How long does the whole recruitment process take?
If your specialty is momentarily needed by the employer (for example ICU/ER Nurses, Pediatric Nurses and Midwives are ALWAYS wanted) and your level of the English language is acceptable, you can be relocated to Saudi Arabia within two months. It really depends on many things, especially the work visa processing, please see the section ‘Recruitment Process’ for further information.
What if I decide after my relocation to the Middle East that I do not like it and will want to return home?
The probation period is three months. During this time you have a right to resign without having to give any reasons. The employer also has the right to end the contract early.
Do I have to wear a veil or burqa?
Burqa is the veil for a face and no, you will not need to cover your face but you must wear an abaya in public, which is a black, lightweight cloak that is worn over normal clothing. Western women, or any woman not wearing typical Muslim hijab, are recommended also to carry a scarf that can be used to cover the hair (if required) when in public areas (e.g. souqs). Abayas are typically sold with a matching scarf, so you don’t have to buy them separately. When at work, you will be provided with standard looking uniform or scrubs and you do not have to cover your hair at work, unless it is an Health and Safety requirement.
Must the abaya be a certain colour or length?
Yes, abayas must be black, but they can have embroidery, sequins, applique, etc. The abaya should hang to the ankles.
Can I wear sandals or open shoes in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, absolutely, there are no restrictions whatsoever when it comes to foot wear.
Are the local shops well stocked? Can a woman go shopping alone?
There are many shopping malls in Saudi Arabia which house luxury brands as well as larger stores which sell less costly clothes (e.g., GAP, H&M, American Eagle, Zara), and US and European chain department stores (e.g., Saks Fifth Avenue, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, Marks & Spencer). The shopping opportunities are endless, from super-modern huge shopping malls, typical street shops, to traditional souqs (markets) with souvenirs and handicrafts. Yes, women can go shopping alone and it is very safe, especially in the big shopping malls.
What are the costs of basic items?
The cost of food and other necessary basic items is comparable to Europe, in not being cheaper.
When will I get my first payment?
During the first week you will be given ‘relocation pay’ which is usually around 2000 SAR (530 USD) to provide you with funds before the day of salary payment which is always paid at the end of each month (approximately around 28th). So for example, if you arrive during the middle of the month, your first salary will be half of your regular salary. Along with the relocation pay you will be also provided with a ‘welcome package’. This contains new bed sheets, towels, kitchen utensils, cutlery and basic food items (water, bread, milk, tea, sugar, butter, cheese etc.). As previously mentioned, your accommodation will be fully furnished and transport to work is provided free of charge, therefore you really won’t need to spend much money, unless, of course, you want to! The currency exchange rate of 1 USD : 3.75 Saudi Arabian Riyals (SAR) which is fixed, which a similar arrangement that other Middle East countries have.
What are the financial benefits of working in the Middle East?
The most significant benefit is definitely the tax free salary and the minimal cost of living. In comparison to working at home, the amount of money you need to pay out for such costs as accommodation rent, utility bills, transportation and not forgetting tax! In Middle East, you do not pay any tax, all your accommodation is provided free of charge, including utilities. Transportation to and from work, and also shopping trips are free.
Where will I live?
You will live in accommodation provided by the healthcare organisation in the form of a western compound or a town house. The accommodation is provided free of charge and is fully furnished. The accommodation will also contain such leisure facilities as a gym and swimming pool. Male employees can apply for housing allowance instead provided accommodation. Getting access to other western compounds to meet new people is a very simple process.
What is Iqama?
Iqama is your ID card which will be given to you after completion of the 3 month probation period. Only with Iqama you can open a bank account or have Saudi Arabian mobile phone number. Note. Before you open bank account, the salary will be paid to you in cash.
Can I drive?
You can drive in all countries of Middle East except for women in Saudi Arabia, although this regulation may change in the near future.
Can I buy underwear?
Although you can buy all styles of women’s underwear, including brands like Etam, La Senza and others you know from home. If you have a favourite brand/style, it may be useful to stock up before relocating.
Can I wear a two-piece bathing suit?
Yes, if you are swimming in the women’s-only pool or in a western compound. Also, there are many stores that sell swimming costumes / bikini’s
Can I wear makeup?
Yes. The Arab women (Saudi women included) are very skilled in the art of applying makeup. Even if you see only the eyes, they are dramatically shadowed and otherwise elaborately enhanced, and their eyebrows waxed into precise shapes.
Can I buy Female specific toiletries?
Yes, they can be found in most pharmacies or grocery stores. But the selection is not as good as in Europe.
Can I wear jewellery?
Yes, in fact, one of the main recreational pursuits will be shopping for gold in the souqs. At work however, you should not wear bracelets or rings (except for a wedding ring) for hygienic and safety reasons. Earrings should be only small, non-catchy or tangling.
Can I get a spa treatments or hair-styling?
Absolutely! You can get enormously varied range of treatments, including massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures in a large number of well established beauty salons. There are also many western women running their own beauty and hair salons at their home within compounds.
What kinds of clothes should I pack?
Keep in mind that for most of the year the weather is very hot. So besides buying an abaya and scarf (as noted above), you really don’t need to change your wardrobe much as you can wear whatever you want under your abaya when in public (malls, souqs, restaurant). Whilst being inside a western compound, you can once again wear whatever you would in your own country – shorts, vests, dresses, bathing suit for the pool, gym clothes for your work out, cocktail dress for an event at the embassy or in various compounds. Yes, social life can be very busy even in Saudi Arabia!