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Family Life and Childcare for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: October 2014

Family Life

Family is considered an extremely important foundation to society in Saudi Arabia. A typical family unit consists of grandparents, parents, children and siblings. Traditionally the head of the family is the father; he is the main breadwinner and covers the families’ financial needs while the mother looks after the home and children. This has begun to change in recent years, with many women choosing to have their own careers. For cultural reasons, men and women normally have separate living areas. Therefore, when invited to a local family home, you may not see the women at all during the visit.

If you are new to Saudi Arabia, you may find the way of life differs from that of your home country. For example, in Saudi Arabia, men have the right to have up to four wives, although this is not common practice any more. A female cannot hug or kiss any man apart from her husband and her sons. A man should not shake hands, or even talk to a Saudi Arabian woman in public. Saudi Arabian nationals are required to follow a strict dress code, and while expatriates may have some leeway, this does not include public areas.

It is recommended that you should try to obey all the laws in Saudi Arabia as you may unintentionally commit an offence, resulting in unexpected punishment and even prosecution. Unlike other Middle Eastern countries where people are becoming more tolerant to expats' cultural differences, Saudi Arabia is famous for its strict rules. It would be beneficial to learn a little about Muslim traditions to avoid offending people.

 

Childcare

If you are moving to Saudi Arabia with your children, you may want to find a carer. You can find carers in all major cities and towns in Saudi Arabia, such as Riyadh and Jeddah. There will be less choice in smaller towns but it can depend on the number of expats living locally.

There are plenty of private schools and international schools for expats' children in Saudi Arabia. Many international schools following the curricula of other countries, such as those in Britain and the USA. The general age of admittance is three, though many schools provide services for younger infants. If you are working for a company with more than 50 female employees, your company is legally obliged to provide childcare services during working hours.

All day care services and nurseries are private businesses, therefore admission fees and tuition fees are payable, with fees varying from around R10,000 to R500,000 per year.  You can find fee information on company websites or by contacting them in person. Expat websites can be a useful source of information, for example you can find a list of nurseries and international schools in Saudi Arabia and price advice here: https://www.expatwoman.com/saudiarabia/monthly_ksa_education_Nurseries_11658.aspx.

Before choosing a school or nursery it is best to check if the business is licensed and whether the premises are safe and clean. Employers often include education costs in the employment package and will be able to offer assistance with enrolment procedures, while some companies can get a discount with certain schools.

You may want to hire a babysitter, a nanny or a child-minder. However, this is not common in Saudi Arabia. People normally employ housemaids and might ask the housemaids to look after their children.  However, this involves high levels of trust. For more information about hiring a maid, you can read here: https://saudiarabia.angloinfo.com/working/employment/employing-domestic-help/.

 

 

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