Saudi Arabia: Expatriate Housing Decisions Made by Employer

saudi apt bldg


There seems to be a greater trend now among Saudi Employers in the Education Sector for the desire to have the expatriate employees consolidated.  In the past, expatriate employees were either assigned housing in an apartment or small villa or perhaps received a housing allowance and found their own housing. If expatriates had to share an apartment or villa, they were generally matched on being from the same region.

However, newer schools and universities are now having their own apartment building built next to the facility.  This is certainly convenient for the employer knowing that all employees are close by to the facility but it does not take into consideration cultural aspects or practicalities.

Like most employees, teachers do not want to live near the same place as they are working.  They need that break and separation.  It is important to have neighbors who are not colleagues.

One new school plans for all of its employees to live in the same apartment building – married, single, male, female, Saudi, expatriates, muslim and non-muslim.  In a place like Saudi Arabia where the culture is more restrictive and modest, a hodge podge of nationalities, cultures and religions can easily lead to conflicts.

A single Saudi woman may eagerly want the job as a teacher but could face strong family and tribal reaction if she were to live in the same building as unrelated non-Muslim men.

While in other places Muslims and non-Muslims can live easily side-by-side, the culture and traditions of Saudi Arabia make this more challenging.  At the end of a workday, a non-Muslim western expatriate would likely want to put on shorts and t-shirt, turn on some familiar music and relax without worrying what his/her Muslim colleagues next door might think.

Saudi Arabia is not the place where you intermix colleagues who are single, married, with or without children, or practicing different faiths in the same facility.

Ideally, there should be separate buildings for single men, single women and families or provide these employees with their own housing allowance.  Don’t consolidate them all into one large apartment building as presently proposed.

Nb:  American Bedu is aware of a specific educational facility whose housing plans are as described.  However, the name of the facility can’t be disclosed.



7 Responses

  1. Which expatriates?

  2. When I was looking for a house in 1998, my wife and I looked at a townhouse complex that was about 2 or 3 miles from work. I worked for one of the big telecom companies and the place was loaded with people from my company. We didn’t end up buying there and I cannot imagine living with only company employees.

  3. ..I must add in the US..

  4. Hahaha… that’s so funny! I got a request in my inbox today to consider a teaching position at [an unnamed university in Riyadh] which mentioned the housing just as you mentioned in your blog posting!

  5. What do you mean by which expatriates, Ali? This would apply to any/all faculty of the school. Male, Female, married, single, Muslim, non-Muslim, Saudi or any nationality.

    On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 1:27 PM, American Bedu

  6. How do you feel about the housing proposal, Anon?

    On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 4:45 PM, American Bedu

  7. I am familiar with housing as you described, fortunately, the arrangements are not currently next door to the school. It is mixed Muslim, non-Muslim, and mixed genders dispersed in the apartment buildings.

    There have been difficulties in living standards and practices. It is not as conservative as Muslims would like and not as free as non-Muslims would like. Yet, it is described as a western compound to potential employees.

    Working, living next to, and being transported with the same people every day tends to wear on everyone. It is difficult to get away from work related problems since that is what is discussed frequently.

    It is a draining experience. It is interesting to see how people learn how to adapt and cope with this kind of living environment.

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