Tag Archives: advice for girls

The Women Who Did it

Sometimes during my stay in Riyadh I found myself in situations where no matter where I went, I heard moans, complaints and the excited voices of those who could not stop talking about how they would go home for vacation soon, listing all of the (by Saudi standards inappropriate) things they would do once they got there, in great detail.

I was not so much surprised to find that the vast majority of these complaints came from women. Not that I have never experienced uncomfortable or frustrating moments but still did I feel like the best I could do was just stay calm. I had, after all, chosen life in Riyadh over an unsupervised, carefree bachelorette’s life in Berlin myself for the sake of a new environment and now I had to pull it through for a mere nine months. So what could possibly go wrong?

The more time passed, the more I started thinking that something must be wrong with me. I barely answered a question about my experiences in Saudi when I was already interrupted by the person talking to me, telling me how my positive or neutral impressions must be wrong because there were so many other things I did not consider that were actually bad. Whether these other things played any role in my day-to-day life or whether they were even present as such, given my situation, barely concerned anyone. Only the few negative remarks I decided to voice occasionally were approved of with a nod and an “I told you so.” Since I was brought up in the belief that those older than me are wiser and therefore (almost) always right, there was not really a point in arguing.

So I just stayed seated by my table at someone’s birthday party, absently chewing on my peanuts and sipping ‘Saudi champagne’, while the woman talking to me explained how I could possibly be denied medical help and die if my male relative was not there in order to approve of the doctor examining me (a belief widely spread among westerners for some reason and supported by the one or the other interview with a foreign paramedic working in Riyadh). I still hope she did not see me rolling my eyes at her in annoyance.

Towards the end of my stay however, I did take notice of at least some positive changes in those women, who only a few months ago could do nothing but complain.

“You know what I understood now?” asked a friend of mine as we were talking on Skype, shortly after I had returned home. “I realized that I have to stop complaining and take things as they are. If I cannot find the ingredients I need for baking, I just have to use what I have available instead. Making something else if I have to.  Instead of being upset about shops closing for prayer, I should find a way to get things done around those times”, she said to me among a few other things.

A big concern for all these girls, so it appeared to me, was the fact that as a woman in Saudi you have plenty of time. If you don’t know what to do with all of it, it is not a surprise that you let frustration and anger get the better of you.

I have observed how some women discovered a new hobby and expanded it to professionalism. Starting with baking over photography to showing newcomers around town.  I met a group of eastern European wives of Saudis who, naturally feeling a bit lonely in their new residence, got in touch with other wives like them through social media and joined forces when it came to making time pass faster, be it by going on weekend trips to al Khobar or Jeddah, taking their children to the zoo, visiting art exhibits and whatever else they found.

Others were still floating in a bubble of negativity but nevertheless decided that they will probably never have such a luxurious life again and enjoyed their swimming pools,  sinfully expensive Armani pants and deadly high heels while working on their dissertations, teaching English at school or university or just volunteering where they could.

Reflecting on all the stories that these women shared with me, I would say that even though these activities seem so mundane to those who live them every day outside of Saudi, for the women on site, they are indeed little achievements. I would say that they did it. They somehow figured out how to make it through the day and if they can, I am pretty sure so can you.


Advice I’d Give My Daughter- The Post That Has Nohing to Do With Saudi Arabia Itself

This morning I was posting the list below on my other blog, when I thought that it might be a good thing to share it here as well.

It is a list of suggestions that I came up with, that I would give my daughter when I have one, one day. These things are either something I learned from my own, oh so short, life or from those of others.

I know that this has nothing to do with Saudi in particular but some of the things I have listed here come from experiences I have had in this country. So I guess this post more or less qualifies to be here.

Since I can imagine that many of my readers here are women, I thought some may be interested in seeing what a young, “inexperienced” girl like me will have to say about life. I bet that some of you, men or women, will be surprised.

Enjoy, my darlings!

1. Actions speak louder than words.

2. Don’t take everything literally. There is always a hidden meaning to things.

3. Avoid being financially dependent on someone. Especially men.

4. Never let a person alone be responsible for YOUR happiness.

5. You may not be alone but nobody else will do things for you. Learn to stand on your own as soon as you can.

6. Don’t make definite plans for the future and rely on them. Things will turn out more different than you can imagine.

7. Always be open to change. To new places and new people. They are likely to bring out the best in you or teach you a lesson you won’t forget.

8. Being with people is important. But there is nothing wrong with being on your own every now and then either.

9. You’re beautiful the way you are, no matter what others say. Even me.

10. Never pretend to be somebody you aren’t.

11. If somebody wants you to be in his/ her life, they will make room for you and invite you to be part of it. If you have to fight and struggle for a space, they are not worth it.

12. Always be  ready for disappointment in life, but never let it crush you.

13. Travel as much as you can.

14. If it feels wrong, DON’T do it.

15. Even if it feels right, think before doing it.

16. People rarely really change. It’s just the mask that falls off.

17. THAT man is not the last one in your life. Stop weeping and move on. Other mothers have handsome sons, too.

18. Never make big decisions or take actions when you are very angry or overly happy.

19. You can’t plan on  relationships. They happen unexpectedly with the most unexpected people.

20. However, choose the man with brains in his head over a man with only money in his wallet. If he is smart, he’ll know how to be sustainable. If not, all his wealth will be gone before you can say paycheck.

21. The more closed-minded you are, the more likely is it that life will give you a lesson to change your perspective. Be ready to accept that this is a good thing.

22. If you have to argue with me in order to make your point, ARGUE!

23. I’m always there for you.

24. If you feel down and candy can’t fix it, day dreaming will.

25. There’s no harm in knowing one more language.

26. The first impression you get of people is often very misleading. Give it time before you make up your mind!

27. Listen to your parents but always keep your own wishes and ambitions in mind. Parents don’t know everything in this world.

28. Avoid judging people. You don’t know their story and they don’t know yours.

29. Hands off the alcohol.

30. Learn to say no.

31. Hard work always pays off.

32. Being different is awesome.

33. Divorce is inevitable. It can happen to anyone. Don’t let the fear of it ruin your family plans.

34. Everything will turn out well, eventually.