By Samantha Smith (Former Resident In Saudi Arabia)
I think Saudi Arabia is like every other country in the world…a mixture of good and bad, great and terrible. You need to separate the people from the government.
I have written so many answers to questions about Saudi Arabia. I admit I tend to write about the good side of Saudi Arabia, that the average person doesn’t hear about or know.
I do this because the media and disgruntled people who have worked there make sure you know the worst about the country. There are always two sides to every story, but unfortunately for the Saudis, only the negative side gets notice.
I Lived In Saudi Arabia For 12 Years
I lived there for almost twelve years and still visit frequently. I was a member of a Saudi family, through my marriage, so I came to know the people and the culture very well.
Not many westerners have experienced this and there are a lot of misconceptions about the culture and the people. People on the outside looking in tend to misinterpret many things.
When I speak of the people, I am speaking of the average Saudis, not of the zealots (a small minority of the people). Most Saudis are warm, kind hearted people.
They have a great sense of humor. The families are so close and loving and take care of each other.
Because many Saudis can be a bit reserved until they really get to know you, many westerners can live there for years without really knowing the people, which is a shame.
You Are A Guest And A King
When you are guest in a Saudi house, you will never be more welcomed and treated better than you are in that house. They will go out of their way to make you feel important.
Their culture dictates that any guest must be protected while in their home, whether from a physical threat or even a disparaging remark. Saudis take this very seriously. You will never be insulted in any way if you are a guest.
The Government Spoils The People
I know the negative aspects of the government, but do you want to know some of the positive aspects? The government really takes care of the people. The benefits for citizens are unbelievable. All medical care is free.
The government will even pay all the expenses if someone needs to come to America or any other country to see a specialist.
Even the hotels, food, etc, are paid. All education is free, to the highest levels. The government will even pay all costs of any student wanting to study outside the country, including living costs.
Banks will loan the citizens the money to purchase a house interest-free. Widows receive a stipend from the government every month. Anyone unemployed can receive money from the government.
These are just a few of the benefits for Saudi citizens.
A Very Generous Saudi Royal Family
Then there is the Royal family. Many princes from the family, from the king down hold one day, every week what is called a ‘mejlis’.
On that day they will sit for hours while people hand them a paper regarding their requests and tell them what their problem is. It is usually a financial request but can be anything.
More often than not, the people will leave the mejlis with the money they requested or their problem solved. Most people think the Royal family just takes money from the country and have no idea what the family does for the people.
They are the benefactors of most charities and are extremely generous with the people. Houses, cars, bridal dowry, and the wedding itself are often paid for by the Royal family.
It is not for nothing that many people hold an unwavering loyalty to the family.
Low Wage Earners Salaries Go A Long Way
One issue I also want to address is about the people from Yemen, Bangladesh, India and other poor countries who come to work in Saudi Arabia for low wages.
People tend to call them slaves and complain about their “low wages”.
The low wages they receive usually supports a large family back home. In one month these people can make more than they would make in their own countries in a year.
It is no different from the migrant workers who come to America to work for farmers. They work for wages lower than any American would accept, yet no one talks about this.
There are some employers who abuse them, I know. But they are very few. Most employers treat them decently. If it were as bad as people say, they wouldn’t keep coming and staying for years there.
So I have told you why I write the positive things about Saudi Arabia. I hope you understand and can be more open-minded in the future.
I can’t remember who said it, “ but no matter how flat a pancake is, there are always two sides”.
I usually receive insulting comments from people after answering questions about Saudi Arabia. I hope no one will feel the need to do this now.