Jana comes from Slovakia, but she has been working at our partner hospital in Jeddah for last 6 years. First to the VIP department, then to dialysis. How does she evaluate life and work in Saudi Arabia?
- Jani, you’ve been in Saudi Arabia for several years. What led you there and what still keeps you there?
Yes, I’m in Saudi Arabia 6 years already, but that time flies. I got here actually through fairy tales 🙂 I have been fascinated by Arab stories since childhood, I wanted to visit one of these countries at least once in my life. One day I accidentally found an information about an information meeting on the Internet, which was organized by your company GGC, which mediates work in Saudi Arabia… wow… I said to myself and went to the infomeeting, where I learned more information from the lecturers. There were also nurses from Saudi hospitals who we could ask various questions… again wow… it was so interesting that I decided to give it a try. Immediately after the info meeting I went to the bookstore and bought a book of English for self-study , who were recommended to us at the meeting – I took the first step 🙂 When I told my family my plan, they were laughing, but when they saw that I meant it, I was mainly supported by my children. So we managed it together with you – amazing consultants in GGC, for which I thank you very much 🙂
- You live in the beautiful city of Jeddah. Can you tell us how this city has changed over the last 6 years? Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more open to the world, have you felt it in everyday life?
Jeddah is a really nice historic town. Everything is changing slowly and quickly at the same time – modern new buildings are growing here. Also the pedestrian zone by the sea, where various sports and social events are taking place, has been modernized. Cinemas were opened – that were not here before. Saudi is opended to tourists from 2019. SA has also changed some rules for women, they can drive a car and have more job opportunities. So far, more or less only men have worked, even in lingerie stores, it was really weird. You haven’t seen a woman on the streets. When I wanted to walk alone or with girls home or in the pedestrian zone, it was not easy few years ago. For us in Europe it was normal, but in Jeddah, it was something unusual and, according to some, dangerous (for a woman). However, I personally never felt threatened by anyone or anything, I always felt safe. The police are at every turn and the people I met have always been friendly. A few years ago, there was also a moral police – Mutava, which checked mainly women to see if they were sufficiently covered, including hair. I did not meet them, but some girls have the experience of escaping in shopping malls to the underwear departments (where they were not allowed) or to the toilets;))
- What is your favorite place in Jeddah? And where in Saudi Arabia did you like the most?
This is difficult to answer. I think my favorite place in Jeddah is Silversand beach, a private beach, beautiful, quiet, with white sand where you can play sports, observe the underwater world, or just lie like a pancake. I also like places in the pedestrian zone-Cornish, with nooks with real grass overlooking the sea… especially for dinner after work, to warm up and be in the fresh air. There is also space for sports – cycling, rollerblading, running, and various others. Many families with children also go there, friends. We sit on “flying” carpets, have dinner together, tea, shisha, relax after a hard day at work. There is also a pleasant environment in the old town of Balad. It is a historic place where you can sit in the renovated tea rooms. In the old market buy everything – gold, spices, dates fresh or dried, traditional clothes… anything. But beware, it is very easy to get lost there 🙂
For relaxation, 2 hours from Jeddah there is the “small town” KAEC (King Abdulah Economic City). It is a special town where you feel as if you are not in SA, you do not have to wear an abaya, you can wear shorter dresses, shorts, a short-sleeved T-shirt (but not naked shoulders), but you must register online in advance or at the invitation of a friend living in KAEC. There are huge lawns, trees, flowers, sea, beach, restaurants, hotels, shops, hospital, schools, houses…. everything clean and maintained – it’s still not fully inhabited. Concerts of foreign singers, golf events are organized there, people go there for relaxation and sports.
- Aren’t you afraid to travel alone as a woman? Aren’t you worried about your safety?
I know that the media often distorts information about Arab countries, it is better if one can form one’s own opinion. The police are on every corner, we had double security in the compound and no one but the employees could get into the compound, which is also a disadvantage.
So far I have not felt threatened or in danger, I have not had an unpleasant experience, I hope I will not even experience… maybe because I did not think in that direction. It is true that this cannot be guaranteed, but it is not even possible to point to a certain country, I think that people are good and people are bad anywhere in the world, also stupid and wise are everywhere. When we went out of town, people welcomed us warmly, entertained us, they liked to talk to us, take pictures with us. I have always tried to respect people, their culture, to follow advice. I do not cover my hair, but I wear an abaya (a long, thin coat with long sleeves and length up to my ankles). From the beginning, it was harder to get used to it because I was warm. Imagine in the summer you have your clothes dressed and you have to wear something with long sleeves. Under the abaya it was recommended to wear something longer so that the ankles would not peek. Now the abaya no longer has to be worn, but something with long sleeves, a longer skirt, pants. I got used to abaya, I liked to wear it… I felt more comfortable when moving in public taxis, which were not always the cleanest. When I got home, I dropped my abaya and was clean. :)) It also has other advantages – you can also go shopping in pajamas or underwear J Apparently it happened, and then fo-pa when the abaya in the shopping mall got caught up to the eskalátor. There are warnings about abay and underwear on some escalators.
- How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to dance.
I meet friends – colleagues from the hospital from other departments and nationalities, we go together for trips, dinners, birthday parties, Christmas. We meet new friends – of course, how it works out for work, sometimes we don’t see each other for a long time. Friends are really important here, you can talk to them, complain, we help each other. They are close, they are real. Although my best friends are my children, my daughter and my family they are far away. Sometimes you don’t want to tell your loved ones about something, not because you don’t like them but because you want to protect them. You know they love you but you are far away and so they would worry about you. Like when I was positive at the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic – no one knew what was going to happen, would I die? What will happen to my remains after death and others. But fortunately everything turned out well with the wonderful support of the hospital, medical staff, doctors, psychologists, social workers, chefs, cleaners, ambulances, colleagues and of course friends who took care of me in every way, for which I THANK them all very much!
As I mentioned at the beginning – I like to dance. I was very happy to learn through friends that there are several Latino clubs. Incredible! Salsa classes, bachata, kizomba, parties – all quietly, I couldn’t talk about it from anyone, all just to register with a close circle of friends and acquaintances about security (no – it was not officially allowed). Dance classes changed places, security wouldn’t let you through the gate when you weren’t on the guest list, phones were usually collected so that no one could take a photo and endanger someone. Some domestic people do not agree with this, it happens that when they hear loud music or see a larger group of people, they report it to the police. I’ve heard stories that really happened a few years ago, someone ended up in jail, someone is still in trauma. But now everything is easier, everything is possible… I am very grateful I met people on the same wave, to have had space to dance, even though I was tired after work, I barely crawled to the dance. Dance, music charged me with energy and I was able to continue working.
- What are the biggest benefits of living and working in Saudi Arabia?
The work and life of SA has really given me a lot, although it may not seem like it, but when I turn it into small ones, there is a lot. I don’t just think of a good financial reward for work, benefits. Otherwise, I would not be able to financially support my studying children, pay a mortgage, travel. But I also think about my personal growth. I am a person who needs to develop, when I reach the ceiling, I need a change. It’s usually after 7-8 years, now after five.
I have learned to work more with people, other cultures, to be more patient than I am (and I am very), to be tolerant. I’m a perfectionist, sometimes it’s really hard for me.
I worked in the KFSHRC in an international team. We really think differently, so communication and knowledge are very important, skills that we share with each other in the interest of the life and health of the patient.
KFSHRC hospital, where I worked, is recognized in SA, has also obtained JCI and Magnet accreditation, does various volunteer events, for employees internal continuing education, but also online international conferences, where we can collect enough credits for the Saudi council – a license to work as medical staff.
During these few years of living at KSA, I have gained a lot of experience, experienced serious and happy situations, made friendships that I respect and we try to maintain them. I am extremely grateful for this experience! I owe you this experience to GGC! Thank you!
- Your daughter visited you recently. What were her impressions of Saudi Arabia?
Yes, my daughter Alex came to Jeddah to see me in December 2020. I wished to be with my family for Christmas for a few years. Unfortunately, at this time of pandemic, as we all know, it is not easy to travel and also to get a leave from an employer in a hospital. So we figured out how it would be best for all of us. My son couldn’t come because of his job, so I was happy that at least my daughter could come. The hospital helped me arrange visas, picked us up in a special car from the airport (covid 19 measures), allowed us to live together in a compound – we spent quarantine together. Surely you can imagine a meeting at the airport – tears of happiness. But then we were together. We had our Christmas, she met my friends, she tasted Arabic cuisine, she likes Arabic perfumes. We rented a car and got to know the country, culture and people at KSA. It took her a while to adapt to people and the environment, but later she gained confidence and felt safe. We’ve been through a lot. Nature is really beautiful, it’s not just sand and desert. There are rocky mountains, crater, dormant volcanoes, canyons, river valleys – some with waterfalls, oases and farms where fruits and vegetables are grown, areas with colder climates and rains. Some areas snow in the winter months. We also visited beaches and historic sites. We slept in a tent under the open sky, we cooked on an open fire, sometimes we slept in a car, sometimes in authentic Arab tents – hotels. On our travels, we met new people and experienced many adventures, which we will remember for a long time.
Jani, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to further cooperation!