Living in Saudi Arabia: The Early Years

Following is an excerpt from my upcoming ebook, Living in Saudi Arabia; The Early Years.

Black Chick In Saudi

The Portal Was Open

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A few days back I was standing in line in the produce section of LuLu’s. There is an area in which you can have your fresh pineapples, peeled and sliced for you. So, while we’re standing there, waiting for our turn, the Saudi lady (completely covered, with the exception of her eyes) standing in front of me, just started talking to me. I have NEVER had this happen before. Ever!! She asked me if I was from South Africa. I told her no, that I was American, from California. She said that’s nice. She then commented on the price for the pineapple cutting service, blah, blah, blah. But the funniest past was when she asked if I was married, I said, “Yes, this is my husband right here.” And, she looked at us and said “Oh. You don’t match.” LMAO!!!! Oh-mi-god. Roland said something, I can’t remember now, but we all laughed. And, the fact that she spoke to me…I just loved that. Sometimes I want to speak, but honestly, it’s kinda intimidating to speak to someone you don’t know and their face is covered. I’m glad she reached out.

Then, while in Tamimi’s (Safeway/Vons in the states) this Saudi man overheard my distress over the guy at the deli counter telling me that they didn’t have any of the Palestinian Olive Oil. He goes, “There is a store, not too far from here, and they sell Palestinian food products.” After it was all said and done, this guy drew us a map, told us to bargain (despite the price marked), and to sample before I buy (sometimes they will try and foist the cheaper stuff on you). After we had thanked him profusely, he was like, “No problem. I lived in the United States once, and people helped me.” Can you believe this guy? Freakin’ Awesome!!

Then…(yes there’s more). We’re on our way home from Al-Khobar (the location of LuLu’s and Tamimi’s) and while at a red light, the guys next to just started bobbing their heads to the Reggae music we were playing. Then they turned up their stereo so we could hear what they were listen to. At this point, we rolled our window down further and asked them what they were listening to, and they said Arabic music. We said, “Cool. We’re listening to Reggae.” And they’re like, “Yea, we know. We like it.” The light turned green, and we all smiled, waved at each other and went on our way.

I tell you, a portal to the Saudi people must have been open that day, because I’ve never had this experience, let alone all in one day. So, I’m still trippin’ off of it. And, I laugh every time I think of this lady saying, “But, you don’t match.” LMAO!

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About Terri Lundberg

Terri Lundberg is an American expat currently residing with her husband in Saudi Arabia, but she calls Seattle and San Diego home. She’s a travel writer, an avid photographer and is a resource and cross cultural trainer to expats relocating to Saudi Arabia. She's been to 100 destinations, 30 countries, and counting.


  1. It is really nice to read about your single-day interactions, Ms. Terri, with Saudi people. As a family, we have several similar examples. For example, once we were checking out an old house (adobe mud house) from the gate in Najraan, when the house-owner, now living in a modern house nearby, approached us. He literally beseeched us (me, my wife and my daughter) to accept his family’s impromptu invitation for a lunch (as it was the day of Hajj-Eid). Women folks of his home took away my wife and daughter. Both my women gave me a look of “Please save us”. But they were gone in a jiffy. Later they told me that a translator was arranged for the conversation from the neighborhood. When they came to know that we were vegetarian, one of the several boys was sent to the nearby market to get vegetables. They cooked mixed vegetables and separate rice (without meat) for us. Sensing our interest in their heritage, they entertained us with their local folklore, their old living styles (now slowly relegated to disuse due to comparative inconvenience), and their photographs of old times. After we had our lunch, the younger men walked us for a sort of property inspection. They showed their estate, mixing the narration with comparison of agricultural and animal husbandry practices of old times. We, very humbly, said good-bye, thanking them profusely for their hospitality. In fact, we were able to not succumb to their pressure-request for night stay.
    Let me tell you another incident. Once we were hiking up over the tall dunes of the Red Sand Area. I trailed behind my wife and daughter to give a sort of cover. They reached early on the top of the dune and I joined them a while later. On the top, one Saudi family was enjoying picnic in the shadow of their ‘Land Cruiser’ (I don’t see Saudis hiking or trekking; they are more of vehicle people). We all were short of breath and huffing and puffing when we were approached by this small, cute girl child with both her hands holding cups of ‘shai’ (tea). We looked towards this Saudi family sitting at a distance. They gestured to ‘please accept’ the tea. We thanked them profusely. I literally restrained myself from grabbing that cute little girl and pasting a kiss on her cheek.
    I think it is getting very long here. But I have a few more stories to tell. Saudi hospitality – we have seen it, experienced it and savored it.

  2. I’m a Saudi living in Manhattan and just stumbled on your blog which I now really like. It’s so nice to hear about people like me that are on the other side of the fence trying to look in and understand, and can totally relate to what you are going through. Keep up the good work. And thank you for your kind words, understanding and openmindness, when expressing your thoughts of my culture 🙂

  3. Hello Terri,

    how is safety in saudi?


  4. Abdullah says:

    Well, Terri .. The pleasure is ours that guests and visitors like you get the chance to see and communicate with the community and find the facilities they need easily despite all the current difficult circumstances ..

    I can see that the reason for the all-in-one day activities is : the right place at the right time ..

    The language and the culture is one difficulty. and they’re getting better over time in these specific aspects.
    As a student, who gets the opportunity to know and deal with Americans and British profs at university, I would love to see the change in my society towards the foreign in the next years ..

    Good Luck.

  5. Hi Terri

    My family and I are considering a move to Saudi Arabia. Do you do your own hair or are their salons that cater to african american type hair? Thanks – Belinda

    • Hello Belinda,

      I bring my products and I have someone who does my hair in Bahrain. I don’t know of specific shops, however there are enough Africans here so there may be shops.

      I hope this helps!!

  6. Hello Terri, Thanks for writing you blogs and posting your videos. I am a Texan and considering taking a job in Saudi. My only real concern is safety for Americans especially my 2 kids and wife. Kids are 5 and 7 and my wife is open to the adventure. Can you comment on any expats there with little kids and their experiences? And your blogs are great, I appreciate someone giving honest, respectful observations of being a “guest” in another country. Hope you keep it up..

    • Hello Walter,

      I don’t know where you’ll be staying and your living situation. However, I can tell you that I’ve never felt “unsafe.” Since I’ve lived there we’ve had a few security warnings, but for the most part I feel safe. The western compounds typically have armed guards, identification is required to enter the compound, and you have to have a reason to be there (i.e. you’re visiting a friend and they will call that friends house to verify).

      Thanks for your kind words regarding my blog.

      Have a great day!!

    • Walter, it just occurred to me that I may need to clarify my statement. The compounds are very safe. I know people leave their doors unlocked, and children play outside and freely walk around and hang out. Off of the compound, I’ve never felt unsafe. With the exception of the times I spend on the highway (the driving is insane). I hope this helps!

  7. Hello Terri,
    I just watched your videos on Youtube and found then very interesting. I recently wrote a novella featuring an Arab man and Black American woman living in the US. I’ve been thinking of writing a romance beginning in Saudi Arabia or Jordan. I was wondering how likely a romance between an American and Arab would occur in Saudi as opposed to in the US? Are mixed couple unique or would it be a no-no in public?