Saudi men: looking for love abroad
As more and more Saudi men choose to marry foreign women, Al Riyadh newspaper investigates the phenomenon that has some happily ensconced and others up in arms. While the older generation tends to blame the rise of technology and the ease of communication for the increase in foreign-women marriages, there is also the question of a much lower dowry, if one at all.
According to Dr. Tawfeik Bin Abdul Aziz Suwilem, chairman of the board of the Awsar Society, there are now 6,000 foreign marriage permits applied for annually. This is a figure that has risen sharply in the last few years and he has started an awareness campaign to warn Saudi men of the dangers of marrying foreign women. Suwilem blames an increase in dowry demands from Saudi families for the rise in foreign marriages.
Others, however, say Saudi men are looking for something different: they want a woman of the world with opinions on politics and culture. This is something many Saudi women lack, having been brought up in a very sheltered environment.
Mansour Imran, a young employee of Aramco, living in Riyadh, said Saudi men were looking for confidence in a woman and liked how open foreign women were:
“[in a foreign marriage] there are no barriers between them, this causes a woman to be more confident… in our society things are different. Young women think that getting married means freedom and achieving unrealized dreams.”
He said these same Saudi women were later shocked to find that marriage also came with all kinds of commitments and responsibilities. He added that the high costs of marriage, expected by Saudi families, often left young men in debt for years.
Mohammad Al Awam, a store manager, agreed that the sheltered lives of Saudi girls left them coming second to foreign women:
“I want an ambitious woman who is not satisfied with just marriage and it's social responsibilities, someone who shares my dreams and aspirations,” he told Al Riyadh.
He said Saudi women were often unable to express their feelings in a relationship and would become unsure of themselves as a result:
“If something bothers her, she will tend to shut-down, without having the will to talk or discuss the issue.
“[A foreign woman] knows what marriage takes, causing her no embarrassment as both partners are honest of what they actually want for each other,” he said.
But not all Saudi men feel the same way and some are convinced that Saudi women are the only ones who can fully understand Saudi society. For Faleh Al Dowsari, the benefits of having a woman who can discuss issues more openly is outweighed by the potential pitfalls of a foreign marriage:
“Some men face problems after marriage such as her [the foreign woman] not accepting his culture or society or not being convinced of the norms and customs of that society… which ends up with the husband being embarrassed by his wife’s behavior.”
Others claim Saudi women are smarter and more understanding than foreign women: they can adapt themselves to their husband’s circumstances and more supportive. But as with all relationships, in Saudi it is ‘each to his own’, either foreign or local.
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