TEACHING ENGLISH TO SAUDI ARABIANS
Now I don’t want to start off on an overly negative note here, but you’ll need to canvass a lot of people before you hear one positive thought on the topic of teaching Saudi Arabians. Saudis are… well, different. As unlike you or me as a giraffe is to a horse. What makes them so different? So far removed from what Westerners would regard as normal?
Consider for a moment the typical life-style of someone brought up in Saudi Arabia. (I’m talking male Saudis here; women’s life-styles are hardly worthy of consideration or discussion.) You’ll be allowed to mix with your sisters until you’re seven years old, after which you’ll be transferred to a solely male environment, and have nothing more to do with the inferior sex, including your mother. (Until your wedding night, that is, when you’ll experience your first encounter with a mature female.) You’ll live under the repressive cloak of Sharia Law, and be watched over by the morals police to make sure you observe the letter of the law.
For a Saudi, Islam is the one and only true religion, and it dictates how he spends his day, how he treats fellow-Saudis, how he looks upon non-Moslems, how he conducts business, and how he approaches his studies.
Saudi males hold the profound belief that they are not only vastly superior to women, but, as a Saudi, vastly superior to any citizen of any other country. Especially if that citizen is an infidel. In fact, the Holy Koran gives you free rein to eliminate non-believers at your whim, and promises you seven virgins in paradise should you do so.
Secondly, Saudis are brought up to believe that women are second-class citizens to be kept covered from head to toe, to be segregated from male society, and to be totally subservient to any male they’re forced into marriage with. Any woman who shows any inclination to wander can be publicly stoned to death (the husband and father have the privilege of casting the first stone). And should your wife no longer please you, divorce is a simple matter (not all that long ago, all it took was for the husband to say “I divorce thee” three times, and the deed was done).
So how does all this affect the foreign teacher who goes over to Saudi Arabia for a year to teach English? Life in Saudi, for an expat, is weird, like nothing you’ve ever experienced or imagined before. No alcohol, of course, but you’ll have known that from the start. No movie theaters, night clubs, sports events, or entertainment, no fraternizing with the locals, no freedom of speech, no mixing with the opposite sex either in public or private, no free internet access. No jogging, would you believe it! If you’re a member of the inferior female sex, no short skirts, no bare heads, no bare arms, no driving, no independent travel, and preferably no mind of your own. If you’re married, no public displays of affection.
Your students will most likely be filthy-rich, wily, arrogant, and eager to demonstrate their superiority at every turn. (Of the many Saudis I’ve taught, only four of them don’t fit in that category, and two of those had spent some years outside Saudi Arabia.) Cheating is the order of the day at exam time. Failing any student is, of course, against school rules.
You’ll be handsomely rewarded if you can stick out your contract ($36,000 to $50,000 a year, not to mention air tickets, accommodation, medical insurance and completion bonus) but at the end of it you’ll probably be wondering whether it was all worth it.
If you want a graphic picture of what it’s like for an expatriate to live in Saudi Arabia, I suggest you log onto the movie Escape; Human Cargo on YouTube. This vastly underrated film portrays life in Saudi Arabia for an expat as no other film before or since has.
My new book, EFL minus the B.S., has a country-by-country break-down of countries you can teach EFL in, and also includes chapters on Documentation, Management and Mismanagement, and Applying for a Job. EFL minus the B.S. is now available on Amazon.