Intercultural Marriage between Saudis and Americans

By looking at which nationalities are most represented in a college that already attracts international students, Ohio University, one can almost  pin-point which country’s economy is flourishing at the moment just from a walk around campus. In my experience in-and-out of the foreign language building where English intensive classes are held, I can tell you with confidence that Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that are most highly represented in the international student population. This resonates with recent strategic geopolitical steps taken by the country to send their youth to remote institutes of higher education.

Learning English is a smart move for competing in the global economy, and therefore countries craft desirable citizens by sending them abroad. A few weeks ago, I glossed over some major themes in Saudi Arabian higher education, including the massive influx of students to the United States in recent years. King Abdullah granted a scholarship allowing thousands of Saudis to study abroad in United States and in other economically-flourishing countries.  Something interesting to consider is the amount of romantic relationships that have ensued simultaneously as students have less behavioral restrictions.

The mingling of sexes is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabian Sharia Law, yet intercultural relationships are springing up, even marriages. Evidence for this can be found on the multitude of blogs outlining precautions and other advice on the highly-problematic Saudi-American relationship. People write from personal experience and  observations.  Why is this pairing so problematic?

  • Marriage permit itself is hard to obtain. The Saudi marriage permission is required for any Saudi male or female who desires to marry a non-Saudi. It is difficult to obtain unless husband knows an influential person (called “wasta” in Arabic) or coughs up a hefty bribe in order to get the permit approved quickly
  • Pressure of Family expectations. If a Saudi man decided to marry a foreigner it is safe to say he circumvented the expectation of an arranged marriage, which is typically considered taboo. Depending if the husband wants to return to his home country or not, the new couple may decide to live with the husband’s family where the American women would have to stay home, and she may never be exactly accepted and comfortable with herself in her new surroundings.
  • Children of Failed marriages. Failed marraiges lead to custody “battles,” that almost always give the Saudi man and his country possession over the dual-national children. In a number of highly publicized instances, these children have been taken to or kept in Saudi Arabia by their Saudi fathers, against the will of their American mothers. The U.S. embassy doesn’t typically have jurisdiction to step in, if it miraculously does, the process is long for the woman to return home, often without her child. (if you would like to read more about Saudi Children left behind, click here)

Overall, the amount of international university students gives rise to intercultural marriage. This happened after the initial geopolitical move of economic comradery between George Bush and King Abdullah. Big decisions in politics trickle down to affect the minutia of personal lives, and it always has. One example I can conjure as an American is the Baby Boom: After World War II had drawn to a close (political affairs), the United States underwent an unprecedented population increase that still, present day, has shaped the social and political landscape of the United States, and changed how and where many Americans live (personal lives).

It is important to note that there are varying experiences among different types of people, as not all people of one region or religion tend to hold the same exact constituency of values. However, consensus from the blogs I linked above argues above are that  the best relationships between the two parties occur when the Saudi Arabian man is striving to deviate from his home culture in some achievable way that still balances his image with his family and community.


5 thoughts on “Intercultural Marriage between Saudis and Americans

  1. One of my favorite professors, my role model, and my friend is a woman from Saudi Arabia. She came to the United States from Saudi to recieve a formal high education degree. She is working on her Ph.D and teaches Arabic to American students. I also recently found out that she is married to an American. Something that was quite shocking to me. It is super interesting and cute. I don’t see anything wrong with it. love is love and it sucks that governments make it so complicated to express that.

  2. Your blog was really interesting to read because I never thought about whether the international students keep to traditional customs or more western culture. Personally I don’t think it should matter whether or not they choose to date someone foreign because they already have the freedom and opportunity to be independent in another country, so they should be able to do what they want.

  3. When I was in middle school my cousin, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, was engaged to a woman from Saudi Arabia. I will admit, it initially came as a shock to our family. When we met her, she cooked us a traditional Saudi Arabian meal and talked to me about communications and journalism in Saudi, as this is my major. Since their marriage, I have gained a closer relationship with my cousin and his wife. I’m glad that they felt comfortable enough to get married and be so open about it with our entire family. They now have three kids and I couldn’t be happier for them.

  4. You can not control who you fall in love with and I think a blending of cultures is a beautiful thing. I love attending Ohio University because there is such as blend of cultures and when that happens there is bound to be cross cultural relationships and, I do not see anything wrong with that.

  5. I have a female friend or two that are in relationships with Saudi Arabian guys here on campus. They’ve frequently discussed with their boyfriends, as well as others, the difficulties of looking towards the future for their relationship. As you said at the end of your post, it is easier when the guy wants to deviate from his own culture. However, family is highly important in Saudi Arabia. Most guys want or even need to go back to their country to support their family, leading to his American girlfriend coming along for the ride or they breakup. The freedoms for women are so different between America and Saudi Arabia that I think it would be near impossible for an independent American woman to be satisfied with less freedom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s