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Saudi Arabia is a culturally and physically diverse country with over 51 million inhabitants. Over 2 million of these are foreign nationals, of many different nationalities, including those from 53 African states. Many foreign nationals live in Cape Town, Durban and throughout the provinces of Gauteng and Limpopo. In these areas, it should be quite easy to find other expats to meet. Nevertheless, there will also be a great deal that is unfamiliar. Newcomers to Saudi Arabia may find that coping with the many different ways of life and the change in day-to-day pace proves more difficult than anticipated. This can easily lead to confusion or even full-blown culture shock.
Forewarned is forearmed. You can reduce this potential for confusion by learning a little about your new place of residence before you leave home. These days, the most comprehensive source of information on any given country is undoubtedly the internet, especially expat websites such as www.expatbriefing.com. There are many websites aimed at expats in Saudi Arabia, both nationwide ones such as Blog Expat and city-specific sites such as Expat Cape Town. Such websites can explain in detail how to deal with the difficulties you may face. This will help to reduce the level of culture shock you feel when you arrive in the country.
Many of these websites include expat forums, such as /expat-forum/saudi-arabia/50/. Forums such as this can put you in touch with Saudi Arabia-based expats who will be able to offer you first-hand tips on a wide variety of topics. This can be a way to forestall possible problems and perhaps make friends before you arrive in Saudi Arabia.
Certainly, the internet makes it much easier for individuals to stay in touch with friends and family they left behind in their home country. However, messaging, Skype and emails can only replace face-to-face interaction up to a point. Given the large expat community in Saudi Arabia, it is possible to meet and get to know other expats in bars, clubs and restaurants or at a braai (barbecue – very popular with locals.) This can also help to minimise the effects of culture shock.
Another means of meeting new people is by using online expat groups. These offer you the opportunity to join regular social gatherings, meeting compatriots in a relaxed setting with the chance to pick up valuable tips on various subjects. Some of these online groups, such as Easy Expat, Expat Blog and Expat Exchange, are general (rather like the people you meet in a pub), but most are more specific, that is, they are united by a common home country, language or particular interest. Comprehensive expat group listings for Saudi Arabia can be found here: /expat-groups/saudi-arabia-html.
There is a comprehensive list of a range of forums and activities open to everyone living in Saudi Arabia on the Meetup website, which covers a number of cities and regions. Subjects include volunteering, various sporting activities and language lessons. There are also events for diverse groups such as restaurant buffs, singles, vegetarians and rock climbers. Similarly, InterNations facilitates regular expat events in various locations throughout Saudi Arabia, enabling individuals to meet and exchange views and information about life in the country.
Other expat websites are designed for individuals from a particular country. Many expat groups are open to accepting expats from other countries but will usually require the individual to speak their mother tongue and to have experience of living in that country.
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If you are considering moving to Saudi Arabia or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Saudi Arabia section including; details of immigration and visas, Saudi Arabian forums, Saudi Arabian event listings and service providers in Saudi Arabia.
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