People who haven’t been to Saudi Arabia often imagine it as a sun-parched, desert landscape with sand dunes and cacti all around. And while the country does have stunning deserts, it also has modern cities thriving with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and business districts.
For several decades now, this oil-rich Kingdom has transformed into a modern hub, attracting businesses, investors, and workers from all over the world. There are currently millions of expats, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who are living and working in Saudi Arabia.
Reasons Why Many Pinoys Live and Work in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is known as an Islamic country, with many Muslims coming to the holy cities of Mecca and Madina for their pilgrimage. The Kingdom follows the Sharia Law, which prohibits the consumption of pork and alcohol, and prescribes a modest dress code for everyone.
Despite being a “conservative” country, many people decide to live and work in Saudi Arabia. Engineers, accountants, doctors, teachers, and skilled workers from all walks of life — from many different countries, including the Philippines — come here mainly because of the following reasons:
#1. Higher Earnings and Tax-Free Salaries
Most foreign workers earn higher salaries in Saudi Arabia than in their home countries. What’s more, their salaries are tax-free! That’s right! This means that you will receive your salary in full, enabling you to allocate more money for savings and investments, as well as for sending remittances back home.
#2. Housing and Transportation Benefits
Most companies in Saudi Arabia provide housing and transportation benefits to their employees. These accommodations often come with complete amenities, like fitness gyms, swimming pools, and recreational areas. You don’t have to worry about spending your money on housing!
Meanwhile, expats who prefer to live outside company-provided housing can opt for a housing and transportation allowance instead.
#3. Health Insurance
Medical insurance is a must when working abroad. You never know when you will get sick or encounter a health emergency. Fortunately, the Saudi Labor Law requires employers to provide health insurance for their workers. This benefit may also be used for annual check-ups, so you can rest assured that your health is well taken care of, and your loved ones back home need not worry.
#4. Career Opportunities
As mentioned earlier, workers from different parts of the world come to Saudi Arabia because of the many career opportunities it offers. Whether you’re a doctor, engineer, teacher, salesperson, or skilled worker, there’s a place for you here! What’s more, you can make friends with people of different nationalities — a unique working experience, indeed!
#5. Pleasant Weather
During summer season in Saudi Arabia, it can get really hot outside, so it’s best to stay indoors! For the rest of the year, however, the weather is generally pleasant and cool, so you can go swimming at the beach, play outdoor sports, or simply enjoy the fresh air!
#6. Low Cost of Living
Compared to other overseas destinations, the cost of living in Saudi Arabia is low since most basic commodities are subsidized by the government. The prices of electricity, water, and even gasoline may have increased recently, but these are still lower compared to other countries where foreign workers usually go.
Despite the low cost of living in Saudi Arabia, the standard of living is actually high. Many expats can afford to hire the services of maids, drivers, and gardeners. Having these services is especially useful if your family lives with you, so you can focus on your work or business!
#7. Bigger Savings
Being a Muslim country, discos and bars serving alcohol are not allowed in the Kingdom. Still, there are a number of places for leisure and entertainment, like shopping malls, cinemas, and concert halls, although these are quite limited compared to those in other countries.
That being said, limited entertainment options means you can devote your time (and money) on other interests, such as sports, education, and hobbies (e.g. cooking, gardening, arts, music, etc.). In other words, you end up with bigger savings for you and your family!
#8. Travel Opportunities
Saudi Arabia is strategically located near popular travel destinations. The capital, Riyadh, is also just a two-hour flight away from Dubai International Airport, which is connected to many destinations around the world, including countries in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia.
As for domestic travel, the Kingdom offers plenty of exciting destinations, such as: Madain Saleh, an ancient city; Najran, a tourist-friendly city near the Yemeni border; Farasan Islands, a popular diving destination; Al Soudah, which features the Asir National Park; Taif, a mountain city; and the Edge of the World, which offers some of the world’s most spectacular views!
#9. Shopping Destinations
These days, more and more shopping malls are being opened in Saudi Arabia, featuring local and international brands in fashion, electronics, home furnishings, and other products. At the same time, there are numerous traditional markets or “souks” offering textiles, perfumes, spices, and other great finds! Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs while you’re here!
#10. Culture and Food
Of course, living in another country is a great way to experience a different culture. Once you arrive in Saudi Arabia, you will be amazed by the mix of traditional and modern activities, not to mention historic forts, breathtaking landscapes, and delicious food!
Speaking of food, you should definitely try authentic Saudi cuisine, including: kabsa, a rice dish with chicken, lamb, or fish; harees, a meal that combines coarse wheat and meat; hininy, a traditional dish consisting of brown bread, water, and dates; ma’amoul, cookies filled with pistachios, walnuts, and dates; martabak, a stuffed and fried pancake; and of course, shawarma!
Wash all of these down with a cup (or two) of coffee made from Arabica coffee beans, and you’re good to go!
Tax-free salaries, career opportunities, delicious food, and a unique, cultural experience — these are just some of the reasons why many expats, including OFWs, decide to live and work in Saudi Arabia. If you are a newcomer, or thinking about moving here for work, check out this Saudi Arabia guide for first-time visitors and learn more about this amazing country!