Most accommodation is in urban or suburban areas; the desert is for camels and the Bedouin. Most visitors are pleasantly surprised when they see the cities of Saudi Arabia for the first time, their modern architecture co-existing with traditional houses and ancient wind-towers. New buildings are often spectacular, as oil has provided the money for the best architects, builders and materials. Indeed, there’s competition between developers, who tend to be wealthy merchant families, to build the most impressive structure.
Many construction projects are under way and, when you’re choosing accommodation, you should check whether further construction is planned on surrounding land, as the resulting noise, dust and general inconvenience can be intrusive, sometimes for 24 hours per day. Although programmes are continuing, however, fewer lower priced properties are being constructed, as the demand for unskilled workers in the region is declining.
Relocation consultants are most frequently used by multi-national companies and larger institutions moving into the region.
Some consultants provide practical and cultural help to those new to the region. Culture shock is a real condition that affects many people unused to being outside their home country or culture. It can badly affect you in both your working and your family life.
Companies already operating in Saudi Arabia don’t usually require the services of consultants. (In a region whose workforce is largely foreign and transient, many companies and workers have long experience of moving and setting up in a new location.) However, employers are generally aware of the danger of culture shock and are ready to help when required.
The sensible newcomer spends the first few weeks of his contract settling in alone and doesn’t commit his family to a move to Saudi Arabia until he has obtained all the necessary permits, has completed his probationary period, if any, and is able to judge whether he’s going to enjoy the working and living conditions and whether his job is all that was promised. Note, however, that it can take three months or so to acclimatise to life in Saudi Arabia, where it’s normal to feel somewhat disorientated for the first few weeks.