was only let out of the car when she started slicing up the seats with the knife she carried for protection! Her friend was grabbed outside our building in a well to do area of Jeddah and managed to escape with significant bruising; the police refused to do anything as she was "only a Filipino!"
If you do come to Saudi Arabia; NEVER walk the streets alone, never allow yourself to be alone with Saudi men. Always follow the rules to the letter!
Treatment of Western Expats in Saudi Arabia
How have you been treated as a westerner in Saudi Arabia.
Treatment of Non-Western Expats in Saudi Arabia
If you are a non-western Expat (Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, etc.) working in Saudi Arabia, how have you been treated by the Saudis that you have contact with?
Get Better Treatment in Saudi Arabia
The better you understand the country and the people, the better prepared you will be to look after yourself and avoid some of the many problems that you are likely to face. Dealing with Saudis is not easy and they are prone to behave very badly; the polls above demonstrate this very well!
You can get a huge amount of information by reading my whole series of hubs and information about Saudi Arabia by following this link about being an expat in Saudi. The very best of luck in working in this wonderful country.
Expat Workers Badly Treated by Employers
How to survive working in KSA
If you need to learn more about living and working in this country read my hub about being an expatriate in the kingdom so that you get a better understanding of how you are going to be treated by Saudis and everything else about living in KSA.