So I think one of the good things about Saudi Arabia that isn't mentioned enough is how much English is spoken here. Many of the major road signs and signs in the malls are written in both English and Arabic. Even your trip to the grocery store is aided by bilingual signs and bilingual labels on products. You can bank in English, get your internet set up in English, basically live your life in Riyadh in English. My Riyadh readers must think I am a little insane suggesting this, but actually I feel quite grateful that enough people speak my native tongue here that I can get by in my day to day life without having too much difficulty with language barriers.
Don't get me wrong, it can definitely try your patience when you have a communication breakdown with your driver. Questions that you know for a fact cannot be answered with 'yes' or 'no' (e.g. 'where the hell are we?') can and will be answered with 'yes' in the car when a driver doesn't understand you. As far as I am concerned, this is the international test of English: ask a question that begins with who, what, where, when, or why. If the person answers 'yes', it means they do NOT speak English and though they may look nice, they will NOT be able to help you!
But on the whole I find it astounding how many people in this country are bilingual or trilingual. I am most ashamedly monolingual despite having two official languages in Canada. The truth is that we are only truly bilingual in pockets and the vast majority of us are English-speaking with an elementary school sprinkling of French stored somewhere in the back of our brains. Here is a random sampling of my French: je ne sais pas mon ami, mais ou est le gateau? Le fromage est dans la salle de bain avec le croque monsieur chateau frontenac louis riel decoupage cuisinart.
2 months ago