If we were sitting down to chat over a cup of coffee right now you would hear the call to prayer and see the men, some in traditional thobes and some in Western clothing, make their way to the mosque. This may lead to you asking me why I moved to Saudi Arabia and I may respond lightly by saying that I moved because I was bored. This is completely true but, if you were to question me further, this is what I would tell you…
When I lived in Scotland I had started to feel increasingly unhappy with my job/financial situation/life in general and was looking for a change. 2013 seemed to be the year that everything came to a head. I had been back in Scotland for 6 years and spent the whole time worrying myself sick about finances, feeling like I’d be on my own forever as I struggled with romantic relationships (a long-term not great relationship which evaporated my confidence and self esteem, and a general feeling of not feeling equal in relationships due to the financial thing) and worrying that I would be working in the same job for all eternity with no prospect of doing anything else as I couldn’t afford to retrain – if you have ever been unfortunate enough to be in a job that made you really unhappy you’ll appreciate that ‘all eternity’ is exactly how it feels. At this point I should say that it was the job that made me unhappy, not the people I worked with – I made some fantastic life-long friends here.
Early in 2013 there were some moments when I really thought I couldn’t go on. I would sit in my apartment with the curtains closed and just cry. I didn’t think there was any point to my being around and that no-one would miss me if I wasn’t around anymore. Luckily I had a very good friend on hand to support me through these episodes and, even more luckily, I’m stronger than I often give myself credit for, I wouldn’t give in the circumstances getting the better of me. Or my friend put it ‘it’s a good job you’re so bloody stuborn’. But due to this strong/stubborn streak I managed to pull myself out the darkness and carry on.
2013 plodded on uneventfully until September when I turned 40 and this led to some serious clear headed re-evaluation and thinking ‘is this how my life is going to be?’ Here I was 40, single, in a job I no longer enjoyed, living pay day to pay day, counting the pennies to make ends meet. I needed to take action, nothing good would come of continuing on the same path.
I celebrated my 40th birthday with friends in Aberdeen and had a fantastic time. Then I started to put a little more effort into looking for a new job. My focus at this point was on Edinburgh as I wanted to be closer to family. My parents live mid-way between Glasgow and Edinburgh and I had already lived in Glasgow so my thinking was to go somewhere new. Although I was familiar with shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh I didn’t know the residential areas at all so I had a lot of fun researching different areas and making a list of where I would like to live, looking at apartments online and applying for jobs.
I had a few interviews but nothing that seemed overly exciting and I was reluctant to accept an offer simply because it was there for the taking. After all, what would be the point of moving to a job that didn’t excite me and ending up in a worse financial situation as rent in Edinburgh was much higher – unfortunately salaries were not.
During one of my job searches in early October a popup appeared on the page saying ‘people who applied for this job also applied for…’ with a list of other jobs. One of those jobs said ‘Live and work in Saudi Arabia’. Normally I ignore these popups but, for some reason, Saudi Arabia caught my attention so I clicked on the link and read a brief job description of the secretarial jobs on offer with Saudi Aramco, the national oil company. More out of curiosity than anything else, I sent of my CV and said to my friend Brenda ‘I’ve just applied for a job in Saudi Arabia!’ This resulted in much laugher as it seemed very unlikely anything further would happen.
An hour later I received a telephone call from the Aramco office in London asking if I could attend an interview on Thursday (this was Tuesday). After establishing she did indeed mean two-days-time-Thursday and not the following Thursday, and after a bit of dithering on my part (I had visitors arriving on Friday, did I really want to be going to London on Thursday?) and a pep talk from Brenda, I booked a seat on the overnight train.
The rest, as they say, is history. Three months from the initial interview I was in tears again – this time because I was saying goodbye to my friends, emptying my flat, selling what I could and donating everything else to local charity shops. I spent Christmas with my family and on December 27 I took my leap into the unknown, I was on my way.
People have since told me it was a brave thing to do. I don’t feel brave. It just felt like the right thing to do. Work-wise I’m still working in an office but I have learned some new skills and I have a lot more financial security. There is a definite belief in a work/life balance here and the generous holiday allowance means I can fulfil my dreams to travel and write – this is worth more than anything. I’ve also learned a lot about myself and can honestly say I am more calm and happy than I have ever been.
Before I applied for this job I wasn’t aware of the existence of Saudi Aramco but now I’ll be forever grateful, for many reasons:
- for the fantastic people I’ve met and friends I’ve made
- for the things I’ve learned from a work perspective
- for the things I’ve learned about myself and how I’ve changed and grown
- for the opportunity to work in such a multi-cultural environment
- for the opportunity to travel
- for the opportunity to develop my passion for writing
- for the opportunity to create a more financially stable future for myself
I’m still single but I guess I can’t really expect the company I work for to help me out there!