Official Name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Geography: World’s 14th largest country: slightly more than one-fifth the size of the U.S.
Population: 26,131,703 (July 2011 est.) *country comparison to the world: 46
Language: Arabic (official)
Capital City: Riyadh
Climate: Harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
Currency: Saudi riyal (SAR) * 1 Saudi Riyal = 0.26659 U.S. dollars (March 2011)
Differences in Saudi University
- When students start at the university, they get their schedules automatically, so all they have to do is go to the registrar’s office and get their schedules. This is will happen every semester.
- If the student fails a class, the same class will be added to his or her schedule the next semester. The students will meet with the department head or the dean in cases where there is some discrimination against the student.
- All students, depending on their majors, will have degree plans from the first day, and they will know which classes will be in their schedules. If students want to add or drop a class, they must go to the registrar’s office.
Saudi Society and Culture
- The family and tribe are the basis of the social structure.
- As seen in their naming conventions, Saudis are cognizant of their heritage, their clans, and their extended families.
- Saudis take their responsibilities to their family quite seriously.
- Families tend to be large, and the extended family is quite close.
- The individual derives a social network and assistance in times of need from the family.
- Nepotism is considered a good thing. Employing people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.
- Islam is practiced by all Saudis and governs their personal, political, economic, and legal lives. Islam originated in Saudi Arabia and, thus, is visited by millions of Muslims every year. The Prophet Muhammad is seen as the last of God’s emissaries (following in the footsteps of Jesus, Moses, and Abraham) to bring revelation to mankind. He was distinguished with bringing a message for the whole of mankind, rather than just to certain peoples. As Moses brought the Torah and Jesus the Gospels, Muhammad brought the last book, the Quran. The Quran and the actions of the Prophet (the Sunnah) are used as the basis for all guidance in the religion.
- Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day: at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. The exact time is listed in the local newspaper each day.
- Friday is the Muslim holy day. Everything is closed. Many companies also close on Thursday, making the weekend Thursday and Friday.
- During the holy month of Ramadan, all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Expatriates are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public. Each night at sunset, families and friends gather together to celebrate the breaking of the fast (iftar). The festivities often continue well into the night. In general, things happen more slowly during Ramadan. Many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Shops may be open and closed at unusual times.
Saudi Etiquette and Customs
- Men shake hands. Good friends may greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on each cheek.
- Women generally hug and kiss close friends.
- Men and women do not greet each other in public if they are from outside the family.
- When Saudis greet each other, they take their time and converse about general things.
Gift Giving Etiquette
- Gifts are not the norm like in many other countries.
- If you are invited to a Saudi’s house, bring something small as a thank you gift.
- Flowers do not make good gifts from a man, although a woman could give flowers to her hostess.
- Never give alcohol unless you are positive they partake.
- Gifts are not opened when received.