Photo Credit: Amanda Wright
The Black Expat In Saudi Arabia: "I Feel Safer Here As A Black Woman Than I Do In The States"
Amanda Wright is a Tuskegee native and Howard University alumna. In 2021, the 38-year-old relocated from Atlanta to South Korea. Though her original desire was to move to the Middle East, she did not have much teaching experience at the time. Thus, it was easier for her to secure a job in South Korea.
“I was offered a job in Thailand as well but ultimately decided on South Korea because the pay was higher, and they also paid for housing, unlike Thailand,” says Amanada.
Despite not being her first choice, Amanda made the move to Korea. But within weeks of her moving there, she knew she did not wish to remain there very long.
“The pay is not as high as the Middle East and for me, it was a difficult adjustment and underwhelming. Also, I felt like at times it was a bit xenophobic and prejudiced toward non-Koreans. I also struggled with the work-life balance in Korea, as it was quite toxic, in my opinion. It might actually be worse than in the States.”
Her work contract in Korea would soon be ending, so, knowing that she really wanted to move to the Middle East, Amanda began to apply for jobs around the region.
“I applied for jobs in multiple countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. I was offered three jobs: two in Kuwait and one in Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, I decided to go with Saudi Arabia as the country has so much mystery and has always appealed to me.”
After 14 months in Korea, Amanda packed her bags and left for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where she has now been for several weeks working as a first grade teacher at an international school.
One of the things she loves the most about living there is that she feels extremely safe. The people are friendly and hospitable, especially the women. Amanda also appreciates the country’s proximity to the other nations in the region, which will make it easier for her to quickly reach them and explore what they have to offer.
“It is only an hour and a half from other Middle Eastern countries and close to a lot of European countries. I am treated very well here as a Black American woman. Surprisingly, there were no culture shocks. I had been doing a lot of research on Saudi Arabia for some time now, so it is what I expected.”
However, Amanda experienced a lot of negative reactions when talking to others about her plan to move to Saudi Arabia. These responses were based on some of the common misconceptions held by people who have never visited the country.
“The first one is that they are racists. Let’s be clear; Saudi Arabia has over 30% Afro-Saudis and there are so many people of color from Africa that live here. It is very diverse and that was a surprise to me as I was not expecting there to be so many people from all over the world, particularly other Arab countries, and Asian and African countries.”
“I am treated very well here as a Black woman. The Saudi women themselves make you feel very welcome, and they love Americans. I feel safer here as a Black woman than I do in the States. I never have to worry about being cat called, grabbed at, or called derogatory names here. And I also don’t think that my race is a disadvantage here when it comes to employment opportunities.”
The second misconception Amanda encountered was the belief that women are not respected in Saudi Arabia. This has not been her experience. In fact, she has found the exact opposite to be true and says that the men are very polite and respectful.
“They call you Ms. or Mrs. when addressing you and are always willing to help. The third one is that if you are a woman, you must cover up. This is also NOT true. As a woman, you can wear jeans and tee shirts and dresses that come below the knees. You DO NOT have to wear a hijab to cover your hair or an abaya. You just have to dress modestly and respectfully.”
In comparison to Korea, Amanda has found Saudi Arabia to be more expensive. Though her rent is paid by her employer, she pays twice as much for food. Compared to the US, however, it is slightly cheaper to live in Saudi Arabia, with gas being cheaper and food costing about the same or more.
For Amanda, the main thing she learned by moving to Saudi Arabia is not to let other people’s opinions, lack of education, and perceptions deter her from following her dreams or plans in life.
“I had a lot of people side-eye, judge, and try to tell me things about Saudi Arabia that were not true and if I had listened, I would have never moved here. I have been enjoying my time here and look forward to sharing my adventures and educating people about Saudi Arabia.”
You can follow Amanda on Instagram at @excursiondiaries.