Saturday, 22 October 2011

Working in Saudi Arabia Is Different

Working in Saudi Arabia is different.

Hubby often has 'discussions' with head office in Dubai about how they need to manage their expectations when it comes to getting things done in Saudi.  They're catch cry "What's so different about Saudi Arabia," really shows their ignorance.
Head Honchos pop over for visits now and then  and expect to be treated like royalty - driven around and entertained for the half day they may be here.   Fairly obviously they don't pay attention to what's going on around them because after these visits they continue to spout that Saudi is no different to any other place.

Perhaps they see Saudi as a modern country, and I must admit at night the place goes through a metamophosis and looks beautiful and sparkly.   Such transformation must be supported by, and encourage, up-to-date processes, systems and forward thinking. 

Well, maybe some of the locals are that way inclined, but if the Head Honchos lived here they'd soon learn, generally speaking, what a mushkilla that idea is!  If they lived and worked here they'd go through the KSA Expat Transformation.

It's interesting to watch western expat newbies (those in Riyadh anyway) a few weeks after arriving all bushy tailed and rosy cheeked in anticipation of great things, stumbling around in disbelief at how inefficient, slow and somewhat backward many of the processes are here.  And how totally averse to change many company's (or at least the staff within them) seem.

Of course, no matter how many times you tell a non-resident what to expect in most of the work environments in this country, they don't believe you.

The well qualified Newby, because the majority of westerners who come here are professionals in their fields, must learn how to massage Saudi ego's (ok, I admit ego tripping isn't unique to Saudi workplaces - Head Honcho's everywhere have huge as egos), step aside for saudi wasta a.k.a favouritism but more likely nepotism.  (Hmmm...I have to admit we Maori's are a bit that way inclined too) and ignore Saudi clock in and clock out times a.k.a shortened work days or long lunches...every day. (We have MDO's (Maori Days Off) - but not every day.)

Dubai Head Honcho's (actually, any HH's) need to experience for themselves the prevalent Saudi attitude to work (Huh!) the Saudi attitude to change for improvement (Yes, of course....but you'll turn blue holding your breath), the Saudi way of getting things done (Pass it to me so I can pass it to him and he can pass it on....and the next guy is not responsible and has no idea who is), Saudi attitude to punctuality (insha'allah a.k.a maybe), and the Saudi attitude to most non-Saudi (pffff!). 

Eventually, just like most expats who currently work here,  Dubai Head Honcho survival in KSA will be dependant on them acknowledging, and being happy, that their own highly developed work ethic and concept of quality contribution (I'm not dreaming.  Such Head Honcho's actually exist!  Why else do they think they deserve to be pampered when they turn up?)  will most likely result in them doing most of the work themselves, probably for less pay than the Saudi guy in the office next door who must have got his qualifications out of a WeetBix box cos he knows squat diddly and whose role is....undefined.
Yes, it would be interesting watching the high expectations and 'Come on, get to work people' whip cracking demands of Dubai Head Honcho being replaced with disbelief at how things function around here. Disbelief followed by fact those two emotions are quite closely intertwined for the working newby expat in Saudi Arabia. 

Old hand advice for newbies goes something like this:  Just chill.  Slow down.  Get used to the rythm of the place.  And learn the word insha'alla (God willing) so well it rolls off your tongue at any given moment.

We know a few newby's who arrived here from NZ a few short weeks back.  Their orientation exercise back in the home country lacked a few Saudi truths.  They are learning them very quickly.  (Hang in their ladies, it'll come right).

They are trying to explain to the bosses back home just what working here is like.  I get the feeling their bosses think they're exaggerating.  Most bosses with no real experience of Saudi think that.  (Fly in and Fly out days do not constitute real experience).

Hubby's Head Honchos in Dubai think that explanations of Saudi systems are excuses for dragging heels and they like to tell him so.  He likes to call them names, usually starting with F  - at least that's what he calls them when he's talking to me.

Of course none of the Dubai heads want to actually move here.  No way!  Life in Saudi Arabia is far too different.

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