Ambassadors within the country


As the holidays approach, a lot will be said about Saudis when they travel abroad and how they should behave themselves and be true representatives of their country. Ambassadors of goodwill and civility as some papers might put it. Such good behavior would be reflective of their true identity as well as shed an equally favorable light upon their country.

But what about these same ambassadors within their own country? Yes, I’m talking about Saudis in the Kingdom. Do they not have an equal responsibility to ensure that they carry themselves in a manner deemed courteous and respectable particularly when it comes to the treatment of expatriates?

One of the rituals of having a public email address is that often I receive material from a variety of sources. The following was sent to me by a lady who chose to remain anonymous herself but declares that the contents were an actual interchange of correspondence in a group she belongs to.

In itself it is a reflection of some of the fears and misconceptions that some foreigners have prior to their job assignment in this part of the world. She has also included a response to the would-be expat from one who has apparently lived here for some time. With slight editing, it goes as follows:

Would-be expat:

“Greetings to you from Malaysia. It would seem I am doomed to come to Saudi Arabia. Would be grateful for your advice. Since the color of my skin is not white and since I carry the passport of a Third World country, the Saudi employers indeed have offered me a lower rank and a lower salary (than my present rank and salary).

“I am damned if I take it; I am damned if I do not. The advantages that I see are: Long paid holidays (about 90 days in a year) and intellectually much less demanding work. Well what do you say; what would be the life of a slave at SR 10k per month with a furnished villa?

“And I got a ton of CDs ... nothing naughty, just work-related material and some pirated software....some books ....I am supposed to land in Riyadh and take an onward domestic flight... Can the slaves travel without permission from the master...just in case they keep my stuff and I have to come back days later...

“Finally, is it that bad or is it just my impression? Thanks.”

In response, an expat wrote back:

Domesticated expat:

“If you feel that way, why on earth consider coming out here? You are free to choose your own path. It seems to me you would be better off staying away if you think it is so bad here. Personally, being a Brit I could not tell you if that is how it truly would be for you. But if that’s how you really see it would be, then don’t come. There are many other countries you could work in.”

Would-be expat’s response:

“Thanks for such a prompt reply but I am yet to decide on whether to come to Saudi Arabia or not. Chances are I won't come, what for? But I got a year to kill, so I just might come, for the hell of it.”

There was some more to it, but it became very quickly apparent to me that we Saudis ought to do a much better job at distributing goodwill amongst our own expat population before we head off to distant lands and conquer them with our charms.

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena