Saudi Arabia: Money Matters

When a Saudi man and a foreign wife from the Western world marry and come to Saudi Arabia life is typically very different for the woman.  She now finds herself in a strange land where she is expected to cover when she is out in public and has to rely on a male to get her where she needs to go.  In addition she will likely be part of an extended family with new commitments and obligations.  If there is a wedding, even that of a distant cousin whom she has never met, she’ll be expected to attend wearing a fine gown.  If family comes by to visit she will be expected to prepare an appetizing meal for them.

If she is lucky, she’ll have a driver provided by her husband so she can come and go at will.  If she is lucky she will be able to afford a new ball gown for each wedding she attends since that is the custom in the Kingdom.  Hopefully she will have the services of a housemaid to assist her in preparing a meal for the unexpected guests.

Having money can make a huge difference between happiness and despair in Saudi Arabia and especially so for a foreign wife.  Having the resources to engage her own personal driver will soften the blow of not having the freedom to drive herself when and where she wants to go.

Being able to afford a new gown for each and every wedding will give her a status as one who is loved and cherished by her husband.  She will make her husband and his family proud by dressing in a suitable manner for functions.

With discretionary funds, she and her husband can attend society events, take a weekend trip to Bahrain or Dubai and perhaps feel that she has a degree of control over her new restricted life in the Kingdom.

With money she may not have to share a villa with extended family but instead have her own home which she can furnish to her heart’s desire.  She also has the luxury of privacy and can entertain her own guests with ease.

Many may scoff and will say “money doesn’t matter.”  That is true and they are right.  Yet for many, it will make a difference between a successful marriage in Saudi Arabia or one that ends in divorce.


39 Responses

  1. I having a hard time seeing why any independent women would ever consent to staying married to a Saudi man after this description. She sounds like an imprisoned trinket that makes good food.

    Again, why would any Saudi man take his independent wife to such a country knowing that she will give up so much of herself? Why not just stay in a different country all together either hers or a neutral country as Saudi is toxic to many cross-cultural marriages and to women who want to have a fulfulling life to include a Saudi born husband. Not to mention that this arrangement distances the Saudi born male from the potential effects of some mother-in-laws who turn into monster-in-laws.

  2. NO matter doesn’t buy happiness..even in saudi.
    Money won’t take away a bad husband…or hostile inlaws who u have to see won’t take away the emptiness or loneliness of missing ones family.
    Sorry but don’t really agree with this post. but just my opinion.

  3. This type of marriage is something that I would never want for myself. I am one of those many who scoff and say “money does not matter”.

  4. I absolutely think money matters- I also believe it doesn’t buy happiness. But come on folks- having enough money to afford medical care and education for your children makes a difference. In the same way being able to afford a car and driver makes a huge quality of life difference in Saudi. Money is also a help in being able to visit your home country and see your family. So while it doesn’t buy happiness- it allows for some very important things. Even in the west money is the most fought about issue in marriages. So having enough does indeed matter. Of course how a person defines “enough” should be similar to their spouses ideas on this.

    The whole dress thing is just a societal norm. Most people in the west dress appropriately for weddings. Most people in the west would prefer not to take a financial hit to do it. Frankly I’m one that re-uses dresses, and I know others that do to, and I think people can still tell my husband cares for me. I do think, however, if a husband wants his wife in a new gown for every wedding as a symbol of how well he takes care of her- then it better be budgeted as a household expense and not put on the woman as an “extravagance”.

  5. Funny, I’ve adopted into my family a young Saudi man and his wife, when they were away from home (she was foreign to Saudi). His family visited from Saudi and did the same to us after getting to know us.
    Interestingly enough, that young Saudi man is the son of an American mother, of Italian descent.
    I and my wife are American, I of Sicilian descent and pure, my wife of mixed ancestry,the greatest of which that I respect of nations, Native American.
    Now, said Saudi father had married his wife in the US, then moved back to Saudi, where she only had a few complaints that one could easily guess about (driving, covering wrists (her husband put the religious police right) and that was pretty much it.
    My friend, who is brother, has a wife who complains of the same thing.
    NO complaint about the abaya. No complaint about getting around, both have a driver provided by their husbands and BOTH despise those who refuse to provide a driver for their wives.
    MEANWHILE, the current Saudi king has asked 5 times now, for his privy council to permit women to drive, each time, he’s been rebuffed. THAT is open source news information.

    Frances, my wife of over 30 years and I agree, as we’ve been penniless more than a few times during my military career.
    We’re still together. And greatly enjoyed our times in certain GCC nations.

  6. I have to agree with bigstick and Bella Vista on this one.

  7. I think Saudis confused happiness to be solely dependent on money, most probably is because how conservative the society is, for a one guy here to live a freedom/private life close to an average western joe, he would have to spend millions to provide himself with a palace where no one can interfere and to live somewhat a liberal life, and more money to spend on kids to get into private school so they don’t get brainwashed. And because how the society is wired we need to get a social recognition and would have to spend more money on things such as one-night-gown to augment personal self value.

  8. Think before you leap in the well! Don’t jump for foreign wife. Family / freedom first, money later? Or otherway round.
    Saudi life is pure and simple. It is difficult because we are not used to it. We are persuaded to be independent and do whatever you like(good or bad) and no interference.

    Choice is yours>

  9. The amount of money a couple has seems less important than the intentions of the individuals in the couple to use what money is available for the well being of each other. I would think this is true in whatever culture. But then I’ve never been married.

  10. Money is not NO1 for happiness or marriage, however Money is really important,especially in saudi for women.

    It;s what makes living in saudi bearable or utter hell. every place has issues, i wouldn’t be caught dead in the MI area without the means to a car or a licence but atleast i can rent a car or something worse case.

    But in saudi without a driver or some group transportation you are toast. you cannot leave your house, of you leave but go where ? walking aound in the sun to nowhere perhaps.

    I had a decent stay in saudi mainly because i had a car and driver for my exclusive use. how else would i get to work and take my kids places? i was also real glad of the part time help i had to keep the sand of every surface. these don’t come cheap. especially the driver part.

    We never went to many weddings. the family was not real fond of showing me off in public 🙂 and i hate sparlkly gowns, useless in my line of work and i don’t go anywhere where i would want to wear them.
    so we usually made a brief appearence and left . but boy did i relish those trips to bahrain, india and US. bahrain and dubai mostly.

    oh yes , money matters in saudi , i didn’t care if i was seen as loved or cherised, but i did care that i could do what i wanted. poverty , women and living in saudi is not a good combination.

    money doesn’t matter much in the US, in the above terms, ya helps tp have enough for a roof, good food, good education adn med care for your family.

  11. Whoever says money doesn’t matter simply hasn’t been married long enough. Money makes a tremendous difference in reducing marital stress. The fact that I have a house cleaner reduces the percentage of time spent arguing about who should clean to 0%. The fact that I don’t have to clean reduces my stress level, which is priceless. If I could afford live-in help, I’d do so in an instant.

    Having the funds for good childcare, too, is critical for every working woman. Have you got any idea how expensive this gets in the U.S.?

  12. The two biggest problems in any marriage are sex and money. It is very important to have enough to live on and it never hurts to have entertainment money. I agree that for women in Saudi having enough money to get out and about is important otherwise you can just wither away behind walls. Now it doesn’t mean you have to have millions and yes, dresses can certainly be re-used. I wouldn’t want to have the social life that some have and keeping up with the Jones can be absolutely major but so me it seems money is more important in Saudi just because of the restrictions.

    In Sudan for example people are poor but they can walk freely on the street and enjoy a meal out alone or with a group in a restauant, men and women can mix, there is no expectation of having to have ever more beautiful tobes to wear, etc. etc. etc.Sadly, Saudi women do not have these major free luxuries.

  13. I think that having enough to live on is very important, not having enough money to get through the week is very, very stressful, and in a relationship I think it would cause even more tension then when you are on your own. But as long as the basics are covered you can have a happy marriage. Although it will only be an improvement if your finances are a bit relaxed.
    But from what we know about Saudi Arabia and women’s life there I would make an exception there, you do need a lot of money there because you lack so many normal things, so many normal freedoms.
    Like Sandy and Radhaa and NN explained.

  14. Having your own personal driver would be a very good thing, but it is not an absolute necessity. The only time I didn’t travel by taxi in Riyadh was when I was traveling to a western compound (because only private drivers knew where they were). Its a pain in the ass and a real hassle to have to catch a taxi everywhere, but it’s not a death sentence to not have a driver. If a woman doesn’t go out because of that then it’s her own stupid fault.

    That said, if I went back there as a married woman, I’d be asking my husband to pay for a full-time personal driver because it takes so much stress out of getting around the city and when you add it up, it would cost almost the same as a regular taxi fare. I’m talking a few hundred dollars a month here. House help and drivers are not a huge expense, a lot less than a new ball gown.

  15. Stacy some of my family live in a suburban area without taxis around. They can’t phone for one so they have no access to a taxi.

  16. @Wendy, but they are able to prioritize their finainces and buy a car if it is important to them.

    @Aafke, “as long as you have the basics”. I think that is what’s differnt in Saudi. the “basics” cost money or you live a stunted deprived life.

  17. An expat in Saudi Arabia, whether male or female, will have a different experience and perspective as compared to a foreign wife of a Saudi. The wife is not necessarily looked upon as a “real” expat nor is she a Saudi. I think it is also difficult for someone who has never been to Saudi to envision the differences and distinctions.

  18. Sandy, women can’t drive so how is she going to buy a car? Husband works and needs his car. He can’t be at his wife’s beck and call when he is at work so she can leave the house. Such a simple thing to make priorities, eh?

  19. @Wendy- I got confused about who wrote what. I read “suburban” as “rural” and thought you were talking about in the States. So my answer makes no sense. I should probably go to sleep now. 🙂

  20. Sandy, yes, I think ”the basics” mean something very different, and very more expensive than in other places.

  21. So, whats the problem, stay home. Home is the best place and secure.

  22. I agree.

  23. Oh ,yes, we read about that a while ago on Islam Q&A, a woman should spend her life in a dark room, in the middle of the house in a room without windows and pray.

    Actually most women prefer sunlight and fresh air and a social life to rotting away in an oubliette.

  24. That’s okay, Sandy. I was wondering though … 🙂

  25. Wendy, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a part of Riyadh where a taxi wasn’t a short walk away. Gosh, I couldn’t even walk a few blocks down the street without 10 taxis trying to pick me up! Its almost insane the number of taxis in that city. I’m surprised they had no one to call, I was given taxi phone numbers almost once a week. But then I am certain there are some women who’s husbands wouldn’t allow them to travel by taxi anywhere, but also won’t provide a driver, or at the very least the details for a private driver service who would work for them on request.

    Now, having a taxi driver with any knowledge of the city is another discussion entirely! That’s why I’d want a personal driver who I didn’t have to direct on every turn. Nothing worse than having a taxi driver ask you half way through your trip for directions.

  26. Studies have shown that up to a certain point, money is correlated with happiness. However once you have enough to support all your basic needs and take a small vacation every now and then, more than that will not increase your happiness. Not sure what “basic needs” are made up by in Saudi!

  27. Stacy, then you are lucky you are living in Riyadh. I’ve also been there and saw tons of taxis. Whether or not they are in the outlying areas I do not know. I do know that on the east coast there are new areas with no taxis without walking quite a distance and it’s just not possible for a woman to do that.

  28. @Wendy
    I am surprised to know that it is not possible for a woman to walk quite a distance for taxi.
    Woman claims to be equally clever, intellegent, hardworking rather in every part of life to men, then how comes she can not walk?
    This proves women’s claim is wrong and change her mind and tell the truth.

  29. Would be a bit indecent and improper of her to be out walking alone down streets, etc. wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t want to consider her safety in a country where she is viewed as such a sex object the mere sight of her in her black bag can cause a man to …

  30. @sami – ofcourse she can walk, everyone with functioning legs can do that 🙂 doesn’t require much skill however i agree with wendy,that’s why saudi is special…so so special.
    you should try that sometime, wear a abaya, cover your whole self, and walk down a not so busy road 🙂 and let us know how the men treat you …

  31. Personally it’s much better, safer, easier, more efficient and definetly less stressful for a woman to have her own car and driver . irrespective of how easy it is to get a taxi.

    you can go whereever, whenever and how many ever times a day to any and all places. if it’s a taxi i don’t think it’s so easy.

    I thank my lucky stars for having a car and better yet having the fantastic Aman as a driver , made a huge diff in my acceptance of the place.

  32. @radha

    Thank you. You try it.

  33. @wendy

    Man is sex object too. When woman claims to be safe and equals to man , then what is the problem?

    What is indecent and improper for a woman, it applies to man as well, waliking alone along the road, she being equal to man.

    Be brave woman, don’t be scared of————–.

  34. @sami, been there done that. that’d why i’m asking you to try it.

    Walkewd down the street in saudi many many days in a abaya, walked in a mall in a abaya and got men sticking little pieces of paper while trying to go about my business and being chased in cars while travelling with a teenage girl !!! like i said been there, done that now it’s some one else’s turn to face it 🙂

  35. Sami is a coward

  36. Hah. Some things are much easier said than done, especially in Saudi.

    I used to walk as much as possible, but its difficult coz everyone thinks a woman out walking on her own in either insane or completely lost. There are also no consistent sidewalks so you end up walking on the road a lot, which is not safe for anyone.

    And last but not least, it’s 45C outside and you’re covered in black polyester! No one walks anywhere in Saudi coz it is oppressively hot, all the time.

    Having a driver is a luxury in countries where you can buy your own car and drive yourself. It is a necessity in a country where you are not allowed to drive.

  37. You know in one respect I feel for Saudi women. In others, I don’t as they are the cause of their own problems in many ways. They continually refuse to take a stand and want outsiders to help them. They call on the help of other women outside their government and other governments to apply pressure. Quite frankly, if they want this they are going to have to take a stand and just drive. As this issue will not be something that can be fought for them but they must fight for themselves.

    Yes, I have heard it is easier said than done. However, women in many countries had to face oppression, death and imprisonment from their own government to have the freedoms they have and no outside government came to their rescue nor was there the current situation that gives an added advantage of almost immediate press and world recognition of the government oppression.

    Of course, today I am in a bad mood. However, this is one of these days when I just feel like stating just piss or get of the pot. In other words put up or shut up.

    Again, I am in a bad mood today. This is an issue that just gets to me after a while as it has been going on for at least 30 or more years. I just get tired of the whining about it with little to no action.

  38. Unfortunately so much foreigh wives are not lucky and they are force to live a very hard life in Saudi Arabia

  39. Yes, Dana, I agree with you.

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