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.
2 months ago