Kerr is a 25 year old paediatric nurse from Ireland. He started his new job in King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, Riyadh in April 2018 and hasn't looked back!
Is life in Saudi Arabia what you expected it would be?
No! Not at all. There is so much to do here and it feels much more modern than I expected it would. With Vision 2030 and all the recent changes, it doesn't feel like such a huge culture shock. The atmosphere is vibrant and I've never felt restricted at all.
I came here for work but it feels more like a working holiday... I'm always travelling. The location is perfect. So far I've been to Jeddah, Dahran, Dammam, Al Hofuf - all around Saudi Arabia, really - plus Bahrain and Lebanon. I have more trips planned for later this year.
When I'm not travelling, I like to go to the gym on my compound or to the pool. I often eat out at restaurants with friends or go to the mall although that's a little risky as clothes and electronics are so cheap that I just spend all my money!
Is socialising very affordable?
Socialising can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. You can go to a nice restaurant and eat a very good meal for around 150 SAR (approx. 35EUR). There's everything from fine dining to McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts. There is so much variety including all the big chain restaurants.
There are parties every weekend at the Embassies - I'd really recommend participating in these. It's a great way to meet people!
The cinema is a very new thing to Saudi Arabia so that's a little on the expensive side - there's still so much hype around it. The movies showing are quite family friendly - the last time I went I watched Jurassic World.
Getting around couldn't be easier - I mostly use UBER. It's really cheap - about 50 cents per kilometre!
So... are you saving lots of money?
Um... no. The opportunity to save is absolutely there, if you want it. I'm young, I'm 25 years old! I want to travel and see the world - I'm spending it all!
I've also splashed out on braces while I've been here - it costs me about a third of what it would have cost in Ireland. The service was amazing and I have lovely straight teeth now!
Do you feel much more restricted than at home?
Not at all. I dress normally, I spend time with friends, I go out, I socialise. If anything, I do more here than I did in Ireland. I'm having the time of my life.
It can't be all play - tell me about work!
The work is good. It's very different. I would say that I'm not as busy in Riyadh as I would be in Ireland - there are different roles here and some things that I would have done myself in Ireland might be done by a technician. I am learning to enjoy the more relaxed pace.
The hospital is nice and modern and the staff on my unit are great. There is education available for anyone who wants it - I'm doing my PALS now and a chemotherapy course. In addition to this, there are real opportunities for career progression - particularly for those with Masters degrees. I am even considering doing my Masters via the RCSI in Bahrain while working here.
It's all very positive... there must be something you don't like.
Of course it's not all perfect - nowhere is. The way of doing things here is very different. I've found that the trick is to complain a lot if you need something done - or try to figure out a way of doing it yourself rather than wait for someone else to 'do their job'.
I'm here 5 months now and I still don't have some of my paperwork in order... it hasn't affected anything but it's still annoying. Seemingly simple things like opening a bank account can be a chore! It only took me 5 days or so but it was definitely still stressful.
I also often forget about prayer times - all the shops close for half an hour during prayers. I've been caught out more than once!
It all comes down to attitude, really - if you can be positive and accept that not everything is going to work like it does at home, you can get along just fine here. If you want to come here and have fun, there's plenty to be had - but if you want to come and complain... well, there's plenty of that, too! The choice is yours.
Are you homesick?
No, not really. Some days I find myself alone at home and feel a little homesick. Especially if I've been out a lot and I'm feeling really tired after being so busy but then my salary comes in and, to be honest, I forget all about it!
I miss my family but my mum and sister are coming to visit in December. It was so easy and cheap to arrange - I'm just waiting for them to pop in to the Embassy and get their passports stamped. I'm really looking forward to seeing them - my mum is especially excited about visiting the gold souks.
So... what's next?
At the moment, I'm planning on staying for my two year contract but time is flying by and I'm having such a great time... I might stay longer! I often hear people say that they're definitely going home this time and then when I see them a month later, they've signed for another year.
And finally, what advice would you give to a nurse thinking of coming to work in Riyadh?
Do it! But remember that it's not perfect and it's not home. It's a different country, a different culture and it's not going to adjust to you! You have to come here prepared to accept and adjust. You have to be open-minded.
If you're willing to come here with a positive attitude, there is so much adventure to be had. If you want to save money, you can save money. If you want to travel, the opportunities are near endless. If you want to find love, I've seen that happen, too ?.
Trust what your recruiter tells you but remember that they're going to give you the 'worst case' scenario to make sure you're prepared. It's all in your best interests. Take all of their advice on board and be prepared. If you're anything like me, you won't regret the move for a moment.