Interview with Terri Lundberg - an American living in Saudi Arabia

Terri Lundberg isn't afraid to tell you how it is. Though the notorious restrictive society of the KSA rubs her the wrong way now and again, she lives a good life and takes a moment out of her social schedule to tell Expat Arrivals about her expat experience in Saudi Arabia. To read more, access her blog, "Black Chick in Saudi Arabia".

Read more expat experiences of Saudi Arabia, and see the full Saudi Arabia expat guide

About you

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I'm originally from San Diego, California. I spent 10 years living in Seattle, Washington right before I moved to Saudi Arabia.

Q: Where are you living now?
A:  Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Q: How long you have you lived here?
A:  1.5 years

Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A:  I moved to Saudi Arabia with my husband. 

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A:  I moved here to support my husband. I had what some would label as a "good job" but it wasn't anything I had any real feelings for so I quit and I'm here being a housewife. I write, travel, and study photography.

About Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Q: What do you enjoy most about Saudi Arabia, how’s the quality of life as an American in Saudi?
A:  I have a good quality of life.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A:  There are negatives. I hate the abaya; it's too hot to be wearing that black all encompassing tent of a thing. I miss being able to drive out on my own and just think. I miss the familiarity of the shops, and I especially miss the quality of food, stores in which you know 99.9% of what's in there is good stuff (i.e. organic, etc.). I also miss the anonymity of living in a big city.

Q: Is Dhahran safe?
A:  I feel safe from violence, but riding on the roads, that's another matter. I have a greater chance of dying on the highway than from violence directed towards me.

About living here

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Saudi Arabia as an expat?
A:  I think living in the Eastern province is the best. I've heard it's a little bit more relaxed than the rest of the country and it's close to Bahrain. 

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Saudi Arabia?
A:  My accommodation isn’t bad at all. I live on an expat compound that looks pretty much like any neighborhood in California.

Q: What’s the cost of living in Saudi Arabia compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A:  My cost of living has decreased by over 50%. Gas is way inexpensive. It takes us less than $5.00 to fill up our car (a rental Toyota Yaris).

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A:  I know only a few Saudis - I mostly hangout with them when they're hanging out with the expats. The one's I know are nice, friendly, cool people to hang with, and like to have just as much fun as us.  

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A:  It was both easy and hard. Some people are welcomed into the community more than others. But, I'm a social butterfly, so I think it was easy once I started to meet people, because I like to hang out, party, and have fun.

About working in Saudi Arabia

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A:  No. 

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A:  The company my husband is employed with arranged everything, it was pretty much effortless.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A:  Not that I noticed.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Saudi Arabia?
A:  I still see my dentist and my doctor in the states. However, I’ve had to go into the clinic on Aramco for a few minor issues and the service and care I received was excellent.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A:  Accept your feelings both good and bad; moving to a new culture is an adjustment. As soon as possible, get out of your house and meet people.  Meet people with whom you have similar things in common versus "friends of convenience". Develop a routine, try to continue to do the things you like to do. And, if you've come as a trailing spouse, use this time to rediscover yourself, learn new things. This was a big thing for me since I've spent the last 20+ years working, I didn't know how to "not work".  It took a while to get used to having my time as my own.  Now, I never want to go back to work.  Would I like to get paid doing what I love?  Yes.  Do I want to take a job just for something to do, or to earn needed money? No.

~ interviewed May 2010

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