Q&A with Diann Tanser on living and working in Saudi Arabia

From growing up in the UK to working in Saudi Arabia for 7 years, our Consultant Diann Tanser brings an insightful take on culture and assumptions.

From growing up in the UK to working in Saudi Arabia for 7 years, our Consultant Diann Tanser brings an insightful take on culture and assumptions.

What led you to take a job in Saudi Arabia? How did you feel about it at the time? 

I was offered a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, and while I had never lived or worked in the Middle East before, I was excited to experience a new culture first-hand.

Can you tell me about your experience living and working in Saudi Arabia? Did you encounter any cultural differences or challenges?

One of the first challenges I encountered was that women were not allowed to drive at that time. However, it’s important to note that this has since changed, and women are now permitted to drive. While this policy was in place, I found that being driven around had its benefits, as I was able to use my time productively and arrive at my destination stress-free. When the country allowed women to drive, I was one of the women first in line, and I quickly learned that driving in Saudi Arabia required a certain level of confidence and assertiveness, unlike my previous experiences.

Saudi Arabia is a unique blend of Islamic traditions, Arabic culture, and Bedouin heritage. One of the most striking things about the culture is the importance of family. It is deeply ingrained in daily life, and there is a strong emphasis on respecting elders and maintaining close relationships with relatives. I was impressed by the support network that families had for each other and tried to learn from it. Hospitality is also highly valued, and people are generally welcoming and will often invite you to share a meal with them in their homes.

Would you recommend working in Saudi Arabia to others? Why or why not? 

Despite the challenges, I would still recommend working in Saudi Arabia. The country has stunning natural beauty, with amazing sites like Diriyah, Al Ula, Madain Saleh, and countless other breathtaking spots to explore. Moreover, the country’s economy is growing rapidly, offering many opportunities for personal and professional growth. Overall, my time in Saudi Arabia allowed me to develop in many ways, and I am grateful for the experience.