There are some things about living abroad that you can never learn from a book or even from checking for facts online.Expat stories are the way to really get to know about expat life. It can take months, years even, to realize how things really work and to understand practices that may appear strange to newcomers or foreigners. I always like to select the funniest ones to share with you guys.
Get ready for some giggles and don’t forget: everything is TRUE!
Fun Fact #1: What’s in a name?
If you live in a Muslim country or get to spend time with Muslims, you may well be aware that the name “Mohammed” is probably the most common name given to Muslim baby boys. In Saudi Arabia, you will meet a lot of boys and men named Mohammed (spelling may vary). This leads to a very common practice here in KSA whereby people trying to get the attention of a male stranger (usually at the shop, the restaurant and other public places) will simply call out “Ya Mohammed”. It doesn’t matter that the man in question might be wearing a name tag, he will often be addressed as Mohammed. Listen for it next time you’re in a food court for instance.
Fun Fact #2: The “shop and stock” technique
OK! I admit, there is no such technique. I just made the name up. But the practice is very real! When you shop in Saudi Arabia, you should get into the habit of stocking up whatever goods you really like. Think wartime stockpiling. It so happens that common goods tend to disappear off the shelves without any warning. You buy your favorite brand of strawberry jam every week for months and then suddenly you don’t find it in the shop that week. Neither the following week. Not even in another shop. You keep looking, you keep hoping… but it’s no good. For reasons unknown, the product will no longer be sold in Saudi Arabia! There you go. No more jam (this is true for almost everything) for you! If you’re a creature of habit or a fussy eater/shopper, this is bound to drive you mad.
Fun Fact #3: Lost in translation
Yes again! So many expats could tell you stories about translation mistakes. Please people with broken English, please, pretty please keep writing signs!
Here is my latest find. Seen in Balad in one of those narrow alley.
Fun Fact #4: Good sense
Like many modern countries, Saudi Arabia is a consumer society… maybe even more so than most countries. Saudi people also have ancestral traditions towards food and serving guests and many travelers are accustomed with “Arab hospitality”. The downside of this is the huge food waste that happens on a daily basis. Finally, a large scale solution is now offered to people visiting the food court of all the Arabian Centers malls such as the Al Salaam Mall or the Haifa Mall. You will now be able to leave your untouched food in one of those “Rescue Fridges”. There are usually more than one in each food court, so next time you don’t finish your food, don’t leave it on the table or throw it in the bin. Instead look for one of those and do something good!
Fun Fact #5: Customer service