Marika in Riyadh
Why did you decide to apply for a post in Saudi Arabia?
There was an advert in the Tehy-newspaper about the vacant spots. I cut it out and had it inside my drawer for some time. From time to time I ended up looking at it and at some point I thought to myself that why not! I wanted to try something new.
How well do you remember the recruitment process? Can you tell something about it?
The process was quite long due to the necessary paperwork. Gathering all the required information took some time. People from Professional Connections helped me a lot and it was good to know that whenever I had something on my mind I could just ask someone. In the end the process went well.
How would you describe the meet and greet?
It was organized well. My flight from Istanbul to Riyadh got canceled and I had to take the next one. I contacted the person who was expecting me from Istanbul and explained the situation. When I arrived to Riyadh, there was someone waiting for me just outside the gate. I think it was being dealt with well. From the airport they took me to my apartment, which was fully furnished. There was another Finn waiting to greet me. After that I went straight to bed since I was really tired after traveling almost 24 hours.
What is the compound like?
I think the compound is good, I like it a lot. The grocery store is brilliant and I am able to find everything I need from there. I assume it is possible to ask the shop keeper to order something one likes, if it is missing from the selection. The store is only few hundred meters from my apartment. Sometimes I walk around the compound in the morning and it takes about half an hour with a decent pace. The pools are fantastic and I enjoy them a lot. There are also gyms that are quite good. If something breaks, I am able to get someone fix it really fast. Also the bus connections from the compound are good, and there is daily transportation to some of the malls or other places in town. One can also use the taxi if one prefers to go alone or at different times.
Has the hospital and the place been what you expected?
I didn't have much expectations when arriving here. Neither did I ask all too much before coming, I just came here open mindedly hoping to have a great experience. So far it has been so. In the beginning there was a three week orientation which helped me understand quite well what is to come. I found the orientation useful and good.
What is your workplace like? Are there many Finns and how do you get along with the Saudis?
There are no other Finns in the department I work at. Most of them come from the Philippines or India. Some of them are really kind and nice, but with some of them I don't get along that much. There is only one nurse that is from Saudi Arabia. However, there are unit assistants that help translate the Arabic speaking patients. In my opinion Saudis, both men and women, are really nice people! I have never had any problems with them.
What are your experiences about Saudi culture like?
Ramadan was new to me, but it had relatively little impact on my life. I just had to eat secretly. I have no problem with having to wear the Abaya whatsoever. I do not need to cover my hair almost ever. Only once when we were visiting Deira, a local marketplace, a police advised me to cover my hair. I had some experience on Muslim culture before arriving, as I had visited Tunisia and Egypt earlier, so I had an idea what it would be like in here. I have positive experiences about this place.
Do you have a favorite place to do shopping at?
I do not think there is a single favorite place when it comes to shopping malls. There are a lot of them in here. But when it comes to grocery stores I mainly use Tamimi. It is easy on the pocket and has a decent selection of products. Sometimes I also use Lulu, since it has basically everything one could need from clothes to food. All in all the grocery stores are really good in here. At least if you consider that this is a country where there is barely any agriculture. One can everything they need if they just bother finding out about things a little.
Is there any interesting places near you?
Close to us are two high towers, where one can go and admire the view of the entire city. There are also two restaurants, where one can enjoy lovely food while looking at the landscape. One of them is really expensive but the other one is more affordable. I visited it once and I thought it was a very nice experience.
How do you spend your free time?
People organize desert safaris and diving courses here. I am planning to take part in a course once I return from my holiday. I spend my spare time mostly at the gym or at the pools. When I have day offs I also enjoy cooking bigger amounts of food so I can take it to work. There are, however, cheap restaurants at the hospital that we can use on our lunchbreaks, but I like to bring my own lunch with me. I also go to the shopping malls every now and then. I haven't had time to travel a lot yet as the beginning is mostly dedicated to getting used to the place. I will probably start traveling more soon and I have already booked a four day trip to Bahrain. I have also been pondering about visiting Australia as the trip is now half shorter than from Finland!
Are you happy with your decision to go to Riyadh?
Yes, I am! There are days when I think that maybe I could stay here few years longer. Obviously it is hard sometimes, but my experiences about the place are mainly really positive. As an experience this is an extremely good and instructive. One definitely needs patience here, but by smiling and asking for advice one will do just fine.
What advice would you give to a nurse, who is looking at the same article as you were, and is wondering whether or not to apply to Saudi Arabia?
Living and working here surely requires character and right kind of approach, but I would absolutely recommend people to give it a shot. If one is tolerant and can bite the bullet then coming here is totally worth it. I am sure that by coming here one will gain more than lose! One should just consider it as an amazing experience.
What is the most positive thing to you about living in Riyadh?
I would have to say the spare time! And also the other Finns. There is basically sun all the time and the pools are amazing. I love spending time at the pools with other Finns and sharing experiences with each other. There is quite tight Finnish community here. We have our Whatsapp group and we support each other. They have helped to form a really important safety net. There are about twenty of us in our compound, and everyone is sure to find someone to enjoy being with!