20 August 2016

I've mentioned that I'm loving getting to know all the different expats here, but sometimes not so much.  The other day I spent a few hours with a certain type of expats and it reminded me why there are some groups I steer clear of.  After listening to a couple of hours of complaining, I don't know when I'll dare hang out with that group again.

Now, I get being frustrated dealing with some aspects of life in Saudi Arabia.  The limited transportation options here in particular have a significant negative impact on every woman's quality of life- there is no denying that.  (And no man can understand that, even if he never drives here. Having the choice is what's important.)

But many expat women, particularly white expat women, get a lot of the frustrations smoothed over.  People don't expect us to do everything right and allow us a reasonable amount of straying from cultural norms that many non-white expat women don't get, and certainly not Saudi women.  We have more choices that any other group of women here. So listening to wealthy white expat women complain doesn't really make me feel very sympathetic.  

And it's not just Saudi Arabia where you can't wear shorts and a t-shirt around your neighborhood without a lot of staring or where your opinion will be dismissed because you're a woman, it's a lot of other countries too.  And cultural change comes from within a country.  Expats wearing shorts are definitely not going to change the culture here. Nor are expats telling Saudis they're doing anything else wrong.  Do you know what will change Saudi culture?  Giving Saudis more opportunities to live in other countries (and that's something one party is advocating to end as much as possible).

You have to learn how to live differently in different places, how to interact with another culture, even one you think is very wrong, to learn from it or make a difference in it.  Interacting with another country and culture in the very same way you would with yours is one of the best ways to spend a frustrating few years overseas.

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