Things NOT to say in a Riyadh university

I was just given my Culture Sensitivity List for this semester’s class…

Basically, if you’re considering teaching in Riyadh, prepare to get creative!

Here are the topics you must either avoid, or proceed with caution:

1) Adopted children and children conceived out of wedlock

2) Alcoholic drinks and intoxicating drinks

3) Birthdays

4) Blended family concepts (e.g. a step-brother/ step-sister living together)

5) Boyfriends or girlfriends

6) Celebrities: actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, etc.

7) Christmas

8) Concerts

9) Dating

10) Dramas

11) Drinking alcohol

12) Drugs and drug abuse

13) Devil and demons

14) Euthanasia

15) Eating pork

16) Fashion

17) Film-making

–turning page–

18) HIV or AIDS

19) Holidays outside the two Islamic holidays

20) Homosexuality

21) Love stories, being in love, falling in love, love at first sight, soulmates

22) Magic, magicians

23) Mental situations, mental diseases, etc.

24) Mixed gender situations (men and women working together, socializing, etc.)

25) Movies: only when talking about a particular movie or when the word movies is used to refer to the cinema

26) Moving out (not living with the family in the same house) at the age of 18

27) Music, musical instruments

28) Neuroticism

29) Partner relationships (unmarried couples)

30) People not dressed properly, e.g. wearing shorts (men or women)

31) Plastic surgeries, physical appearance changes

32) Political topics, elections, etc

33) Professional dancing and dancers

34) Psychologists or psychiatrists

35) Religion

36) Sculpture (human/animal faces)

37) Singing

38) Sexually transmitted diseases

39) Spirits and witchcraft

40) Social networking

41) Superpowers or superheroes

42) Superstitions: beliefs not based on facts/scientific knowledge (crossing fingers for good luck, the number 13, walking under ladders)

43) Theatre

44) TV shows or programs that discuss inappropriate themes like music, dancing, (American Idol, So you think you can dance, etc)

45) Tobacco and smoking

46) Women driving

**Scratching my lesson plan, before today’s class**

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15 thoughts on “Things NOT to say in a Riyadh university

    • Culturally, it’s more taboo to have an orphan needing adoption. Since families are so large here, normally blood-relatives would take the child in. There are orphans here, tho.

      Women don’t have to cover-up around blood relatives. However since an orphan is not blood, once the child reaches puberty, she will have to cover around all male family (or if orphan’s a boy, all female members must cover). So, perhaps, a slight inconvenience..and I could imagine it would make the child feel like an outcast. But this would be done, so not to break the strict gender segregation rule since “outside family members” shouldn’t see her. Lastly, the orphan could technically marry anyone in the family.

      I’m sure there are some exceptions tho, or ways around these rules.

  1. Orphans exist; there are orphanages? What is the adoption process and can expats adapt Saudi orphans?

    The list you presented is exhaustive and I am sure just a tip of what’s taboo to discuss with Saudis. However, do students bring up taboo topics in class to get teachers (presumably who they don’t like) in trouble?

    • There are orphanages. However, the adoption process is not like the U.S., since it’s controlled by Sharia law. I definitely want to research that one.. maybe a post for next week 🙂

      Oh and yes, there are those students who try to lead ya into the pit, which is why we gotta stay ready. Some, report you cause they don’t like you; some are just like little kids, get you to say something wrong so that they can giggle about it w/ their friends.

  2. Wow. That is so limiting. I find it so strange that they would invite foreign teachers but not want them to talk about their cultures.
    Is there a specific curriculum that they give you to work from, or just this list of what not to discuss?

    • I would absolutely love to teach culture.. especially movie and music. A lot of the girls listen to that stuff on their own anyway. But we have to be sensitive to those who don’t.

      We are given a book to work from, and somewhat of a schedule. However, the book is not geared towards the limitations. So we have to know which sections to skip or teach.

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