Non-Saudi Wife Of A Saudi Interview: Nicole

I’d like to introduce a fellow Missourian, Nicole. She is a new Muslimah and a new wife of a Saudi.

“Dear Umm Omar, Salaam alaikom and Ramadan mubarak! I am an American Muslimah and wife to a Saudi, as well as a fellow Missouri girl. πŸ™‚ My husband and I are currently going through the Saudi marriage permission process–he is in Riyadh, where he works, and I am currently back in the States, finishing up my PhD in education at Kansas State University. I would love to share my story, if only to connect with other non-Saudi women in similar situations so we can commiserate.Β And finally, thank you so much for maintaining the Future Husbands and Wives of Saudis site. It has kept me sane some days when I had no one to talk to about my situation–and so I went to taraummomar.blogspot.com and just read. πŸ™‚ Thanks again, Nicole”

I don’t expect thank you’s from FHWS readers but it is nice when I do get them. I happened to get one from Nicole when I was feeling all melancholy and homesick. It brought tears of gratitude to my eyes and brightened my day. Letters like this give me the motivation to keep FHWS going as a resource and source of support. But it is not just me who sustains FHWS, it is the readers who recommend it to others, commentators and contributors like Nicole. I can’t thank you all enough.

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PERSONAL QUESTIONS

Your nationality and country of residence: I’m American, and I currently live in Kansas, although I’m originally from a tiny town in southern Missouri.

What is your job/hobbies? I’m a graduate teaching assistant in the College of Education at K-State. I don’t have a lot of free time, but I like to bake, knit, read, study languages, and take photographs. I enjoy pretty much anything crafty! I’m trying to make running a hobby, as well.

Are you married to a Saudi? Yup, I sure am!

When/where did you meet your Saudi husband? We met at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. We were both working on master’s degrees there at the time. I was observing classes at the university’s English Language Institute during the summer of 2008, where my husband was taking classes before beginning his MBA the following fall. We started talking after class one day–about country music, of all things! In fact, I think the first words he ever spoke to me were, “Excuse me, I have a question and I think you might know the answer.” (Suspicious pause on my end, as this sounded like the beginning of a lame pick-up line.) Then, “Do you know where I can buy a cowboy hat?” He stole my heart right then, I think! πŸ™‚ We bonded pretty quickly; it seemed like we could talk for hours and hours about anything and everything. And yes, he did eventually get a cowboy hat; my dad gave him one for Christmas that year.

How long did you know him before you were married? We knew each other for a little over 3 years when we got married.

Do you have the Saudi marriage permission and how long did it take? We are working on acquiring the marriage permission now.

If so, did you acquire it by wasta or any other means? I’ll be happy to share the story how we got it once we get it, inshallah. I’m sure I’ll be so happy I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops! πŸ™‚

If you are currently processing your marriage permit, how do you cope with the wait, obstacles, general frustrations? The best we can do right now is just to stay in touch with each other (we Skype like crazy) and remind each other that it will all be worth it in the end. It is a little easier knowing that the lack of marriage permission isn’t the sole reason we are apart; even if we already had it, I’d have to be here finishing my PhD, while he would have to be in Riyadh for his work.

Did his family accept his marriage to you? Yes, alhamdulillah. It took a little bit of convincing (especially his dad), but mainly their concerns were not with me personally, but with the drastic cultural differences that they knew that both my husband and I would have to deal with in such a marriage.

Did your family accept your marriage to him? Yes, with the same reservations that my husband’s family had. We’re grateful, though, that our families were willing to hear us out, and let us explain why we truly believed that we had found a great match in each other. Now my parents regard my husband as just one of the family.

How are your relations with your family/in-laws now after marriage? My in-laws are so sweet. I feel very grateful to have in-laws who are so supportive and kind, regardless of culture. And I know that in Saudi Arabia, sometimes such in-laws are not easy to find, especially when the oldest son comes home announcing that he wants to marry an American.

Do you have children? No, but someday, inshallah!

Is your husband involved in raising the children? Well, since we don’t have children, I can’t really answer that question. However, we do have two dogs, and I know that if he cares for our children the way he cares for our dogs, he will be very involved in raising the children. πŸ™‚ One time, when I was at work, Andy, our Yorkshire Terrier, got a sick tummy and threw up behind a chair. My husband cleaned up the mess, then called me and told me what happened, asking me if I thought he needed to take Andy to the vet. Then he said, “Right now I’m holding him and rubbing his tummy. Do you think that will help?” Such a good dad already, mashallah! πŸ™‚

Does your husband help you with house chores? Absolutely. He’s very helpful when I need him to be, mashallah! The last time he was here, I was at work for half a day each day while he was on vacation, so he stayed home all day. During that time, I would sometimes come home to find him vacuuming. I have yet to train him to put his tissues in the trash can, though. He leaves them all around the house, lol…but I guess all things considered, I can handle that. πŸ™‚

If you have lived in Saudi Arabia, for how long? I haven’t lived in Saudi Arabia yet, but I hope to eventually.

What are the things you like/liked about Saudi Arabia? I think I will like hearing the adhan sounding all across the city. I’m really looking forward to that.

What are the things you dislike/disliked about Saudi Arabia? I’m worried about all the sand! I tend to sneeze a lot…but maybe the dry climate will be better for my allergies than the soul-crushing humidity of Kansas and Missouri.

What would you like to see improved in Saudi Arabia? Well, I haven’t been to Saudi Arabia yet, but early this year, an American Muslimah friend and I were considering trying to make umrah during spring break. We looked into it and found out that we were not allowed to travel into the country by ourselves–unless we were over 40 and carried a note from our mahrams saying that we had their permission to travel. Also, since we both had “non-Arabic names,” we both required verification from our local masjid that we were, in fact, Muslims. Of course, all of that was moot because we aren’t over 40, but I was absolutely outraged. What if I never reached the age of 40, God forbid? (Not that 40 is old, by any means, but we never know when we’ll go!) I would like to see those rules relaxed. We just wanted to get to Makkah. And don’t even get me started on the marriage rules. And how they are utterly against Islam.

Do you think you’d feel trapped in Saudi Arabia or would you feel comfortable living in the country? Everyone keeps telling me that there is no way I will be able to live in Saudi Arabia–my mouth is too loud. Of course, these are mostly Americans who have never been to Saudi Arabia or even really read about life in Saudi Arabia. I’m hoping that in time, Saudi Arabia will come to feel like my second home.

Would you take Saudi citizenship if you had the chance…why/why not? I would not take the citizenship if it meant giving up my American citizenship, just as my husband would not give up his Saudi citizenship for American citizenship. I’m excited at the prospect of making a life in a new place, and I will leap into it headfirst! πŸ™‚ But I am American, and I will always be American.

Do you think non-Saudis should change anything about themselves in order to fit into Saudi society? I think that non-Saudis should learn to play by the Saudi cultural rules, especially if they want their time in the kingdom to be happy. But I wouldn’t advocate changing the essence of who you are. I wouldn’t advocate trying to become someone you aren’t. Honestly, no matter how hard you try, I don’t think it’s even possible to truly transform who you are. I’ll do my best to fit in to Saudi society, but I won’t ever expect anyone to think of me as anything but “the American.” πŸ™‚

Do you think a non-Saudi man/woman can be happy in Saudi Arabia? Well, I hope so, since I plan to try to be happy there!

What do you think non-Saudis should know about Saudi men/women? Family is paramount. Everything in Saudi Arabia is about family. And essentially, we’re all alike, no matter where we come from. Yes, there will be times when it seems like Saudis and non-Saudis come from an entirely different species. But the commonalities are there; it’s just about finding them.

What is your advice when a non-Saudi man/woman meets their potential/future Saudi in-laws? Be yourself. Be ready to adapt to a new culture. Be kind. Be helpful. Smile! It’s important to remember that in Saudi culture, you’re not just marrying your husband, you’re marrying his family, too. And it’s essential for the success of your marriage that your mother-in-law approves. Before my husband even brought up to his parents the idea of marrying me, his father told him, “Whoever you choose, make sure your mother likes her. Otherwise your life will be a living hell.” I think this is wise advice.

What advice would you give a non-Saudi considering marriage to a Saudi? Learn about Islam. Work on learning Arabic. Understand that you will never replace your husband’s family, even if you do become a part of it; this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you with all he has, but he was raised to take care of his family, and if he is a good man, he will take this cultural obligation seriously. (Obviously, I’m writing this from the perspective from a non-Saudi woman married to a Saudi man.) Spouses have a different role in the dynamics of a Saudi family than an American family. In American culture, when a couple marry, the expectation is that they are breaking off from the rest of the family to start their own. However, in the Saudi family, the spouse is just joining the family, and helping to add to it, not eclipsing the rest of it. Be willing to learn how to cook at least a little bit, but don’t expect your cooking to ever be better than your mother-in-law’s. (I think that’s actually probably pretty good advice for any marriage.) Don’t expect to get to know his friends; if he’s serious about you, you won’t know them, but you will know his family.

Know your rights. Know your rights in Islam, in your country’s government, and in the Saudi government. Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you need to make your marriage successful.

Photo Credit: Nicole

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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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