Teaching in Saudi Arabia is a very different kettle of fish from teaching in other countries. The pay is very good, and the cost of living is reasonably low, especially if you are given accommodation or receive a housing allowance. And, it is in many ways an interesting country that is going through a transition. Its cities are a blend of the old and the new with high rises going up and new residential areas being built. Shopping is diverse with ultramodern malls with all the American and British chainstores as well as local stores which cater for diverse needs, and there are the usual food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and so on, to the suqs which have such an array of goods at very reasonable prices. These suqs are worth a visit, even though you don't want to buy anything. The more traditional the suq the more there is to see, smell and experience, especially on a Friday night.
But, why is teaching English so different? The main reason is that Saudi Arabia is in the process of catching up to the other non-English speaking countries and the level of English is not as high. Having said this, there are many people who have studies abroad whose English is excellent, and there are many expats whose second language is English. Many of the people from India, Pakistan, the Philippines and other Arab states can speak English. The Saudis themselves have just recently had English placed more prominently in their grade school curricula which makes the younger generation a lot more fluent in English. But, the biggest problem that many t TEFL teacher has encountered is the attitude of the Saudis towards learning. having had experience in teaching in the Far East where the students are a lot more proactive in their approach, I found the Saudis more inclined to want to learn by rote and to have things done for them. They find it difficult to stand up in front of a class and speak, and to try to get them to do role play is even more difficult. There seems to be an inherent shyness and inhibition to perform or act in front of others which makes them more inclined to come to class and be passive learners. Most of them know the verb tenses and can tell you what they are, but becuase they have learnt these by rote learning, they can very seldom use the tense in a sentence of their own. But this knowledge is helpful when you teach the tense as they can connect with the lesson. It all comes down to the practice.
The students, even teenagers, are well behaved, but the one thing that can be a problem is absenteeism or leaving a class after they get their name on the register and not coming back. Another problem is the idea that cheating on tests is not bad because cheating is helping. One broght student might suddenly shout out answers and before you realise it, sections of the multiple choice test have been given out, or you will be distracted by one student and papers will be exchanged. If you catch someone cheating it's as if you have offended the offender. You will be to blame if the student fails.
Saudi Arabia is a strongly Islamic country and the form of Islam praciticed here pervades every aspect of life. Shops and businesses close during the prayer times. Fridays are their sabbath and almost everything is closed until around 16:00. Calls to prayer, recitations from the Quran, and prayers are blasted through loudspeakers throughout the cities and towns, the convergence of which is more cacophonous than pleasant to the untrained ear. Music played loudly is expressly forbidden and it is a notable absence in shopping malls, elevators and whatever public transportation you can find. The dress of the people, even that of expats, is dictated to by the norms and principles of Saudi Islamic practice. This would therefore also affect the way in which you teach. In most cases, you cannot play any form of music in class, and you cannot even refer to the lyrics of songs whch may contain the particular structure or word that you are trying to teach. If you are not a Muslim, you will be given tracts and Qurans, you will be aksed what your religion is, and you will be told that your religion is wrong. You may even be told that you are being prayed for so that you will see the light and convert to Islam. However, you may not discuss your religious beliefs with your students. You will not be coerced into becoming a Muslim, but the questions, the references, the orals on various aspects of Islam, Mohammed the Prophet or the significance of Ramadan will always be there. It must also be remembered that Saudi Arabia is segregated along gender lines and that two people of the opposite gender may not be seen together. Coffee shops and restaurants are also segregated so you cannot even have a meal with someone of the opposite gender unless you can get into a western compound. It is an obviously male dominated society.
But, to get to the main point about teaching in Saudi Arabia, and this is most important. Check your contract thoroughly and determine whether the company "retains your passport for safekeeping". Even if you have your passport, you cannot leave the country as you have to get an exit visa from your employer before you can even board a plane, or take a road trip to one of the neighbouring countries. This is the biggest contention of all, and if you find that you don't like it there, you are stuck. Your employer can keep you there until the end of your contract. Your embassy might try to help, but even their hands are tied. Therefore, you have to get it in writing that you will be given an 6 month open entry/exit visa and that your passport will be handed back to you once the residence and work visa have been sorted out. many an expat has found themselves in this situation.