Normalizing relations with expats

Normalizing relations with expats

Abdullatif Al-Dwaihi

By Abdullatif Al-Dwaihi


The Filipino community in Al-Khobar taught us a lesson full of morals. We have seen how the Filipino community, both men and women, from all jobs and specialties, gathered on a Friday morning during their weekend and cleaned the Al-Khobar’s corniche. They removed all trash and wastes and made it look much more beautiful.

If we do not understand from the beginning the meaning of expats, then we will not be able to change or do anything around us. The Filipino community did not just give us a lesson in cleanliness or in teamwork but, a lesson in this and even more. The inherent lesson the community taught us was the importance of reconsidering having a relationship that has the citizen and the expats on an equal footing. This relationship should be built on sharing the positive values and benefits between each other.

So many expats spend a quarter or half of their lives in another country other than their own. They are forced to leave their country due to various circumstances in their countries or their need to survive by getting a job. But this does not mean we should limit our thinking and just think about them based on this. We should bring down the barriers separating us and share with each other our various cultures and traditions.

When I was at the Book Fair in Riyadh recently, I was thinking about the reason for not allowing expats from participating in the Book Fair, even if it is in a small corner of the fair. Is it logical to request publishing companies from far and nearby countries to take part and forbid the expats who live among us from participating? How many opportunities have we lost due to our underestimating their knowledgeable, social, and economic output? How many opportunities have we lost because of our bureaucracy? And how many opportunities we have lost as a result of our narrow-mindedness?

There are millions of Egyptians, Syrians, Yemenis, Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos around us. So is it logical not to allow them to participate in anything productive at Riyadh’s or Jeddah’s Book Fair?

Have we ever asked ourselves why many of these millions of people are absent from our cultural, literary, and intellectual forums? Or from our social activities? Or even from our commercial and economic events? Is it possible none of those millions in our midst is able to give a lecture related to their countries or cultures? For instance, a lecture in Indian literature, or in Filipino poetry, or about corruption in Africa, or the agriculture system in Algeria, or about the civil society in Palestine, or manufacturing base in Indonesia, or about the trade in Malaysia, or education in Korea? Why do we consider expats as people without certain backgrounds or interests or even feelings?

Why the Ministry of Labor and Social Development does not establish an administration to supervise the social and voluntary work done by expats in the districts and cities they live in?

Why the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and its municipalities does not establish an administration to supervise the voluntary service activities done by expats for the sake of cleaning parks and afforesting streets and valleys? Don’t we remember the heroic efforts of many citizens as well as expats in rescuing the drowned people in Jeddah’s floods and in other cities?

If I was one of the authorities in the municipalities or Eastern Province governorate, I would have rewarded all of the Filipino community who cleaned Al-Khobar’s cornice on their own volition.

Why would not the General Entertainment Authority benefit from the arts and folklores of the nations living among us? For example, they can allow them to present these arts and folklores in our cities and districts. Wouldn’t this add to our cultural knowledge and perspectives?

Why would not the General Presidency of Youth Welfare set up sports competitions weekly between the different communities of expats? This would create a positive competitive atmosphere between those communities and even entertain the audience at the same time.

Why isn’t there an organization or a specific authority to encourage the expats around us to immerse in our community? It can be done by engaging them for example, in our cultural activities. Why don’t we support the creative expats and reward them for their voluntary work and services done to everyone in raising environmental, health, and educational awareness?

Why would not the Ministry of Labor and Social Development create certain records for expats wherein it calculates their social, cultural, and voluntary activities in our country? Those records would be like points to collect in order to get a Green Card and features no other ordinary resident can have.

I believe that there is no citizen who has not benefited from expats around us — either in education or health or even in any other field. Moreover, some of the expats have actually served the country voluntarily, more than some of the citizens have. Those expats need our support and appreciation as well as encouragement to give the country more.

The expats among us are full of knowledge that we need to reconsider for the sake of both our interest and their interest in building our society, economy, and culture.

This is the way we want expats to live with us. This is the way we want expats to think about us. We want to be thankful to those expats and show our gratitude for what they give to us, unlike what some minorities of expats or citizens do. This is the way we want to live in a just and fair country.


  1. Brilliant writing. I’m an American expatriate and being in countries like Saudi Arabia can be exceptionally difficult. If driving is not already difficult enough, the locals will ignore us and not reply to our greetings when we are in public. Some even cut in front of us in line at the market or restaurants, knowing we are standing there.
    It is as if we are shunned for the insanity of our nation’s politicians. It’s as if we are below the locals because we are not Muslim. We are hardworkers who provide many solutions and technical expertise also to their military. But our efforts are rarely acknowledged. Instead, our superiors from the host country assume the rewards. After work, they want nothing to do with us.
    The Filipino and Indian workers work far harder than anyone, including the US and UK expats, and have done an amazing job of overcoming their segregated realities by building their own cultural communities. It is a very lonely experience as a local in any host nation, but why it has to feel so much worse in the Middle East, I do not understand.
    Do not misunderstand my concerns. I am grateful to be here and to make money to care for my family. It is these same “superiors” I can certainly be thankful for this. I just want to reinforce the wisdom of the author of this article that the local community should exercise kindness and compassion to the global community that lives within their borders. Their gratitude and love would serve as both an example of the beauty of their faith, as well as an expression of the goodness of their hearts.

    • Hi Clint,
      Even us Muslims face things such as those you mentioned. If one knows Arabic, sometimes one can hear things which are in no way appropriate for a country as wonderful as Saudi Arabia.
      Your sentiment rings true that money, despite being a major attraction here, is not the end-all and be-all. There is a life outside of work and money; unfortunately its quite a lonely one here.
      I’ve spent a major part of my life here and have seen the transition from expats being welcomed and greeted with smiles to what we see today.
      The author has contributed some very good ideas which could help contribute to the economy as expats can further spend their money within the Kingdom rather than heading for Dubai or Bahrain.
      Somewhere down the line, this will hopefully change for the better as Saudi Arabia transforms into more of a global player. Keep your fingers crossed 🙂

  2. May God Almighty help his children to unite and love each other.While I was in Saudi teaching the locals,they are very good in character and morals.They learn and improve every day

  3. May ALLAH give everyone thoughts as good as yours mr. writer.
    I have lived my whole life here in saudi arabia (I am 41) and believe me, my rights are equal and I am treated same as any person came to the kingdom before 41 days.
    this hurts……….

  4. I would like to thank the author for bringing this to fore. I am of the belief that expats and Saudi nationals could co-exist. I understand that this is an imperfect world but then again it’s just a matter of respect for one another. Likewise it was a stroke of genius for the Filipino community to lead the way in setting an example and hopefully this would not be the last of it.

    By the way I am a Filipino who’s been here for 7 years. I’ve seen the KSA up close and interacted with its people. The language at this point may still seem a barrier for me but then again I am finding ways to know what it is to be a “Saudi”. And through that I can understand better their norms and cultures and hopefully gain a better perspective.

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