Why should I choose to live in a compound? I am certain some of you are thinking, why they would live in a western compound. I personally believe that living and working amongst the locals is a better option. This is because we get to learn a few words from their language which greatly affects when you speak to a local. However, the customs and culture of Saudi Arabia are so incredibly different in comparison to the rest of the world, that most foreigners believe they are better off in a compound. These compounds were originally built so that westerners could live their lifestyle in privacy, so that they may not clash with Saudi culture and religious beliefs.
Personally, I believe that over the years this trend has strengthened greatly, especially as most of the country has become more restrictive to Islamic valued over time. It is not mandatory for foreigners to live in compounds, but it has its benefits.
1-The benefits of staying in a compound, are availed mostly by women, whereas children and men don’t have any great advantages. This is because women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive; hence they must hire a taxi or limo service for every little thing. This may include doing groceries or doing the children’s school duty. This is a great hassle as no major public transport is available. However, living in a compound, women can easily walk or cycle within the area and will be able to visit friends easily.
2-The compounds include two shopping buses daily and include a taxi or limo service for convenience. The compound also has a school bus which means that the women do not have to drop and pick the kids from school.
3-The wearing of the abaya is a tricky point. Women cannot take it off until they are inside their homes or in the presence of family members. However, in a compound, wearing western dress is not a big deal. So, women can walk around the compound freely, without being hindered.
4-Being in a compound is safer for kids to play on the streets, and allows the westerners to have their own social lives. This is since Saudis are very adamant at keeping their families private and do not invite Western families over to socialize. Families are at ease when their kids can play and interact with all the other children. The compound creates a natural community effect, where most people know each other.
5-Finally, the vast array of activities offered in the compound, attract all families. Pools, game rooms, cafes, bowling alleys, restaurants etc. are all found inside the compound within easy access. Most of these activities would be limited to women, only on the family day, outside the compound.
6-Compounds are the way to go if you come from a more relaxed culture, and don’t think you would fit in with the Saudi culture. It will be best for you and your family.