Month One

I’ve now been in Saudi Arabia for one month, & boy does time fly. Whilst it’s been a fairly uneventful month, it’s also been hectic.

I’m settled in at my work, although still struggling more than I’d like. I’m struggling with the names of people, & with my boss a little bit. He’s nice enough, but not super friendly. For example, I asked him if he is staying in kingdom for the long weekend, & he said no. I asked where he was going (a natural question I think?) & he said “I’m not telling you”, which I think is a very bizarre response. I’ve noticed that whilst Saudi’s are very friendly to me, very few actually ask about weekends, how you are etc etc. They seem to stick to themselves in that regard. It’s very different to what I’m used to, where everybody knows everybody elses business. I am one of two Westerns in my department. Working outside the compound is also harder than I expected, because it’s harder to get to & from appointments, & we have to leave earlier in the morning. Basically, in general it’s harder than it was in London, & not what we were used too. I’m also used to be able to make decisions & do basically what I want. Here- I have none of that. Everything has to be approved by multiple people, & everything takes longer than is necessary.

A lot of girls I’ve met here are surprised by how many Saudi’s live in the compound, as I was too. We were all told that we would not need to worry about being conservative in the compound, because it’s just like America. That is sadly, not the case. Whilst we don’t have to watch everything we do & wear, we have to be mindful of it. I think the Saudi women enjoy working on the compound as they have more freedom than they would have outside the camp. This is slightly frustrating, as they sometimes complain about what we wear, which goes on our record, & can affect our PMP (which is how our bonuses are decided). Basically- anything we do goes on our record. So the number of training courses we do, any complaints about us or our guests (about anything. Housing, personal or work related), driving infringements, it all counts towards our PMP.

Socially, I’m getting there but it’s not as easy as I expected. I went out for dinner on Saturday night, & it dawned on me that people won’t come to me, I have to go to them. So I have to be more forceful about being social. I’ve started that today (I invited myself to join somebody on a trip to Bahrain this weekend). It doesn’t come naturally to anybody I don’t think, & it definitely wasn’t this hard when I moved to London, because I had that natural buffer of a social workplace. This workplace isn’t social. Something I hadn’t really expected is that we go out for dinner so much earlier here than back in London. Here we’ll meet for dinner at about 6pm, & be home by 8-8.30pm. We’re not drinking, which makes meals go so much quicker. We start work earlier (I have to wake up at 5.30am), so have to have early nights. There’s also something in the air which makes everything over here so tiring. I can’t describe it. In London I’d go to bed at about midnight. Here, I aim for 10pm.

My cats are getting settled as well, but I’m also having a few issues with them. Jemima is picking fights with Tabitha quite a lot, & as such Tabitha is hiding away a lot & becoming very timid. I think most of the problem is boredom, but it still really concerns me. I’ll buy a pheromone spray thing, & lots of exciting toys for them, so hopefully they stop the fighting.

As you can tell, my head is kind of still over the place, but I’m getting settled. Several people at work have said that they think I’ve settled quickly, which is nice to hear.

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