AstroLabs works with businesses around the world to expand their operations in Saudi Arabia helping them with their company setup process, offering a soft-landing office space, and helping them with local and global talent acquisition. One of the primary factors of expanding business operations in the Kingdom is the relocation of the staff. We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for our clients and their employees.
Therefore, in Episode 10 of Saudi Market Entry Series, we invited the CEO of Intouch Relocations, Sébastian Besson, to walk our clients through the different aspects of life in KSA including finding the right home, schooling, transportation, and lifestyle. This episode was co-hosted by AstroLabs’ Business Development Leads, Alex Nicholls and Daniel Bateman.
Here’s the recap of the discussion.
Introduction to Intouch Relocations
Intouch Relocations have been delivering relocation services assistance to small and large corporations and their teams and families across Middle East and Africa for the past 23 years, and in Saudi Arabia since 2010. The company is MENA’s largest relocation services provider and consists of a team of 140 employees spread across Middle East and Africa. In Saudi Arabia, Intouch Relocations have their teams in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Eastern Province.
What to expect when relocating to Saudi Arabia? Let’s walk you through what life in KSA looks like with respect to the following:
· Culture and Lifestyle
Before that, let’s take a look at some of the challenges when relocating to KSA.
· Finding availability of accommodation is challenging and will get more difficult as the demand is growing
· Landlords/compounds are not very open to negotiations
· Peak-hour traffic can be an issue, especially along the highways connecting the outer neighborhoods to the city
· No reputable real estate agents in Riyadh area
· Arabic is the preferred language of communication
· No general listing
· Tenanted properties may have limited access and timings for viewings
There are various housing options in KSA for an expat. The most common is the traditional Compound life. Compounds are independent holiday villages that are managed and maintained by foreign companies. Every compound has a compound manager. Compounds offer apartments, villas, and temporary accommodation, though finding temporary accommodation in a compound is a bit challenging.
Important features of housing in KSA
· Quick TAT, lease can start within 7-10 days
· Yearly lease
· Properties are mostly fully furnished
· Iqama required (Some compounds make exceptions and accept employment letter)
· Most payments are made via bank transfer
KSA has a great schooling system in place with high standards and quality comparable with the western schooling system and education. When moving into the Kingdom, the first step should be to check schools and the availability of seats in them.
Due to the pandemic, schools in Saudi Arabia are operating 100% remotely until the end of this academic year while the decision to continue remote learning for the academic year 2021-22 is under debate.
Here’s what you should know about the current schooling system in the Kingdom. Some of these may be applicable only during the period of the pandemic.
· Most curriculums available
· School year starts in September for most schools
· No school visit possible now due to Covid
· Gender segregated except for American and British schools
· Admissions are done through online application systems
Driving and Transport
Driving in Saudi Arabia can be a bit challenging for a new comer mainly due to the cultural differences, heavy traffic, and speed. The Riyadh Metro is under construction and will be a game changer once the operations begin. Taxis and Ubers are commonly used in the Kingdom as well.
Culture and Lifestyle
Saudi Arabia has become less conservative over the past few years but it still has a different culture from other GCC countries. Here are the major cultural factors you should bear in mind when relocating.
· Gender interaction – Be mindful when interacting with opposite genders, gender segregation is a common cultural practice
· Dress code – Covering up for women is not mandatory but recommended as gesture of respect for local culture
· Driving – Women are allowed to drive since the ban on women drivers was lifted in June 2019
· Alcohol and pork products are prohibited
· Practice of worship and religion has great cultural significance
· Holy month of Ramadan has special religious, cultural, and social importance
· Family values run deep in the culture and elders are respected
The population in cities, especially in big cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, are more tolerant and welcoming. As a Muslim-governed country, there are quite a few cultural do’s and don’ts that an expat should be aware of before moving to the Kingdom. We highly recommend that your team undergo a cross-cultural training to understand the culture of Saudi Arabia and encourage you to select only those team members for your Saudi entity who are willing to accept these cultural differences.
KSA in Covid times
Vaccination drive is underway and going strong in the Kingdom with over 8.1 Million vaccinated from the total population of 35 Million. Life is normal in Saudi Arabia except for a few rules, which are:
· Wearing masks
· Temperature control in restaurants, malls, etc.
· Borders closed until May 17th 2021
· Schools 100% remote
· Social distancing
That’s all from us about how to make your relocation to KSA a hassle-free experience. If you have any questions for Intouch Relocations, write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org and for questions related to expanding your business to the Kingdom, you can write to us AstroLabs at email@example.com.
You can find the recaps of all the episodes of our Saudi Market Entry Series here.