Saudi Arabia is the largest country and biggest economy in the Middle East, with a big part of its wealth directly connected to the oil industry. Saudi Arabia has become one of the preferred locations for SAP consultants as it is a great opportunity to expand their knowledge in international business, and to get to experience a different culture.
Working culture in Saudi Arabia
The working hours in Saudi Arabia are typically from 8am to 12pm and from 3 pm to 6pm, however, SAP jobs can have working patterns with office hours from 8am to 5.30pm and some jobs also allow consultants to finish work at 4 pm, freeing their evenings. During Ramadan, the working hours reduce to 6 hours a day without affecting your salary. As Friday is the main day of rest – working days are Sunday to Thursday – this schedule should be taken in consideration along with the daily prayer times when scheduling meetings.
Business meetings are conducted slightly different than Western meetings. Saudis prefer meetings face to face and there is usually no time limit or agenda either. There is usually a person who will discuss business during the meeting, while the decision maker would be the one who is listening and observing. Relationships are a big part of doing business, it is common that you will need to attend to a few meetings before any agreement is made.
Hierarchies have an important role in the Saudi culture and must be respected. Consultants in senior positions are expected to give direct and clear instructions to their subordinates in the workplace.
SAP contracts in Saudi Arabia
Whilst junior positions are usually covered by consultants sourced locally and in neighbouring countries, senior positions are often a good opportunity for consultants with global experience and with knowledge of the latest technologies. Understanding the local culture is also a plus, as it makes integration into companies a lot smoother.
Daily rates and salaries
Rates and salaries depend of the level of the position as well as the expertise of the SAP consultant. Daily rates for Europeans tend to be higher than in their country of origin and permanent positions can also come with full packages of family relocation that include medical insurance, flights, visas and education allowance for the children. As schooling is expensive in Saudi Arabia, packages are more attractive in some situations than the pay itself.
Getting paid and income taxes
If you are not a resident of Saudi Arabia you will receive your pay via your limited company, Umbrella Company or via the company sponsoring your visa. Foreign employees working in Saudi Arabia do not pay tax on income earned in the country, however, you may need to pay tax in your country of origin.
Entry to Saudi Arabia is tightly controlled and visitors must be in possession of a work visa. Work visas can only be granted after receiving a letter of invitation. Your employer will obtain this letter via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and send it to you. The letter will hold details about your visit, the type of visa, the length of visit etc. If your employer is not able to apply for a letter of invitation you will have to seek the services of a local visa agency to sponsor your visit.
Your visa only covers you to work for the period of time specified and only allows you to work at the company cited. This means that if your contract ends, you will need to leave the country or if you want to move to another job, you will also need to leave the country to re-enter on a new visa unless your sponsor approves you to work for other clients. Family members are also able to apply for a work visa, which helps with quicker integration into the country and culture.
If you have dual nationality, we recommend carrying only one passport when entering the country to avoid your second passport being confiscated as dual nationality is not recognised in this country.
Travelling in Saudi Arabia
Getting around Saudi Arabia is usually done by car – you will usually either have a company car or a car allowance. From June 2018, both female and males, locals and foreigners are allowed to drive with a valid driving licence (a British licence is usually valid for 3 months, but you can apply for a local licence with the assistance of your sponsoring employer). Taxis are more easily found than in European countries. This is the preferred mode of transport for expats as there is no underground train service and the bus service is not reliable or widespread.
Common places to work as an SAP consultant
The main locations where SAP consultants are hired in Saudi Arabia are Dammam, Jubail, Riyadh and Al-Khobar. You will find that most expats live in the Eastern Province due to a more relaxed cultural environment. It is also common for followers of the Muslim religion to look for SAP Jobs in Saudi Arabia for the holy period (from June to August) to be able to visit Mecca while in the country.
Living in the Saudi Arabia is a great opportunity to experience the heritage and visit historical sites in Saudi Arabia. You will also be able to view its beautiful scenery that goes from deserts that cover more than half of the country’s area, to a number of lakes such as Yanbu Lakes and the Yellow Lake, as well as the many beautiful beaches and diving spots like Al-Fanateer, Silver Sands and Haql. Living in Saudi Arabia is also a great opportunity to visit nearby Asian and African countries without the hassle of long hours of travel.
With skyscrapers and shopping malls, Riyadh is the biggest city in Saudi Arabia and the main commercial hub in the country. There are lots of sites to visit in Riyadh such as the Al-Bujairi square, the Al-Masmak fortress and the UNESCO World Heritage ruins of Old Dir’aiyah, which are not far from the city. Riyadh is traditional and strict but it also has lots of western compounds with more relaxed environments.
Dammam and Jubail
Dammam and Jubail are located in the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia. Dammam is the third largest city in the country and along with Jubail, is one of the most important industrial cities in the east. The main benefit of living in Dammam and Jubail is that the cost of rent and food is usually much cheaper than in other Saudi cities. Jubail is the home of one of the most famous beaches in the Persian Gulf, Al-Fanateer beach.
Also located in the more relaxed Eastern Province, the city of Al-Khobar is the main area for import-export and the hub for many of the country’s major banks, a popular location to do business. In Al-Khobar you can find the interactive Science and Technology Center with an aquarium and an IMAX theatre, as well as the Aramco Exhibit – a museum about the Saudi oil industry. From Al-Khobar you can easily access the beaches in Half-Moon bay and even reach Bahrein via the King Fahd causeway, a series of bridges and causeways that connect Saudi Arabia with the island of Bahrein.
Many visitors like to take trips to Jeddah to experience the scenery, the beach and the history. The cosmopolitan city of Jeddah is less conservative than Riyadh. This industrial port in the Red Sea is a favourite location for people wanting to visit Mecca, which is only an hour away. Tourist attractions in Jeddah are the Silver Sands beach, the beautiful building of Balad and The Floating Mosque.
Cost of living
Renting in Saudi Arabia is usually around 60% cheaper than the UK and the cost of living is also around 25% lower. Costs will of course depend on your location and lifestyle but generally cities in the Eastern Province are cheaper than living in Riyadh, which with the adding benefit of 0% rate on income tax can provide a very comfortable lifestyle. See here for example prices.
The official language in Saudi Arabia is Modern Standard Arabic, the official business language in the Middle East. English is a compulsory second language taught at schools and it is therefore widely spoken.
Although we can see some western influence in Saudi Arabia, the country has kept its cultural roots and traditions. Generosity and hospitality are very important for Saudi people, however, you are still expected to respect the local traditions, especially during Ramadan season, the most important holiday in which Muslims fast between dusk and dawn. Religion is linked to other aspects of life too such as business, politics and the law which is known for being strict in terms of dress code and social customs.
As part of cultural expectations, women are required to wear full length, loose-fitting abaya and cover their head with a scarf whilst out in public. Men should not wear shorts in public places. You will find many public areas in Saudi Arabia are gender-segregated (e.g. restaurants and shops). You are advised to read up on regulations, laws and customs before travelling to Saudi Arabia.
Shopping is a big part of the Arabic culture, and in Saudi Arabia you can find a big range of shopping experiences, from luxurious shopping malls with international brands to old style markets called Souks, where you can haggle for clothing, jewellery and gold. Some shopping areas are created for “families”, meaning that no men are allowed.
Outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and having picnics are very popular in Saudi Arabia. In areas near the sea, people relax by swimming, fishing and doing water sports. Football is a popular sport too, and the country has its own football league, as well as traditional tournaments that include horse and camel racing, falconry and hunting with hounds.
Arts are also an important part of Saudi Arabia heritage, with their two-week Jenadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival taking place every year with displays of literature, poetry and folk dance.
Food and drink
Traditional Arabian cuisine includes wheat, rice, lamb, chicken, yogurt, potatoes and dates, but foreign products and restaurants can also be easily found. Eating pork and drinking alcoholic beverages is completely banned in the country.
We are regularly placing candidates in high paying contract and permanent SAP roles – browse our latest vacancies.