Are you an expat wife or a stay at home mom in Saudi Arabia? Followed your husband to the land of sand leaving your own professional career behind? Read the tips below by guest post author Daprize from the All Writing Saudi Blog on how to make the most out of your time as an expat wife in Saudi Arabia. For more tips on how to survive living as a woman in Saudi Arabia check out this post: Western woman in Riyadh? Make the Most Out of it!
Turn Things Around as an Expat Wife in Saudi Arabia
Maybe you were a proficient professional in your field, and you had a well-paying job in your home country, but you left everything behind to join your spouse in Saudi Arabia (SA). Maybe your biological clock was ticking and you just couldn’t imagine losing all your healthy eggs each month when you could as well just join your significant other and start populating Earth as most married couples do. Or maybe it wasn’t about your diminishing ovarian reserve, but it was just because you couldn’t live apart—someone had to sacrifice their career, and that had to be you, the wife. Whatever was the reason, the obvious fact is that you’re here, and you’re facing all the difficulties that professional expat wives face when they come to SA as dependents.
So here you are. The first few months of joining your significant other in SA were coated with honey and sugar glaze, sprinkled with chopped almonds and confetti candy. But now the excitement is over. You’re educated (or highly educated) and unemployed, and all your hopes of landing a job soon are slowly fading away. You find yourself tumbling down the economic ladder and panic creeps in like water gushing through a crack at the bottom of your boat.
What if you’re never able to work in SA? How would you ever climb back to your previous level or status of income? And if you’re really unlucky, your family back home is putting pressure on you. They need petrodollars from SA. What are you doing? Why aren’t you working and supporting the family like you used to do before leaving? Worst of all, some relatives might even make you feel you took the wrong decision by leaving your job to join your dearest one.
If you’re one of those in the medicine, law, administrative, engineering or architecture field, etc., you have a tough call, sister. It is particularly difficult for us to make it as expat women in these fields. But don’t despair. The truth is, there’s always a way out.
No single person has only one skill. You certainly have other skills, and you’ll be better off identifying them to turn things around. What do I mean?
- If you’re a doctor, and you can’t land a job as a physician, you can join clinical research. This area is still growing in SA, and with the right skills and mindset, you can easily become an asset for a clinical research unit at a healthcare facility. If you have good writing skills, you can take massive open online courses (free online courses) to polish your writing skills and learn a few statistics then join the medical publishing sector. If you have a master’s degree or higher, you can apply to teach at a medical college. But I’ll be surprised that as a specialist or consultant, you’re unable to find a job. If that’s the case, then you must be searching in the wrong places because several clinics and hospitals are looking for people like you.
- If you have a degree in business administration or architecture, and you love to teach, try local schools (international schools, preferably). You could be hired to teach business studies or science subjects.
WARNING: Don’t look for a teaching job if you don’t like teaching kids! I remember starting off as a classroom teacher when I couldn’t find a job in my area of specialty. As someone who was accustomed to mentoring university students in my home country, I was so miserable when I was hired to teach grades 3 and 4 girls at an international school in Jeddah. There was nothing as depressing as having to run around a classroom to make 8-9-year old kids sit down and listen to me teaching in English—a language they really didn’t care about. While the experience may not be same at every school, you wouldn’t want to go down that road if you ‘dislike’ teaching kids.
- If you are a graphic designer, try offering your services online. Thank God for the Internet. You have platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr where you can offer your services and work from home. With Fiverr, for example, if your clients are satisfied with your services, you could be listed in their “Featured Gigs” section.
For ladies who are into other professions, there’s certainly something you can do, which I haven’t mentioned here. Let your creativity hop in. The important thing is not to despair and explore your other skills. If some of us could do it, then you can do it, too.
This is a weird way of putting it, but this part is for the future expat wife who is still planning to immigrate under a family visa. Note that your iqama or residence permit would be branded with a beautiful read text in Arabic, which says Not permitted to work. This sentence alone has many implications that I cannot give details in this post.
My advice: if you’re planning to continue your career in SA, prepare your ‘grounds’ well before moving.
- If you know anyone in SA, contact them and start asking about job opportunities in your field.
- If you don’t have an online presence yet, make sure you do. By this, I mean build a strong profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn or Bayt. Network. Network. Network. And choose your contacts wisely.
- Join forums. Find out about what’s out there in SA for you. Are women allowed to work in your field? If yes, are jobs in your area of specialty reserved for Saudi women only?
- Read blogs—ahem… That’s why you’re reading this, right? But read more. There are so many blogs about Saudi Arabia, written for expats by other expats. You want to make sure you gather as much information before you move.
On a final note, we are all responsible for our career paths. Don’t let the choices you make today become ones that will cause you to regret tomorrow deeply. If you choose (or have chosen) to join your spouse in SA, this shouldn’t become a decision that will ruin you both in the end. Remember the cliché Behind every successful man, there is a…
About the author
Daprize is the screen name of a mum, wife, and at-home entrepreneur who dedicates part of her time writing on All Writing Saudi about strategies to help other expatriates like herself make the best out of life in Saudi Arabia. She speaks English and French fluently and a bit of Arabic and German. As an at-home entrepreneur, she taught herself how to make an income from home, lost 8 Kg in 6 months, and worked part-time with a group of awesome Saudi researchers.