As more Saudi students travel abroad for university education there is an increase in bi-cultural relationships between predominantly Saudi men and foreign women. Ironically the Saudi women who travel abroad for university usually do not have the same interest or drive towards getting to know the opposite sex as the young Saudi men. The Saudi women whom I have known that are receiving their education abroad are more interested and enjoying the freedoms of learning how to drive and simply explore their new local area. Most of the Saudi women have not had the exposure interacting with non-related men and choose to avoid them for the most part.
Young Saudi men, on the other hand, are gregarious, charming and quickly have a wide variety of friends, to include foreign women. The Saudi man who travels outside of the Kingdom for education is made fully aware that he is prohibited from having a relationship with a foreign woman while abroad. However, in spite of this advanced knowledge, few if any men, will tell a foreign woman with whom he has become involved the details behind his scholarship.
The young Saudi man will generally tell the foreign woman that she is the love of his life and he’s never met anyone like her. She is going to be his wife. He will talk about how he loves her and woo her. He will be exceedingly polite with her family. The foreign woman and the family will find him very thoughtful and caring. He’ll take the time to sit with Grandmother or Grandfather even if they are hard of hearing and have a grand time with them. He will be good and at ease around young children. He will court the woman and her family with an old world charm and respect that is generally not seen among young American men.
As the relationship develops between a young Saudi man and woman, he’ll talk more that she will be his wife. He may very well talk about his family and assure the young woman they will love her. He’ll talk with passion about his home country. For the young woman who has never met a Saudi before, she will likely be overwhelmed and feel like she’s been picked up off of her feet and set upon a magic carpet ride. The young Saudi man with his dark hair and eyes and accent is exotic and ever so handsome.
He may attempt to sweet talk the young woman into an intimate relationship. That’s a warning sign. Such a relationship in Saudi Arabia is prohibited. A young woman may interpret a deeper and intimate relationship as a sign of commitment. The young Saudi man may view it as “what he can get away with.”
If a Saudi man alludes that he wants to marry the foreign woman she needs to learn about him and his family. When a woman marries a Saudi she marries his family. Marriages in Saudi remain arranged for the most part. If a Saudi talks about marriage to a foreign woman but she has not met or spoken to his mother and sisters via Skype then that is not a good sign. He may have introduced her to other male friends or male relatives but that is not the same. It is ingrained in a Saudi that the female family members and especially his mother should know of his choice if he is intent on marrying a woman.
A Saudi man should also be upfront and candid with a young woman about the Saudi scholarship program and Saudi marriage restrictions. Saudi students on scholarships are prohibited from marriage to a foreigner. Saudi men under the age of 35 are not to marry foreigners (non-Arabs). A Saudi student may try to make light of the requirements saying they do not apply to him or he has influence (WASTA) so that he can circumvent the requirements. He may try to persuade a foreign woman to marry while they are still students but keep it a quiet secret marriage. RED ALERT!!!!
It’s not that a Saudi isn’t free to marry. He is…in a sense. But once his scholarship is completed he is to return to Saudi Arabia. Or if it is discovered that he secretly married a foreigner while a student his scholarship would be revoked and he would return to the Kingdom. A Saudi can marry whom he wants but the Saudi government must approve the marriage in order for he and his foreign wife to live together in the Kingdom (legally) as husband and wife.
As a result many Saudi students do marry a foreigner while they are a student, keep it quiet and then return to Saudi Arabia promising to get to the approval. In too many cases, that is the last the woman has heard from him. In some cases he may return and try to get the approval but find himself embroiled in a mass of bureaucracy. Not to sound discouraging but the approval process can take years. It is complicated and more so if the young man’s Saudi family were not aware of his marriage or intention to marry a foreigner.
Every young woman in love with a Saudi will say that her Saudi is different. That’s true…each Saudi is different. But whether each one is truly honorable when it comes to a relationship with a foreign woman is the question.