This is probably going to be a bit of a fractured post, but there was a bunch of stuff I wasn’t sure about before I came and for the life of me I could not find the answer to anywhere on the internet. Since my arrival a few weeks ago now I’ve learnt the answer to a lot of those questions so I’m going to put them on here in case it helps anyone else. Apologies if it’s a bit all over the place!
Tattoos at KAUST.
I’m heavily tattooed and I was concerned this was going to be a big deal over here being that Saudi is a fairly conservative country. I didn’t need to be worried and therefore neither do you! Obviously this is somewhat dependent on what you are actually tattooed with, if you have offensive, or rude tattoo’s then it’s not going to go down well (and nor should it – you’re an idiot for getting something branded on you that specifically causes other people upset). Also if you have any religious tattoos I’m not sure how they will be received – or if you have naked ladies (or men) tattooed on you – considering the moral standing of the Kingdom this may not go down well either. I have none of the above so I can’t really be any help there but for me, it’s not been a problem at all.
In the office you will be expected to keep them covered which is in-line with most UK business guidelines to be honest so it didn’t come as a surprise to me. At the beach you are free to wear bikinis/swimwear no problem – it’s a heavily westernized area in general so tattoo’s don’t get a second glance. The pools you are required to wear a one-piece costume but again, tattoo’s weren’t an issue. Day to day dress as long as you wear a top that covers your shoulders, a skirt/pants of a decent length you don’t need to worry about tattoo’s being on display. Outside of the complex I imagine tattoo’s are a bit of a bigger deal but as a female you will be wearing your abaya anyway so your tattoo’s will automatically be covered up. If you are a man with sleeves, or visible tattoo’s I just suggest you wear long sleeved shirts when out and about to avoid causing unnecessary offense or drawing attention to yourself.
Netflix at KAUST.
You can get Netflix at KAUST! This was such a massive deal for me and I couldn’t find the answer ANYWHERE. So fear not, you needn’t be without binge Netflix sessions. Netflix (minus the chill) is ON.
Plug sockets at KAUST.
I told you this was going to be a bit all over the place. Plus sockets in the houses are the two-pin European socket so bring plenty of adaptors in your suitcase. In the offices they have both English and European sockets.
What clothes to bring.
Because I wasn’t sure about the tattoo situation, I only brought heavy long sleeved tops and pants with me. I do need these for work and such but for outside of work it’s far too hot to wear these out and about. I advise bringing lightweight, baggy tops, lighter colours will obviously help keep you a little cooler than darker but let’s face it – no matter what you wear you’re going to be incredibly hot, and baggy jersey pants. On a weekend I wear harem pants, jersey peg pants (ASOS sell some really nice, lightweight pairs of both of these) and ¾ length sleeve H&M tops. The most important thing is how lightweight the fabric is (of course without being sheer). You will need some head scarves for when you go into Jeddah as well as your abaya, and I do wear one on campus sometimes to try and keep the sun off my hair. Bring a swimsuit for the pools and your gym stuff, and a bikini for the beach. You’ll need office clothes suitable for work (nothing short, sheer or tight) as well as office shoes. You will also need some sunglasses, flip flops, sandals, etc. It can be a while before your air shipment arrives (and an even longer while until your sea one does) so pack with this in mind. Having said all of that – anything you do find you desperately need when you are here you can buy in Jeddah.
Get a prayer time app. None of the shops or restaurants etc on site close for prayers, but they do outside of Campus. Always worth being prepared.
ASOS and House of Fraser both ship to Saudi. Amazon will ship some stuff but they do have a list of items that they will not send here (for example pet supplies). Lush cosmetics also ship here. I imagine there are many other websites that will ship here so feel free to tell me about them and I will add them to the list.
We weren’t sure if we would be able to bring perfume into the kingdom with us as a lot of it contains alcohol. I believe its fine to bring in your luggage, I’m not so sure about your shipment so check with your shipping provider.
All houses here are set up with wifi capability however a router is not provided, so bring an Ethernet router with you. You can buy them here but it’s easier to just bring one with you.
When you arrive you will be allocated a house (this will be discussed with you beforehand). How big the house is is dependent on the size of your family -so for Paul and I we were automatically assigned a two-bed house which would be the same if you had one kid. If you have two kids you will get a three bed house and so on. If you are coming as a single person you can chose to move into a shared house with other singles and your accommodation will be free. For the others there is a relatively low rental cost which will come out of your wage on a monthly basis. So for our home we pay approximately $14,000 per year which equates to about 750-800 pounds per month. This cost covers everything in your house, energy bills, water bills, internet, front garden maintenance. You will only pay extra for your phone bill (I’m not sure what the payment plan is for your house phone but I will try to find out), for back garden maintenance if required – I believe this costs 19 SAR per gardener per hour which is approximately 4 quid, and the same for housekeeping.
That’s all I can think of for now, let me know if there is anything else you can’t find the answer to and I will do my very best to help!