Sunday, 15 September 2013

Clicky Expat Groups

"Please Do Not Forward 

The Information In This Email"

We were talking one night about why Saudi expats tend to operate in clicky, almost closed, groups.
It's a question of survival, we decided.
Not the 'poverty line' type of survival.
It's more the 'quality of life' situation.

You see, it is possible to live a fairly normal life in Riyadh if you operate under the radar.  If expats don't draw unnecessary attention to themselves or their activities, official types are often prepared to turn a blind eye to our get together's.  As one official type told me, 'We know you Westerners are different'.

Unfortunately, if you invite the wrong expat along, the kind who thinks disregard for the rules should be thrown in the face of locals and official types alike, well, they just stuff everything up for everybody else.

Officialdom will act if they have to.
The trick is to not make them have to.
Hence the caution exercised when inviting people to join expats in their exploits.

It takes a bit of work to create a 'normal' social life in Saudi.  Expats who have been here for the longer term tend to be hoha (Maori word for annoyed) with selfish fly-by-nighters who don't give a toss about how their inability to Keep Mum affects everybody else.  (I categorize Long Term expats are those who've been here at least 15 - 20 years, and there are quite a few.  Expats married to Saudi's do not fall into the Long Term expat category.  They are in the 'Married to a Saudi' group).

Not all Long Termer's have survived here because they have Saudi friends in high places that can get them, or their mates, out of trouble if needed.  (Granted some do).  No, the secret to their survival has been, and continues to be, being smart about living around the rules and culture in KSA.  And they tend to be careful who they invite into their carefully cultivated circle.

When a short term Whipper Snapper starts attracting attention to him/herself, or the group, they aren't looked on kindly by their fellow expats.  Said Whipper-Snapper may also wonder why invitations to functions and other activities suddenly start to dry up if they don't alter their behavior.

When I first arrived in Riyadh, I thought being part of a clicky expat group was a bit, well, snotty.  I've changed my view, just a bit.  It's nice being part of a social group where life almost feels normal, and if that means that Hubster and I have to keep the details sketchy for a couple of things we are involved in, then so be it.  We are here for a while longer yet (insha'allah), and want to protect our activities from thoughtless types who risk spoiling what we, and our fellow Saudi Expat Socializers, have going.

As an aside, mixed expat groups, the ones I know anyway, tend to be particularly cautious of inviting along Arab men largely because Arab men like to jump on board expat activities and then behave like twats.  As one male friend said, 'It seems to be an Arab bloke thing to be completely sleazy around as many females as possible, but the worst thing is presuming all men want to talk dirty, sexual gutter speak about women'.  He reckons the way a lot of Arab men talk about women is disgusting!  Hubster concurs.

One evening Hubster was invited to a neighbors apartment to watch a game of rugby, and a young Arab man turned up as well.  Hubster had to cut the evening short, with a few carefully selected words, and come home because all the young Arab man wanted to do was talk graphically dirty about his latest female conquest.  It just didn't get through his thick skull that the audience in the lounge was not interested!  (Heads up Arab blokes - if you're having trouble integrating with some of the expat groups out there it's probably 'cause you're a twat!)

Although I sometimes feel a little bit selfish not sharing my clicky expat activities....I get over it fairly quickly.  It doesn't pay to forget where I am.  Life in Riyadh is not (yet) normal.  Flouting the religious rules can land you in deep kaka. The Kingdoms political situation is not stable and has the potential to blow up at any time should conservatives become unhappy with how things are changing.   And Saudi sensibilities are extremely sensitive.  Being smart about which activities I advertise, publicly or privately, is always the best plan and I admit for one such activity it took a call from a fellow Kiwi telling me to pull my head in (in a nice way) to remind me of that.

Ka Kite,

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