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How I Explain Saudi’s Societal Changes to my Parents

As told by our readers

​​There’s a good chance you’ve familiarized yourself more and more with Saudi recently, and for good reason. The Kingdom has undergone more significant changes than any in the region, and we’ve been paying attention. 

From opening its borders to international tourists to hosting its first ever music festival, the nation has seen a major shift from the ultra-conservative kingdom it once was—and that’s just at its surface. 

From the inside looking in, the shift is even more drastic. Saudi women not only gained the right to drive in 2018, but dress codes have majorly loosened up in recent years. What was once a nation segregated by gender is now home to multiple coed events across its major cities. Women, who required male guardians to live independently and travel, can now do so on their own. 

One thing for sure, the youth is reaping in all these benefits—and for the most part are enthusiastic about the future that is yet to come. But there’s one demographic that’s been kept out of the conversation: their parents. 

Having grown up in a conservative society that was seemingly unchangeable, it’s only natural that much of what is happening can come with a shock, not least, a need for adjustment. To get a really good idea of what that looks like, we caught up with a few of our Saudi readers for some insight. Here’s what they had to say: 

What has your response been to the changes? Do you welcome the changes?  

A: Of course, beyond happy, very welcoming and proud about it, we suffered for a very long time and within three years the country has grown, developed in a way I didn’t imagine, supporting youth is above and beyond. We had so many hidden gems and talents and now they are shinning.

F: It’s all very exciting. I recently went to a new city alone for the first time. 

H: Extremely excited, but more importantly proud. People have a sense of belief, seeing projects and policies manifest before us. We always believed that we could achieve our goals, and with the leadership we have, everything is possible. It is important to also shed light on the development of local tourism, the preservation of culture and heritage amidst the changes, and instead of diluting them, it has become part and parcel of our advancement as a nation.

B: Yes, of course. It’s great to hang out with friends outside, at cafes around the city, listening to music in the car. 

Have your parents/older relatives or friends been receptive to social changes? 

A: Yes indeed 

H: Indeed. Although to some, change may seem bold, however with time it will prove to be fruitful. There’s a sense of realization that the Kingdom is dynamic, accommodating to various social structures and classes. With approx. 60% of the population is below 30, the older generation would seemingly be more comfortable knowing that the future is bright.

F: My parents are shocked that I don’t wear an abaya in Riyadh, for example. 

B: I now have to code switch with my parents. Before I used to code switch at home. I was more laid back in the confines of my own home, and now it’s the opposite. I’m most conservative at home. 

Is it happening at a reasonable pace or is it all too fast for older generations to follow? 

A: I think shocking the system is the best way to drastic changes. It shocks people, but it’s easy to either adapt or simply be ok with [change] for those who are too old to get it or too religious to accept it. 

F: I keep having to tell my parents: this is the new Saudi. We have to adjust. 

H: This is rather subjective, as mentioned, to the younger generation, this is only normal. To the older generation it may be, but many have welcomed the change and actually play an integral role in preserving core cultural elements.

What can be done differently to accommodate different demographics of Saudi?

A: The only thing maybe that I would say can be done differently is not to focus too much on entertainment and more on education. Current people who are more narrow minded need to be educated in order to be more open minded to accept these changes.

H: More or less much has been done differently as it is, it would be hard to gauge what could be done differently per say. Perhaps raising more awareness on the importance of public consultations amongst businesses and the population in general, would support the policy makers and the leadership in catering towards the asks needed.

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