Why expatriates who live in Saudi Arabia for a long time don’t speak Arabic?

When people move aboard, they tend to learn the language and culture of their host nation. It is very important to be equipped with host country language and culture as it helps in interaction and adjustment.

However, this is not the case with expatriates living in Saudi Arabia. When a person is not equipped with such skills and knowledge, he finds it difficult to move on.

As time passes by, people tend to furnish their linguistic skills, they become more aware of the culture and tradition of the host country.

For instance, if you have a relative living in China for a significant time (say 4 months or so) he would be informed of the food, culture tradition and festivals of China. Moreover, you will observe that he could now speak better Chinese!

Similarly, foreigners living in France and Germany develop good French and German language skills: they are able to speak the host nation’s language fluently.

But, this is not the case in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! You can find expats living here for decades and they still can’t speak good Saudi Language! Why is that so?

Why do expats here not learn the Saudi language? Why are they reluctant to practice and learn about Saudi culture and language? Is the Saudi culture and language that difficult?

It isn’t that there are fewer foreigners here; foreigners constitute about 33% of the total population of the Kingdom. Neither it is that foreigners are new here: there are expats living here for generations!

Well, neither there is a problem in Saudi culture (I mean it isn’t complicated one) nor Arabic is a difficult language. The problem resides in our social structure!

There is very little socialization: you will rarely find an expat and a Saudi national branching out, enjoying a cup of coffee or so! You will rarely see that colleagues from different nations socializing with Saudi national colleagues.

Even employees won’t communicate with foreign employees in pure Arabic. A polluted version of Arabic has become more common. The rich and magnificent language has lost its beauty because of Saudi nationals.

The Saudis have learned English, yet the expats haven’t learned Arabic. One can find English classes and tuition centers in Kingdom abundantly yet few Arabic learning centers in Kingdom! 

We ourselves have neglected our language; we are responsible for polluting our language. Let’s start socialization: harmonize the society!

This can be done by opening Arabic language centers, conducting classes for Arabic culture and tradition and socializing with expats.

It is important to preserve our language, our culture, and our traditions: they give us identity! Let’s make a real effort to preserve our unique and beautiful identity!

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.