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Teaching in Saudi Arabia, for females

Few countries in the world today offer such riches and rewards for English teachers as Saudi Arabia. With excellent salary packages and high standards of living, Saudi Arabia, at the heart of the Middle East, offers foreign teachers the ideal opportunity to experience true Arabic culture and Islamic traditions, exploring the large, modern cities, bustling markets and bazaars, rich, glorious coast line or living out amongst the small desert towns, surrounded by miles upon miles of the mystical Sahara desert.

Whilst many new teachers are sold on the rich potential and rewards of Saudi Arabia, many female TEFL teachers can be hesitant, or completetly put off by the idea of teaching in the region, due to laws and attitudes towards women, but that really doesn’t need to be the case.

The female lifestyle in Saudi Arabia

All foreign teachers, no matter what their background, beliefs or history, will be expected to respect and comply with local laws and customs in Saudi Arabia. All female teachers in Saudi Arabia are expected to not only be aware of the customs, but to incorporate them into their daily routines, with very few exceptions. However, while Saudi Arabia can be a very male dominated society, it is also a very safe one for females living here, and communities are built upon strong bonds of interdependence, and ultimately respect between the sexes.

Challenges will include not being allowed to drive, or even ride a bike, and it is generally not acceptable for women to talk to men in public. All women, foreign and national, are expected to use a guardian when mediating. Whilst this may seem very alien to new expatriates, a guardian is someone who not only mediates ideas and conversation, but who traditionally offers help, advice and support, especially with regards to travel, education and employment.

Female teacher housing in Saudi Arabia

Most foreign English teachers in Saudi Arabia will be provide with housing, and expected to reside in a group compound. Benefits to this will usually include lots of shopping and entertainment options, as well as all travel provided. In such compounds foreign teachers are usually not required to use or need a guardian. Compounds are typically very comfortable, if not luxurious, with all the finest facilities one could expect back home, and more, including gyms, pools, saunas and lots of tech, communication and sports facilities. Within these compounds foreign teachers will have excellent opportunities to socialize with fellow westerners, living more closely to their native customs. Though outside these compounds female teachers will be expected to live wholly by local laws and expectation, they are given far more freedom and liberation within the large living complexes.

Cultural Traditions for female teachers in Saudi Arabia

Among the social laws and expectation for foreign teachers in Saudi Arabia, all women are required to wear an abaya; a loose over-garment which covers the head and length of the body, occasionally also covering the face (the look and style of the abaya depends on the region). Social segregation is also very important, and many shops, restaurants, cafes and other social locations will have designated areas for women. Education centres are also either all female and all male, with female teachers only being allowed to teach female students, and male students only taught by male teachers.

Other things to consider

Alcohol is prohibited, as is the public exhibition of films, so don’t expect to find any cinemas, bars or clubs. However shopping is a popular past-time and Saudi Arabia is filled with modern malls and concept shopping centres, rivalling any western city for it’s quality and standards of shopping emporiums, although it should be noted that women are forbidden from changing in public buildings, so you won’t find any changing rooms within stores.

While some of the rules and expectations may seem difficult to live by from a distance, few female TEFL teachers fail to adapt to Saudi life, with most finding a country beautifully rich with religion and family orientated life. Those looking for a taste of western culture often make trips crossing the border into Bahrain, which is far more tolerant and relaxed regarding foreign cultures, with bars, clubs and lots of opportunity for socializing, making it popular with Westerner expats.

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8 thoughts on “Teaching in Saudi Arabia, for females

  1. Brenda Sharafi says:

    Anyone , have you worked in Riyadh at
    Princess Nouri University? Please share out.

    Miss S

    • Natalie Murray says:

      Hi Brenda,

      I have just been accepted for a position at Princess Noura University through the Saudi British Centre. It is a very nice campus. I am not there yet, but my contacts who are say it is a great campus with great students, and employees are well-treated. Look it up and make sure you find a reputable recruiter or go through a TEFL school. You may want to also look into the Saudi British Centre as well. Some reviews online are bad, but I have done my own research and established contacts, I am confident thus far. I went through Oxford Seminars, which I highly recommend.



      • Jennifer Beels says:

        I have also been accepted as an English Teacher at Princess Noura through SBC but will be living in a married compound with my husband (he also has a position teaching English. I haven’t been able to find out a great deal of information about life in Saudi on these compounds or teaching generally.

      • Fredericka says:

        I have also been accepted to the Princess Noor University with SBC and will leave for Riyadh in August. I am excited about this professional move and would love to connect with any one there already or going there and I am also curious about the accommodations and where and how we will be living. Thank you

      • Vicki R says:

        I would love to hear more from the teachers who were hired through the Saudi British Centre. I have received an offer from them, but have read such horrible reviews online. I too went to Oxford for my certification. I would be very interested in exchanging emails with anyone there.

    • Karen SueJoy says:

      I’m interested to hear from Natalie, Jennifer, Vicky, Fredericks, etc. who’d just posted in July re Princess Noura and SBC. Wondering what they think of it now? I ask because I was also offered a job there and have experienced terrific failures of communication and lack of full disclosure about the terms of the contract with SBC and there people. Also I have heard from many female expat teachers there who aren’t very happy in KSA, everything from the female students at PNU not being very appreciative or supportive to the extreme boredom, etc. So I’d love to get her read on things now. And who knows, maybe I will get there sometime!
      Best, Karen

  2. Kate Rose says:

    Hello, No I haven’t, but I’ve just been offered a job there… so if anyone out there does know anything, yes, please share! Thanks, Kate

  3. Kelli Bird says:

    Hi everyone!
    I have just recently completed CELTA (June 2014) and I am looking for my forst job in teaching ESL. i really want to find a job in Saudi, but I’m not having any luck because everywhere I look they are asking for degree and masters…which I don’t have. It’s really disheartening me because I feel like my whole CELTA training has been a waste of time and money, if I cant even get a job with it! If someone could please give me some advice I would really appreciate it. Maybe someone is already working there and can help me out?

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