Monday, January 3, 2011

His Cheatin' Heart

Expat wives who have husbands moving to Saudi for work fall into two camps - one that hears preemptive warnings against leaving your husband alone in Riyadh, and the other that hears this when they arrive. Sooner or later every woman hears about the 17 year marriage that fell apart when the husband moved to Saudi Arabia and cheated on his wife.

Why you ask? Why would a faithful loving husband suddenly throw away his long term marriage for some romp in the sack with a hussy homewrecking nurse? Well there are a lot of factors but the number one cause from your anonymous internet expert is loneliness. There is really no kind of isolation quite like the Riyadh variety, and with the culture shock and work stress, a man can really disintegrate at an alarming rate into a blubbering mess in dire need of intimacy, cuddling, and...we'll call it "coochicoo"

Of course there are a few additional factors that I think are unique to this environment that make expat men especially prone to cheating in Saudi.

There is a kind of "macho culture" in Riyadh - men generally associate with the men from their offices or compounds and there are just not enough women around to keep them gentlemen. Not that this occurs in every office, but the lack of women in the workplace can lead to some men talking smack and convincing each other stupid ideas are actually good ones. There are a lot of security contractors out here, and when a group of macho guys gets together for a party... let's just say they are not painting their nails and giggling about Gossip Girl all night.

You know how Catholic students are always famous for being oversexed and repressed? Riyadh is Catholic school on a grand scale. The segregation of sexes and resulting lack of visual and social contact between men and women adds to the pressure cooker that boils over when certain parties provide opportunities for both genders to let loose.

Let's not blame it all on the guys and the parties because there are some nothing-to-lose women on the prowl in Riyadh too, and they are just as lonely and desperate for coochicoo as any man is. Single women in Riyadh? Yes! There are plenty, and they are usually either nurses or teachers.

To be fair, it's not all because of the Saudi environment, there are of course the universal factors such as long distance being difficult in general, and many relationships having deep cracks in them to begin with. If a couple has trust issues or faithfulness issues or I-settled-when-I-married-you issues, Riyadh is probably not a great idea no matter how good the money is.

I write all this because my hubster is a two timing cheatin' liar and I'm going to Bobbitt him later tonight. I jest. We are trucking along as we always have partly because I'm married to Jesus. I suppose I don't have any real motivation for posting on this topic other than hearing one too many stories of coupledom crumbling. It's probably more therapeutic to put on a Pixar movie than to blog about it, but heck I'm in a mood. And now you're in one. You're welcome ;)

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I'm posting a random thought because I'm back in the Kingdom for a visit and thought I was overdue for a blurb.

One thing that expats pick up in abundance in Saudi are stereotypes. It's a natural consequence of being thrown into compounds and work with people from all over the world. It's in human nature I think to look for social patterns so that we feel we have more control and understanding in our interactions, and that can be difficult to keep sorted out with so many nationalities around.

Say for example you want to invite someone over for a party. After living here you begin to take a log of your interactions with various cultures and can predict with some accuracy how different people will respond. If you invite an American, they'll probably enthusiastically agree to it, talk about how great it's going to be all week, and then 80% of the time they'll show up as long as no better party crops up. If you ask a German and they say yes, they will be there without fail and at exactly the time you tell them. If you ask a Brit, they'll give a tentative answer and take some time to deconstruct how much they actually like you, and if they don't like you, how important you are and then give you a formal decision a few days before the party. If you ask a Saudi and they say "inshallah" it means they are not coming. If you ask a Saudi and they say they will be there, then they will come an hour later than everyone else or at 9:00pm, whichever is later. If you ask your Indian driver, fifty percent of the time they will nod their heads and agree but will not show up because they didn't understand you, and the other half of the time they will decline because they know they will feel out of place and uncomfortable. If you ask a Philipino to come, they will ask if they can bring a friend, then show up with ten friends, some rice, fish and a karaoke machine. If you ask a French-from-Paris to come, they'll turn you down because you didn't ask in French, and because you are clearly not French. If you ask any other Frenchman, they will show up with amazing home made food that will put your selection to shame.

Canadians are somewhere in between the American and the British response and because Canadians are often made up of different ethnicities that will play into it as well. But as a sidenote let me give you a tip. If you invite a Canadian to your party and start loudly making fun of the way they say "about" for a protracted period of time, they will laugh politely at your joke pretending that wasn't the millionth time they've heard it, and then they'll mark a huge mental X beside your name under the category "Hate You Forever Pigface Heathen" This hostility stems from an underlying desire every Canadian has to "blend in" and also from the intractable frustration of not being able to hear the difference between an American "about" and a Canadian one.

Of course I am generalizing...there will always be exceptions, and not only that, there are class distinctions and geographical considerations as well. New Yorkers are very different from Californians, not that you'll ever meet a Californian in Riyadh. There are massive differences between upper class Saudis, lower class Saudis, old fashioned super religious Saudis, and younger (often educated-abroad) progressive Saudis. Then there are Brits who went to London private schools, and working class Brits. Etc etc. I could go on forever but...I'll spare you the pain, and now you and I can both go do something more interesting.