We have all seen and heard of them. Pathetic, ignorant, arrogant and grumpy; they strive on negativity and want everyone to be as miserable as they are. But how does one become this Miserable? What are the secrets behind becoming a prime specimen?
Some expatriates residing in Saudi Arabia are naturally inclined to becoming ‘Miserable Expats’, but others might need some help in mastering this skill. For those expats, don’t despair! Here is a step-by step guide to help you reach the ultimate state of misery. Keep in mind it might take many months, if not years to achieve this, but by repeating the steps over and over again, you will get there someday!
Disclaimer: This post is labelled under ‘satire’ and was written totally tongue-in cheek. Please do not take it seriously in any way or form. Blue Abaya in no way recommends doing any of the below steps in real life!!
Step One: Do not research about Saudi culture or customs prior to arrival, and for heaven’s sake, don’t even think about finding out a thing or two about Islam. That would set you up for lots of trouble later on and everyone knows it’s a violent religion of terrorists that oppresses women anyways so why bother. Instead, listen to the advice of your neighbors, relatives and friends, who can share with you their expertize on all matters concerning Saudi. If you absolutely insist on reading a book about life in Saudi Arabia, then choose ‘Not Without my Daughter’ which describes Saudi culture very accurately.
Step Two: Upon arrival in the Kingdom, start scoffing at the locals immediately at the airport and don’t forget to give long obnoxious looks around you. Forget about attending any of those mindless ‘relocation workshops’ or ‘orientation programs’. They’re just useless and as we all know a waste of your precious time, which could be better spent shopping. Forget about culture shock. It’s very rare and if you were to go into shock you can always check into the private hospital and demand some Valium.
Step Three: The only option in terms of housing arrangement for you is living in a compound, ideally one with a ‘no abaya/thobe/headscarf/ absolutely no Saudis allowed rule. That way you can relax, unwind and live a civilized life inside the compound walls, away from the barbaric local lifestyle. You need to stick to the compound at all times, with the exception of the absolutely necessary errands. This is the magic of living in a compound, you can completely forget you’re in the middle of the desert surrounded by camels and bedouins.
Step Four: If you’re not already on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you must immediately open an account and start posting your magnificent pictures there for friends back home to see your fabulous lifestyle. Post pics of your compound pool, huge villa, your new party dress, ball gown, flashy company car, new watch, LV wallet or anything that shows off the wealth of your new lifestyle. Most importantly, post photos of yourself drinking ‘grape juice’, which brings us to the next step.
Step Five: Start drinking. Even if you rarely drank just a beer or two back home, now is the time to take up drinking as a regular hobby because it makes life so much more fun. Options include starting your own home brewery or party-hopping. Embassies have the real stuff which you need to get your hands on as often as possible. Now repeat step four.
Step Six: If you’re a woman, make sure you complain about the abaya at all times. Suggested derogatory names to refer to the abaya are: ‘Black rag’, ‘garbage bag’, personal prison’, ‘black sack’, ‘the uniform’, ‘ninja costume’ and many others. For men you could always complain about not being able to enter shopping malls with bermuda shorts on and make really funny jokes about Saudi men’s traditional attire over and over again (towel-head, tablecloth-head, male wedding dress, men’s giant skirt).Step Seven: Get a maid, driver, gardener and maybe a cook. Make sure to lock all your things up because as all your neighbors have already told you, they’re all thieves. Complain everyday, comparing the annoying habits and traits of different nationalities of your workers with your friends. Refer to all foreign workers coming from Asia as TCN’s (Third Country Nationals). It’s best not to take any health risks, so be sure to shelter yourself by using First Defense nasal filters when in close proximity with them.
Step Eight: Only mingle with expats of your own ethnicity and ideally nationality as well. As long as they speak English or your native language and don’t have weird terrorist names, they should be safe. Choose your friends wisely. Anyone with Saudi friends is suspicious to say the least. Join an exclusive, invite-only expat club to avoid any accidental contact with locals or those who associate with them in any way. Mock and nag with your new found friends about the local lifestyle in any way you can think of and glorify how things always work so well back home. Scorning at local foods such as dates, (which we all know look like dried camel poop or cockroaches) is always a fun past-time. Needless to say actually tasting some of these new dishes is a complete NO-NO.
Step Nine: If you identify any of these friends to be more beautiful, popular, talented, successful or richer than you (or just so damn annoyingly nice and positive), be sure to start spreading evil rumors about them on your compound. Then turn to your less fabulous friends and ostracize the annoyingly awesome friend (who wants to be friends with those fake smiley people, they are probably just popping pills anyways). This way you will feel better about yourself and as a bonus you will gain popularity and look better to the less fabulous people. Be careful they don’t in turn stab your back after a while.
Step Ten: Do not, under any circumstances try to learn Arabic. Everyone in this day and age should know how to speak English, it’s their fault if they’re so uncivilized they don’t. Besides, Arabic sounds like gurgling and spitting anyways. The only thing you need to know is ‘mafi malom‘ (say this whenever someone speaks Arabic to you) and ma’assalamma, which means farewell, as in farewell parties. On the occasion you absolutely must lower yourself to converse with an A-rab or Asian salesman, raise your voice and talk to them veeeryyyy slooowwwlyyy. This way they understand better.
Step Eleven: Don’t mix with locals. You never know what you might catch from them, or if God forbid, some of those backward habits rub off on you. Avoiding locals might be self clear to most Miserable Expats, but others might need more convincing. Note that this includes any western woman married to a Saudi, they are clearly off their rocker and not to be associated with. Also, anyone wearing a headscarf is clearly an A-rab and Muslim, stay far away from that kind of folk. They might put some new ideas in your head that you really don’t need to be hearing. If a woman in a head scarf approaches, look away as if they don’t exist. If it’s the annoying type that try smiling and greeting you, just stare at them with a blank, sour face and pretend you didn’t understand. That usually takes care of the problem.
Step Twelve: Whenever traveling out of the Kingdom (which you should always refer to as the Sandpit or Rehab) you must immediately get your hands on a glass of ‘real’ alcohol. If you can do so already in the plane, more power to you. Keep in mind this step requires posting a picture of your drink on Facebook for it to work. The next part is getting your hands on some pork. Don’t forget to post the pic of the pork chops on their way to your mouth, just to make the point more clear. It’s important to say you ‘escaped’ your prison cell and are now enjoying freedom before returning to the hellhole. On your way back make sure to update your Facebook status from the airport business lounge while drinking champagne.
Repeating the steps 3-11 is essential for you to succeed. If after a year as an expat you haven’t become super miserable despite having meticulously applied all these steps, it’s recommended that you put more emphasis on steps three, five and eight. Sooner than you can say ‘cheers’ you will be known as a Miserable Expat!
There is no such thing as the perfect expat. We all have our good and bad days and can recognize ourselves from some of these steps. Heck, I will be the first to admit I’m guilty of some these steps from time to time!
Everyone goes through culture shock in some way or form. For some it can be a breeze, others might really struggle for a long time before they come to terms with their new surroundings. Unfortunately some people find it intolerably difficult and they return home. Everyone is different, but we can try and be the best we can at that given time and place. The point is not to bottle up and isolate yourself from the surroundings. I’ve noticed a lot of expats have this huge fear for the unknown which prevents them from coming out of their bubbles. Try and step out of that comfort zone for a moment.
And finally, don’t be afraid to open your mind! Your brain will not fall out, I promise :)
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the founder, author and manager of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 69 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Having visited all corners of the Kingdom with over a decade of experience, I have a vast knowledge base about travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia.