Monday, March 9, 2009

The Basic Don'ts (How To Survive In Saudi Arabia)

Every country has its culture to be followed and to be valued. And these cultures are comprised of customs, traditions, rituals, practices, beliefs, religions, events, and qualities that characterized their difference with others.

Living here in Saudi Arabia is not unusual, because like living in the Philippines we have our own culture and traditions that are being followed by everyone. But living in the most conservative country in the world will put you through a culture shock that will literally shock you to make a 180 degree turn - clockwise, counter-clockwise, repeat 3x! Your patience and understanding will be tried and your sanity questioned. However, we Filipinos are known for being chameleons. Having gone under influences of different cultures since time immemorial, we learned to adapt to changes and to turn challenges into stepping stones for progress. So... when confronted with Saudi Arabia's oddities, take a deep breath, utter a quick prayer and chant, "Kaya ko 'to!"

Keep this in mind: "Hindi pwedeng maging siga dito sa disyerto dahil kung hindi, sa kulungan ang bagsak mo! Kaya sanayan na lang!" ["Do not be a bully in this desert because if you are, you'll land in jail! Learn to adjust!"] Remember that you're the visitor or the guest in their country so it will be really helpful to prep yourself.

So, for all you Filipinos planning to visit and work in the Kingdom, we're providing some of the basic Don’ts that we think can help you in surviving this undulating, unforgiving desert.

WARNING: This list contains some images that are quite disturbing. You have also probably read these rules before. This just goes to show how important it is to follow them. Seriously.

1. Do not bring and eat PORK.

Bringing in and eating pork and pork products is a no-no in Saudi Arabia because of their religion. The prohibition is stated in their Holy Qu'ran. So before you go here, stuff yourself silly with lechon, pork sisig, bacon, and dinuguan so you'll not miss them. They will not be found here. Also, do not be pasaway in bringing in canned pork products. Yes, that includes pork and beans (even if the pork is not visible most of the time)! Be prepared to eat chicken, beef, fish, chicken, beef, fish. Feel free to alter the sequence weekly.

2. Do not drink alcohol.

Unlike in other countries where consumption of alcohol is acceptable, here in Saudi Arabia it is prohibited. Drinking of beer or any kind of alcoholic drinks (wine, spiked beverages, etc.) is forbidden. In other words, huwag dalhin ang pagiging sunog-baga dito sa Saudi Arabia! If you know you're an alcoholic yet you're bound to go here, prepare yourself for a gut-wrenching withdrawal process. If you're an average drinker, then start drowning yourself with beer days before your flight. You will really miss it. And oh, avoid asking for alcoholic beverages in the plane okay? You're not supposed to arrive drunk! (Well, alcoholic beverages might not be available on their menu anyway, beh!)

3. Do not practice your own religion.

photo credit:

Unless you are Muslim, you cannot practice your religion here. Saudi Arabia is the seat of Islam. The two holy cities of Mecca and Madina are found here. This country has a population of 20 million and all of them are Muslims so please, avoid practicing your religion outright. We know most Filipinos are devout Catholics and we practice our faith by going to mass, making the sign of the cross, praying the rosary, celebrating sacraments and holidays, etc. but we cannot freely do these here. First and foremost, there are no churches and priests around. There are other ways of showing our devotion. After all, worshipping and praying can be done within ourselves. It just takes the heart and the soul to do it. He will understand.

4. Do not bring illegal drugs.

photo credit:

Of course illegal drugs are prohibited anywhere but just be extremely cautious here in Saudi Arabia. If you are caught with illegal drugs, it will cost you your life. You can choose between beheading and life imprisonment. Sounds fun, yes? So please, if you value your life and your family's lives, do not have anything to do with illegal drugs. For first-timers, be cautious of people in the airport who will make pasuyo in bringing in items for them. Who knows what's inside that envelope or gadget box? Say "no" politely or come up with an excuse such as "Ermn, my luggage is already full" or "Sorry, I'm really paranoid with stuff I didn't pack myself. That might lead me to trouble" and eye the item suspiciously.

5. Do not engage in PDA.

photo credit:

Married or not, avoid showing public displays of affection. It extremely irritates the muttawas. Yep, it's better to be livid and boring than be romantic and passionate... in prison, and apart. So control those lovey-dovey emotions while shopping, doing the grocery, strolling, picnicking, etc. Reserve them for the comfort of your homes. Yes, KJ na kung KJ! But, holding hands is acceptable for married couples. Okay na yan kesa wala? :P

6. Do not bring pornographic materials with you.

Hold it in guys, hold it in. If you are caught having or bringing films, magazines, photographs or other materials that contain sexually explicit materials, you'll face imprisonment. Better to leave your stash of FHMs and Maxim in the Philippines, boys. It's also advisable that when bringing in USBs, laptops, DVDs, and hard disks in the country, erase all photos and videos that might be deemed "pornographic" like your summer photos in Galera where you were wearing your fantabulous swimsuit while sunbathing or photos and videos of you smooching your bf/gf (that you wished to become a scandal of some sort in Pinas). They randomly check this stuff in the airport and who knows, baka ikaw ang maswerteng mapili for the day!

7. Do not mix and match.

Simply put, guys and girls who are not related in any way cannot be seen together in public. Oh yeah, even if you're related like being brother-sister or cousins, you cannot still be together in public. Do not mingle. Avoid making too much eye contact. Married women must be in the company of their husbands and single ladies must be accompanied by their fathers/sponsors when going out. Mostly, nurses go out through their company's transpo services but they must at all times be with women companions only. In going out, women must only be driven around by their designated drivers aka and husbands.

8. Do not engage in pre-marital fornication.

photo credit: Aexton

Obviously, we're trying to be modest in saying "fornication" when all we want to say is premarital sex. This is a rule for all of us everywhere but of course, we have different stands and views on pre-marital sex. It's just that here in Saudi, your views on it don't matter. When caught engaging in pre-marital fornication, you'll be punished with up to 100 lashes. And when you're single and you accidentally got pregnant, consider yourself doomed. Or okay maybe not as long as you leave the country pronto. But if not, you'll have a hard time giving birth in the hospitals here (and manghihilots are not that easy to find).

Committing adultery is a different matter but we just want to say that if caught, you'll be stoned to death. As in. Stoning is as old as time but believe it or not, they still practice it today. (This is Saudi Arabia so you better believe!)

9. Do not forget to wear the abaya when going out.

photo credit:

This is their take on being dressed modestly... by covering yourself up! So ladies, please do not forget to wear the black overgarment when leaving the house. We know the urge to dress fashionably and all but let's follow their rules mmmkay? After all, we chose to be here, so we chose to adhere to their rules. Besides, just seeing how the religious police enforce the dress code will make you hide literally. Wear the tarha (veil) as well. Just think of this as a challenge. How can you strut your stuff and be fashionable while wearing the abaya?! Hmn, tough stuff? We Pink Tarha girls don't think so! Kahit na ano pa ang damit mo, nasa pagdadala lang yan.

10. Do not drive.

photo credit:

We're talking to females here. Saudi Arabia is the only country on earth where women are not allowed to drive. It has always been a great debate why and when this right should be given so while they're at it, let's not drive. Besides, if you see how some maniacs men drive here, you'll be grateful for this law. But of course, it will be great if women are given the right to decide for ourselves if we want to drive or not.

Respecting one’s culture is so basic, it shouldn't even be discussed but if you're a new member of a society like Saudi Arabia, you need to be extra respectful and cautious. Learn to adapt and adjust. Be prepared! Ignorance is not an excuse. Besides, their culture is already established even before we were born so DEAL WITH IT!

Surviving here doesn't really require you to OUTWIT, OUTPLAY, OUTLAST. You just have to BE SMART, BEEF UP, and ADJUST!

This is the fourth of the Life Line Series. For other guidelines, click here.

30 had something to say:

mightydacz said...

nice one!!!psst meron nyan dito gusto mo baboy 80/kilo lol alak meron din lol

Maryhadalittlehump said...

@ mightydacz: hahaha.. uu ba.. kung pede lang, kaso.. ilang kilometers ba ang layo natin sa isa't isa para makuha ko yan.

Nebz said...

Mary, I totally agree with your points. Another must-see, must-read, must-digest by our kababayans planning to be or are already in Saudi.

Mahal naman ung 80 per kilo. Ang alam ko 50/kilo. Mightydacz ha...cguro yan ang tinatawag n pork barrel?

Maryhadalittlehump said...

@ nebz: thank you nebz, kasi yung iba natin kababayans mukhang nakakalimot na pagdating sa mga guidelines na katulad nito.

At mukhang tama ka, medyo may kamahalan ung 80/kilo ni mightydacz.. hehehe...

Cara said...

you know, there's this news a few months back... that an arab girl drove her family to the hospital after their house burned down. I wonder how the mutawa's will react to that. Hahaha!! ^_^ nice post, very informative! I like the abaya!

Maryhadalittlehump said...

@ cara: really? i never heard that news.. amazing! i think it's time for them to allow women to drive.. para just in case na may ganun instances again makaka-depend sila sa mga babae, di ba? hindi puro sa lalaki na lang..

Anonymous said...

When I read the question how to survive in Saudi Arabia, I already had preconcieved idea.

Buy a gun.HAHA

And Im right, I cant accept their conservative culture of not going with your brother or your father or any family relative in public except your husband???
Thats humanitarian violations.
Alam nyo in France, these muslims, they please themselves here. The things they cant do in their country, they do in France.BOOZE GIRLS DRUGS Even pork, because I saw some of them in the grocery picking in free hams to munch, haha.

Its a joke.
Anyway, I would go to Saudi when I finish travel the whole world muna, ahihihi.


Maryhadalittlehump said...

@francescainfrance: "I cant accept their conservative culture of not going with your brother or your father or any family relative in public except your husband???" ---> ladies can go out naman with their father, husband and couple friends pero just make sure lang na you always bring your iqama (residence i.d.) with you at walang magiging problema dun, pede din naman makipag socialize patago nga lang, wag lang lantaran.

Anyway i forgot to say walang tourist visa dito e, unless you have relatives here that can sponsor you para makapunta ka dito.

sugarcoated cynic said...

adik...sige na nga sa canada na lang ako pag pinilit talaga ako ng nanay ko. +_+


okay lang sa akin that i can't drive. pero alak....yosi...TOCINO! HINDI..hindi ko kaya yan.


Anonymous said...

lahat nyan meron yan sa saudi......patago nga lng

Jaz - FILkada said...

Great info! Very useful. Will feature in the next issue of the FILkada WEEKLY newsletter! Thanks for all the great content. Keep 'em coming!

midori said...

hi, I really appreciate your blogs.

Anonymous said...

I read ur post on the does & don'ts in ksa it was helpful for newcomers to saudi arabia but I beg to differ with u about the "don't go out with anybody but ur husband" it's untrue to my knowledge there's no law against women going out together and having fun or going out with relatives just the other day in a restaurant I saw a big group of Filipinos celebrating & I wished I can join them
So plz don't scare the ladies .... By the way I really admire ur country and the people they have great family values & traditions which I learned recently and have very well manners that most people here lack
Ps, iam a Saudi girl & if u have any questions feel free to contact me on my email missmarzz60@yahoo

Mumkin Pumpkin said...

Thanks a lot for your articles. I really enjoyed reading it!

OFWNURSE said...


Anonymous said...

can women go out alone? i have a one yr old son and we're planning on moving to riyadh soon,,,can i walk out alone or go shopping alone with my baby?

The Pink Tarha said...

Yes, of course. You can go out alone or with your son. We suggest though that you have your own driver to take you wherever you want to go, or maybe a trusted taxi driver for your errands if your husband is not available.

Good luck on your move to Riyadh! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info,, pde ba mgdala ng medicine like biogesic, neozep, immodium?

The Pink Tarha said...

Yes, you can bring basic medicines like Biogesic, Neozep, and Immodium. :)

Anonymous said...

Magwowork ako as a nurse in Saudi nakapagpamedical na rin ako, yet I want to have a tattoo (not exposed naman)before I leave... is it ok po?

The Pink Tarha said...

Hello! We think that's okay. :) Good luck on your Saudi life! Let us know what happens. Take care! ;)

Jesyl Miranda said...

hello! is it true that we are not allowed to bring Bible?

The Pink Tarha said...

Hi Jesyl, like what we said in the entry above, Saudi Arabia is not permitting any public practice of a religion other than Islam. If they find the bible in your luggage, just in case you are picked to be randomly checked at the customs area, they will confiscate it. But if you want to risk it... it's always your choice. We suggest you use an e-Bible instead.

Anonymous said...

hi, i will be soon be working in ksa this summer of '13. i would like to know if bringing medications like my maintenance for my hypertension is allowed?

The Pink Tarha said...

@Anonymous 5:55AM: Yes. It might be more secure if you have prescriptions for them.

Anonymous said... agency wants to waive my medical me due to scar foumd in my lungs and my husband's due to asthma..will there be a problem after arriving to saudi.baka kc pabalikin kami because of that..thanks

The Pink Tarha said...

@Anonymous 9:28AM: Hello! We're not sure about these procedures. But will you be working here in Saudi Arabia? Most companies/hospitals here will make you get another medical for your iqama (residence permit). Not sure though if they require it for everyone. Better ask the company/hospital you'll be working on. :)


auq n pmnta jan..ignorance to the law d valid reasson jan e noh??..dlikado q jan..hahahah

The Pink Tarha said...

@Putanginamogagukapa: No one is forcing you to come to Saudi Arabia.

yanna llanzana said...

Hi.. im planning to go to jubail.. im a filipina po.. my husband is working there.. is it ok po ba na mgwork dn ako dun? Thanks

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...