The process of acclimating to the Kingdom is a common topic of discussion for the expatriates here in my compound, and I've found that it definitely varies with each individual. For some it takes many months of frustration and anxiety to fully come to terms living in Saudi culture, while for others the transition from life at home to life in a compound is relatively smooth sailing. Seeing as I was left completely in the dark about what life was like here until I met my roommate during my layover at O’Hare, I was left thinking I would be living in squalid housing in the center of the tri-city area, forced to learn to speak Arabic in a matter of days in order to survive, and wind up trying to learn to adapt to an Islamic mindset that is entirely outside my own. Obviously, things turned out much better than I anticipated.
The only issue I’m dealing with so far is the absence of genuine Saudi Culture. Yes, I live in an incredibly restrictive environment in which I almost never seeing a woman’s face and am supposedly free of vice and libations, but living in a compound is much like living in a retirement community in Arizona, and my outside contact with genuine Saudis is largely confined to the Boys’ School. The students I teach are about as Americanized as could be; nursing obsessions with popular music, movies, Ed Hardy clothing, and, for some insane reason, John Cena the professional wrestler. American style food is just as if not more easily obtainable that traditional Middle Eastern food at most grocery stores, and just about every outlet mall on the major routes to and from work are lined with American chains; Hardees, KFC, Harley Davidson, McDonalds, Ford, Chili’s, and so on. If they can get by without explicitly needing to serve pork, booze, or sex, it’s here and it’s everywhere.
I may be disheartened about the lack of cultural originality, but I’ve found a nice little bit of salvation here: