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Riyadh As First International Destination?  
User currently offlinelincoln From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3887 posts, RR: 8
Posted (4 years 9 months 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 2223 times:

There is a (monumentally) small chance I may have the opportunity to travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to oversee the completion of a project later this year. .

Absent a couple hours driving around the streets of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada, I've never left the US's lower 48, and I have to confess the prospect of my first international travel being to a region so culturally/linguistically different is a bit intimidating.

Anything I must know?
Will a English speaker (who knows just enough French to plea for help in English) be able to navigate?
What are the largest faux pas made by (American) tourists?

Lincoln


CO Is My Airline of Choice || Baggage Claim is an airline's last chance to disappoint a customer || Next flts in profile
17 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAirstud From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 2735 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (4 years 9 months 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 2220 times:

ABSOLUTELY visit the U.S. State Department's website. They have a stack of info for American citizens traveling to Saudi Arabia, including of course major cultural cautions.

Likely the Saudi embassy/consulates in this here country also make such info available.



Pancakes are delicious.
User currently offlineajd1992 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (4 years 9 months 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 2196 times:

Major Faux Pas are stereotypically being loud, obnoxious, assuming everybody speaks English with the fluency of a native and they can understand even the most difficult of accents while wearing a Hawai'ian shirt and shorts and flip flops.   But i'm sure the majority of people aren't like that. I have met a few though.

But I've never been to Saudi Arabia so I don't know what it's like there. Dress smart casual and leave the more revealing clothes at home.


User currently offlineramzi From Canada, joined Oct 2006, 535 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (4 years 9 months 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 2156 times:

lincoln...

First of all, definitely take the opportunity. There can be no harm in visiting a foreign country, especially one with a society so contrasting with the one you grew up in.

English won't be a problem at all. Almost all Saudis understand English, especially the younger ones. Also the workforce is Indian and Philippino, I have often needed to speak to waiters in English over there.

These people have great respect for their religion. Don't wear shorts that allow your entire knees to be visible, let them reach half your knee. I've worn shorts and never been approached, but its better not to. All places close during prayer time for maybe 15 minutes. Flip flops are fine, you'll notice most of their footwear is flip-flop based  

Really in my opinion the only thing worth noting is their dislike for photography. Don't walk around with a camera, and unless you're getting a damn great shot refrain from photos at the airport. Again, these things if gotten that far can get resolved very peacefully: "please delete the photo and hide your camera," I just don't like being a disrespectful foreigner. Its really very ordinary. Had you been visiting Jeddah I'd have made a few suggestions (good restaurants, nice malls) but I can't help in Riyadh.

Enjoy and let us know how it goes.  



There will come a time when you believe everything is finished - that will be the beginning.
User currently offlineblink182 From Azerbaijan, joined Oct 1999, 5482 posts, RR: 15
Reply 4, posted (4 years 9 months 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 2062 times:

I've never been to Saudi Arabia, but I am abroad right now and have been numerous times before. Easily, the best piece of advice I have received is to simply look at what the locals are doing, or if you're in the vicinity of a museum you want to find just follow the people who look out of place 

The other tidbit I have is that it can be very easy to say "well, in the US(your country) we do it this way." You're not in the US anymore, and there's a reason the host country does things differently. Also, talking to your waiters or hotel staff are a great way to get local knowledge.

Lastly, have fun! Enjoy the experience, even if its only for a few days.



Give me a break, I created this username when I was a kid...
User currently offlineAirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4514 posts, RR: 53
Reply 5, posted (4 years 9 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 1999 times:

I've been to Riyadh a million times...worked there 5 days a week for 13 months and I have been going on and off for the last 21 months.

You will be more than fine. It's a shame your first international destination couldn't have been London or Paris but whatever. Everybody who you need to speak to will speak English in Riyadh (or will know enough to tell you what you need to know). Just be respectful of cultures and customs, don't roam around with US Army baseball hats, avoid any discussion of politics and religion, and get your job done.

Keep in mind you can't take any alcohol, pork, or religious materials or porn into the country. If you are going to be there for more than 1 week go to Dubai at least 1 weekend.

What else - read what Ramzi wrote, he is definitely right esp about the photography. Also don't even try to talk to any women or shake their hands - you won't be allowed to speak to them.

There are some decent malls and restaurants in Riyadh, but overall it's a pretty boring place. Let me know if you need anything.



PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.
User currently offlinePacNWjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 980 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (4 years 9 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 1928 times:

One thing you might try to do between now and your possible trip to Saudi Arabia would be to take a short trip to what might possibly be an "easier" foreign country first so as to get your feet wet with foreign travel. The most obvious country that comes to mind is Mexico although, judging from your profile which says you live in the Cleveland area, getting to Mexico for a short trip isn't as easy as taking a day trip across the border. But, if you can swing it, a short trip to Mexico would give you a bit of a sense of the mild "culture shock" you might experience being outside the comfort zone of your own country. Or, if you can get a super cheap flight, perhaps you could even arrange a short trip to Europe for a few days. I knew a rich girl in graduate school who used to fly from New York to London for the weekend, but that's another story...

User currently offlineIllini_152 From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1000 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (4 years 9 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 1904 times:

Country Specific Information from the NBAA....

"Saudi authorities do not permit criticism of Islam or the royal family. The government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Non-Muslims suspected of violating these restrictions have been jailed. Homosexual activity is considered to be a criminal offense and those convicted may be sentenced to lashing, prison, or death."

"Some Mutawwa (Religious police) try to enforce the rule that men and women who are beyond childhood years may not mingle in public unless they are family or close relatives. Mutawwa may ask to see proof that a couple is married or related. Women who are arrested for socializing with a man who is not a relative may be charged with prostitution."

"In public, dancing, playing music, and showing movies are forbidden."


So... no booze, don't even get within arms length of a woman, no porn, leave the iPod at home along with your Bible, and forget about a bacon-double cheeseburger.

Enjoy your stay.



Happy contrails - I support B747Skipper and Jetguy
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14131 posts, RR: 62
Reply 8, posted (4 years 9 months 18 hours ago) and read 1842 times:

Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 5):
Also don't even try to talk to any women or shake their hands - you won't be allowed to speak to them.

Maybe not in Saudi Arabia, but a British ex-colleage used to work in several Gulf countries, among the Qatar and Saudi Arabia for longer periods of time. One day, while walking in a shopping mall in Qatar, he found somebody touching his rear end as if by accident. He turned and found a woman wearing complete veil, who turned away from him. He then discovered that she had slipped a piece of paper with her phone number into his rear pocket. The rest followed...  

Another, this time French, tech, who was working in IIRC Dubai, had a similar incident and ended up with an Egyptian lady, who also was working in the country. She told him that at home she wouldn´t have done it, because she would have been more under the scruteny of her family, but in Dubai she felt anonymous.

In any case, never make any first steps.

Jan


User currently offlineAirstud From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 2735 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (4 years 9 months 12 hours ago) and read 1761 times:

Quoting Illini_152 (Reply 7):
So... no booze, don't even get within arms length of a woman, no porn, leave the iPod at home along with your Bible, and forget about a bacon-double cheeseburger.

Travel frequently with porn and your Bible, do you?



Pancakes are delicious.
User currently offlineajd1992 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (4 years 9 months 12 hours ago) and read 1755 times:

Quoting Airstud (Reply 9):
Travel frequently with porn and your Bible, do you?

Maybe not with a bag full of hardcore porn but some people travel with bibles. It's not all that strange to have a bible, I mean I don't because I'm an atheist but some people might do.


User currently offlinelincoln From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3887 posts, RR: 8
Reply 11, posted (4 years 9 months 12 hours ago) and read 1749 times:

Thanks to everyone who has responded. It turns out one of the critical products in the chain "probably" won't support Arabic text, which kind of kills the project and with it my aspirations to travel internationally on someone else's dime... at least for the time being.

Quoting Airstud (Reply 9):
Travel frequently with porn and your Bible, do you?

I can honestly say that I've never traveled with either, but the iPod thing scares me almost as much as the lack of bacon.

I understand the cultural significance of pork products, but my understanding was the public performance of music, etc. was banned -- does that really mean no iPod-with-earphones music as well?

Lincoln



CO Is My Airline of Choice || Baggage Claim is an airline's last chance to disappoint a customer || Next flts in profile
User currently offlineAirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4514 posts, RR: 53
Reply 12, posted (4 years 9 months 12 hours ago) and read 1749 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 8):

All possible and have been done in Saudi Arabia. Desperate times call for desperate measures  



PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.
User currently offlineUK_Dispatcher From United Arab Emirates, joined Dec 2001, 2597 posts, RR: 30
Reply 13, posted (4 years 9 months 9 hours ago) and read 1722 times:

Riyadh is a depressing place which I have no intention of ever going back to. But then, I enjoy socialising with friends over a few drinks. In that respect, most of the Gulf is okay (including Abu Dhabi where I've lived for the last 5 years), but certainly not Saudi.

User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 26718 posts, RR: 75
Reply 14, posted (4 years 9 months 9 hours ago) and read 1710 times:

Quoting lincoln (Thread starter):
What are the largest faux pas made by (American) tourists?

In Saudi - It might be something completely innocuous and legal in 99% of the world

In other countries - Being loud, culturally ignorant and poorly dressed.

Quoting lincoln (Thread starter):

Anything I must know?

Yeah. Don't take Saudi Arabia as what most countries outside the US are like.

Quoting ramzi (Reply 3):

These people have great respect for their religion.

That is widely open to debate.

Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 5):
If you are going to be there for more than 1 week go to Dubai at least 1 weekend.

Or go to a real city like Beirut.  
Quoting lincoln (Reply 11):
I can honestly say that I've never traveled with either, but the iPod thing scares me almost as much as the lack of bacon.

I'm pretty sure that you can have your own iPod as long as you keep it to yourself. AirxLiban is really the one to ask though.



Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently offlineAirstud From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 2735 posts, RR: 3
Reply 15, posted (4 years 9 months 6 hours ago) and read 1687 times:

Quoting ajd1992 (Reply 10):
Maybe not with a bag full of hardcore porn but some people travel with Bibles. It's not all that strange to have a Bible

Yes I know it's not strange to travel with Bibles. My commentary was on how Illini seemed to pair them with porn.



Pancakes are delicious.
User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15812 posts, RR: 27
Reply 16, posted (4 years 9 months 3 hours ago) and read 1641 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 8):
He turned and found a woman wearing complete veil, who turned away from him. He then discovered that she had slipped a piece of paper with her phone number into his rear pocket. The rest followed...

I guy I knew who did a tour in Iraq said that some women over there would quickly raise their veils and smile at the soldiers. It must have led to some interesting conversations back at the base: "Dude, I totally saw some chick's face today!"



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineIllini_152 From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1000 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (4 years 9 months 2 hours ago) and read 1628 times:

Quoting Airstud (Reply 15):
Yes I know it's not strange to travel with Bibles. My commentary was on how Illini seemed to pair them with porn.

Need to pray for salvation after looking at it.

What, you DON'T travel with both?

  



Happy contrails - I support B747Skipper and Jetguy
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