It seems to me that I have a limited but relevant experience to review this book. Between September 2013 and March 2017, my wife and I lived in Riyadh and I worked for a large KSA based company. We have some experience of Middle East Countries and we have visited many and our second (holiday) home is in Egypt, where we spend quality time with our family.
So I have some experience as a British Expat of moving to what is seen by most Westerners as a closed Country. I make the point here, because there was very little information available to inform the expat as to what to expect when visiting or moving to KSA.
And so, it was with deep appreciation that I received Abdul AL Lily’s invitation to review his book ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Arabia’.
The way the content is focussed on bite sized statements, helps to put across very clearly and simply the information. From the start, identifying clear parameters of Saudi society domains of ‘the domestic’ and ‘the public’ help the reader to set the scene for what follows.
Frequently the term ‘normal’ is used in the text and to me simply being given the detail of what is ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ or ‘custom’ in Saudi society is a revelation, because this information is not available readily in the UK. As is described by the Author, even in Saudi society there has been limited written documentation in this detail available.
For me, a foreign worker arriving in Saudi Arabia, I was thirsty for any cultural information to help my integration into the Saudi society. I am sure that this book will enable a much better appreciation of the thinking, culture and ‘norms’ of the Saudi society, which in turn will enable better understanding and enable work and social collaboration.
The information contained in this book covers a wide variety of subjects from environment, organisational and transactional norms, such as the freezing of bank accounts on leaving the Country or employment etc. It also includes interpretation of the types of dress for males and females and the significance to the wearer’s cultural attitude. It sets out in detail the values, attitudes, superstitions and beliefs now and some from the past, which all shed light on current Saudi thinking. It’s great to learn about Saudi Humour, current trends and the propensity towards gossip etc.
Many of the short messages are purely factual and information such as those describing what you can expect to see when travelling around Saudi Arabia. Others are of feelings, emotions, poetry and the use of new technologies for communication.
Some of these statements may be controversial, such as the interaction between the genders and how new ways are being found to contact one another but all these are the catalysts for conversations to come. Many descriptions are of existing ‘work arounds’ of existing or new conventions. These may well be lost in the future with new social norms developing and being described in the text.
What is certain is that this record of the society and culture of Saudi Arabia is a great reference point and it will be very interesting to revisit these tweet sized quotes to see how relevant they are in 2030.
I can relate to the physical barriers mention in the book and my wife and I were separated by High Walls of Saudi houses and the double walls, barbed wire and armed guards of the compound in which we lived. We also relate to the statement about Saudi’s and foreigners meeting only in shopping malls. This happened on a number of occasions. When waiting for our driver a Saudi family would often engage us in conversation and we appreciated the inquisitiveness and friendly people that we met on these occasions.
I also experienced some social interaction with Saudi’s having been invited into their homes for a celebration or meal. These were rare events but so very much appreciated.
Within KSA my hope is that this book becomes compulsory reading on the path to the 2030 vision for all Saudi’s. It will enable them to have meaningful and focussed conversations about the options available for the changes now taking place in the 2030 journey. Having a cultural compendium of existing knowledge will enable a tracked changes approach to be considered, chosen and recorded.
Interestingly the interaction between Saudi society ‘Norms’ and the rest of the World is a serious Saudi issue for consideration. In this global, electronically connected, business orientated world, monitored by social media, isolation is not a viable option.
Collaboration whether in business or social interaction requires understanding and this book sets out what I see as a beginners guide to the nuances of Saudi society, which should be at least available for others to learn from. Certainly, I believe that if I had read this book before going to work in KSA then my acclimatisation would have been a positive experience, which was not always the case. In many cases improved information and knowledge sharing would have provided the basis for understanding and provided much more positive experiences.
To reiterate, I hope that this book generates debate and consideration among Saudi’s which will inform the changes taking place within Saudi Society.
External to KSA, I believe that this book will inform many, confuse some and enlighten others but for sure it should generate conversations, which from my point of view just don’t take place at the moment.
The Western societies and Saudi people are no different from others in many respects. They suffer from a lack of factual knowledge which often leads to distrust and or fear. It is my hope that more books like this one, which provides detail of every day norms in Saudi Arabia can be digested and furnish understanding outside KSA.
We should not forget the translation of this book is very important as a significant population of the resident work force is from India, Pakistan, Philippines etc. and it is important for those stakeholders in Saudi Arabia to have access to this type of information.
Abdul Al Lily’s book should generated much debate and I congratulate him on this work.
1st July 2017
For the source, please click HERE.