The Saudi Arabi government have certainly been changing things for expats over the past two years as a result of their Saudi Vision 2030 plans. However, Princess Reema bint Bandar al Saud believes that the key to enhancing the prosperity of Saudi Arabia following its departure from a reliance on oil to the evoke cultural exchange between Saudi nationals and expats.
More and more foreign investment is occurring in Saudi Arabia and, with this, relationships between Saudi citizens and expats need to be strong. The Princess suggests that Western businesses and their employees should try and engage more with Saudis, despite their occasional reluctance. Societal norms need to change for the Kingdom’s economic success.
The Princess pointed out that the majority of expat workers in Saudi Arabia have a cycle of work, home, work, home – leaving little room for community engagement. However, it was noted that bridges need to be built from both sides.
The Expat Problem
In the Kingdom the vast majority of expat professionals live in gated and guarded compounds, many of which don’t allow entry for Saudi people, even if they are a visiting guest. This dated segregation does little for relations between Saudis and expats. The compounds have their own grocery stores, schools, gyms, restaurants and malls. It essentially means Western expats can move to Saudi Arabia, block out that they are in the Middle East, and continue living as they did back at home. This ignorance to the Saudi way of life comes across as rude and Saudi nationals believe expats should be part of the Kingdom’s culture and everyday way of life.
Living in expat bubbles is a huge issue. The Princess believes that expats isolating themselves from all things Saudi causes toxic relationships with Saudi nationals and dents the countries reputation as a centre for skilled expat professionals and an international business hub.
Whilst the Princess recognises that developments have started to happen she would like to see cultural change blossom at a quicker rate across all sectors.