Expats add color to Saudi society

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May 19, 2018

It is sad to see young expatriates leave the Kingdom because their families can no longer bear rising costs of education and livelihood

As the school year ended, it also spelt the end of long-established family arrangements for a lot of expatriates, many of whom are from the Asian continent. During this month, many of the graduating expatriate children will bid goodbye to a land they have been known and been residing in for long. For parents, it has been an emotional time and heart-wrenching one as families are being pulled apart by the decision of the head of the household to send the other members back to their home country — a decision that was considered to have been taken largely bearing in mind the added expenses that expatriates have to shoulder for the allowance of maintaining a family member in Saudi Arabia. It was a response to the expatriate dependent tax that Saudi Arabia has imposed on all foreigners and which increases progressively each year.

While the host country deems the dependent levy vital to implementing and achieving its goals, it is a burden for many expats who just cannot bear the added expenses, along with inflation in most other areas of expenditure. Because of such extra burdens, parents must have thought long and hard before finally deciding to send their families home. Back in their home countries, the cost of living is lower and the parent would be able to stretch his earnings further by staying alone in Saudi Arabia.

I feel for those children, many of whom have known of no other home than Saudi Arabia. To those children I have the following to say: It was not an easy decision for your parents to uproot you from the society you have been living in. They must have weighed all the possibilities over countless sleepless nights and long hours spent in discussions, in trying to maintain your presence by their side. However, faced with challenging economic circumstances, they were simply forced to take such a harsh decision. It’s no fault of their own. It’s going to be hard for them to adjust, too. Not being there with you, or not being able to help you with your school assignments, not being able to celebrate your birthdays and academic achievements, not being able to comforting you when you are sick … Yes, indeed it’s going to be hard. But they will have to find a way to adjust to these. Just keep in mind that all their years of toil and hard work in a foreign country were to provide you a better life and for the most part, they are making sacrifices for your benefit. So please ensure that you honour this sacrifice.

Some of you were born in Saudi Arabia and know of no other home. Others came when they were infants and have no recollection of any other land to call their own. You grew up here, you learnt the local language and adopted many of the customs of this land and proved time and again to be impeccable residents in your host country. Many of you probably never envisioned that this day would come, comfortable in the knowledge that this was your home, after all.

Some of you may have no connections to your home country at all and may feel somewhat intimidated by the thought of starting all over again in a place that is so alien to you. Even the culture and traditions of your parents may seem to be strange to you. After all, you have lived and breathed as a Saudi for all these years and now you are being thrust in an unfamiliar social setting.

Unquestionably, there will be some adjustment issues when you return to your native country. There will be some insecurities, but remember you will still be safe there. In due course, you will adjust to your new environment and excel — just as you have done for so many years in Saudi Arabia. And with your experience in Saudi Arabia, you will be better-prepared to take on the challenges of adulthood than the others of your age in your home country.

Let me say this as a Saudi: Your presence in Saudi Arabia brought colour to our society. Through your activities, you introduced diversity in our culture. You have largely been left alone to yourselves by Saudis, but you will not be ignored. We appreciate the time you spent here and many of us are genuinely sorry to see you leave.

Be brave then for your parents and for yourselves and set forth for new and challenging frontiers. May the Almighty give you all the strength and skills to face them.

This article was first published in  Gulf News

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