There are an infinite number of things to consider before deciding to make the jump to living abroad in general, and KSA in specific, but here we will try to highlight some of the key things we considered and what we see as the Pros and Cons. There might be things unique though to your situation that we haven’t considered so feel free to comment if you have a question or see something we missed and we will be happy to add it to the blog.
1. One of the most common reasons people tend to make the decision to become an expat is for the huge financial benefits that can be gained or “Job Hacking”. Similar to “House Hacking” where people use strategies like BRRRR (Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat) or Roommates to save money, “Job Hacking” as an expat enables you to receive things like tax breaks, free schooling, free housing, and free medical benefits allowing for incredible savings and wealth generation opportunities. If you want to learn more and see exactly how in certain circumstances an individual’s savings rate can be increase by over 1000% check out our article here on the Top 10 Financial Benefits of Becoming an Expat.
2. Multicultural and safe environment for the kids and the ability to broaden the family’s exposure to the world. Our best friends and next-door neighbors are from New Zealand and during a recent vacation they let us use there amazingly beautiful Lake House in Rotorua. We never would have had any of these experiences had we not taken the leap and moved abroad.
3. Traveling globally is more financially and logistically (more vacation days and central location) feasible. Each year we take at least 2 long (~2 week long) vacations and 2-3 short (3-4 day long) weekend trips. Check out the Travel section of the blog to see some of the places we have visited as a family since moving abroad.
4. Excellent Internationally accredited educational system for the kids. Nearly all Expat assignments come with some sort of arranged and free school options for Expat children. In most cases these schools are better funded, staffed, and resourced then most options in the US. In our case, TKS (The KAUST School), has been an amazing option for our kids. Click here if you want to learn more about our experience with TKS and all they have to offer.
5. Incredible facilities (multiple gyms and pools, parks and playgrounds, hospital and ER, a Marina with boats for fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, a beach with water sports and small sailing boats, restaurants, grocery stores, and basic shopping options) and activities (festivals, parties on the weekends for kids with bounce castles and raffles, and various after school sports and clubs) all provide free to residents of KAUST.
6. No traffic. For those of us from cities like New York, Chicago, LA, Houston, etc this is a big plus. The weather is dry and sunny nearly every day of the year so I typically ride either my bike (during winter) or scooter (during hotter summer months) to work. On bike the ride averages 15 mins and on Scooter 8-10 depending on how I hit the one stop light between my house and office.
7. Amazing weather in the winter (especially along the Red Sea where KAUST is located) from Oct – April with temps ranging typical from mid 60s – low 80s.
1. For most US expats, ourselves included, the biggest con of living abroad in KSA is the very long distance from family back in the US. For many people this is a deal breaker and should not be underestimated when considering a potential move overseas. Under ideal conditions (minimal connections and layovers and no delays) it takes us almost exactly 24 hours from the time we step out of our house in KSA to when we enter our families house in USA. On top of this grueling travel time you also have to contend with the jet lag and high flight ticket prices. So a quick trip home is almost impossible and usually involves a lot of preplanning and time.
2. Some limits on how often and how long you can visit the US if you want to maintain your tax exemptions.
3. Some constraints on freedoms (especially for females) outside of the KAUST compound.
4. Can’t always find exactly what you are looking from a food and house hold goods perspective.
5. In the summer it can get extremely hot for long stretches (at night can be easily in the high 90s with high humidity) and this limits the amount of time and activities for the kids outside.