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Teaching in Saudi Arabia: Life for women

Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer its teachers, including very competitive salaries and benefits packages, a very intimate look at rich Arabic culture, and a homebase amidst vast coastlines and the storied Arabian desert. But we understand that female teachers may have questions about what they can expect if they head to teach abroad in Saudi Arabia. Some may even be put off by some of the laws and attitudes toward women, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Read below to learn more about daily life, customs, and accommodations in Saudi Arabia.

Customs in Saudi Arabia

It’s true that all international teachers living in Saudi Arabia are expected to respect and adhere to local Saudi laws and customs. And though upon first look, Saudi society can seem quite male-dominated, it’s also an extraordinarily safe location for female teachers and a society that promotes and values female camaraderie.

Women will no doubt experience some initial challenges and cultural adjustment, including not being allowed to drive or ride a bike, but your school will often provide workaround solutions to help make these adjustments easier. In fact, schools typically arrange to have a driver designated to their teachers for travel to and from their home to the school. as well as any errands they’d like to run.

Though some female teachers may feel some initial irritation around being required to wear an abaya (a loose garment that covers the head and body down to the ankles), you won’t be required to wear it while on the compound and some teachers find it helps reduce unwanted attention from strangers anyway.  

Accommodations for women in Saudi Arabia

Female teachers in Saudi Arabia receive many benefits including furnished single-dwelling accommodations. These residences are typically located in compounds designated for international teachers, but these compounds have plenty of entertainment and shopping options on-site, including tennis courts, swimming pools, gyms, grocery stores, and restaurants. 

Living in a compound might sound oppressive, but it’s actually the complete opposite. Though some compounds will be subject to all Saudi law, many will allow for more freedoms for women and a more relaxed interpretation of customs. Women often don’t require an escort, don’t have to conceal their faces (you can walk around freely in shorts or relax by a pool in a bikini), and it’s possible to meet many other teachers to form friendships with.

Public spaces in Saudi Arabia

Education institutions are either all-male or all-female facilities, so female teachers will only have female students.

Some things that westerners find commonplace are prohibited in Saudi Arabia, including alcohol and public cinemas. But shopping is a popular pastime, and there are many modern malls to visit with coworkers and friends. You’ll also find plenty of activities on your compound, often even movie rooms, to keep you busy!

As with anything, reading about the lifestyle might be more difficult than living the lifestyle. Very few teachers report problems with adjusting to Saudi customs once they’ve settled in to their accommodations and teaching jobs. And those who really miss western culture can take a quick trip into Bahrain, where laws are much more relaxed and teachers will even find bars and clubs.

Interested in seeing what positions we have teaching in Saudi Arabia? Take a look at the Teach Away jobs board!

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