Auto-Ethnography: US and Saudi Arabia Differences

Personal Experience

The United States and Saudi Arabia have different cultures and lifestyles. Remarkably, people, who live in the respective countries, demonstrate a range of diversities in their lifestyles. As a woman, who is a mother of four children, and a teacher, who traveled from Saudi Arabia to the United States to undertake my master’s degree, various observations and experiences differ from my native culture.

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The experiences concern lifestyles and cultural attachments that are different from those in my homeland. According to Thomas (2006), the individuals of Saudi Arabia believe in the Islamic religion and practice its provisions. However, the people living in the United States are liberal and do not have a singular religion that they practice. The liberal lifestyles and little attachment to religious provisions are some of the factors that interfere with my own culture.

Background of Saudi Arabia

The background of Saudi Arabia reflects a country where individuals practice provisions of the Islamic religion. Besides, people, who live in the country, undertake their activities by the regulations provided by religion. Bowen (2015) and Cavendish (2006) highlight that in Saudi Arabia, it is unethical to engage in activities that are contrary to the culture and provisions of the Islamic religion. Moreover, women in the country are considered as lesser beings, and thus, undertake several activities within homesteads.

The high attachment to the Islamic culture and provisions has compounded the notion that women cannot carry out activities that men undertake. Nazir and Tomppert (2005) as well as Al-Rasheed (2010) explain that women receive unfair treatment and disrespect from men in Saudi Arabia. In essence, the main roles that women play in the country concern household activities such as cooking, taking care of the children, and doing general household chores.

The Research

To effectively conduct my thesis and assess my experience of the differences presented by the cultures and values between Saudi Arabia and the United States, I undertook research using auto-ethnography. Chang (2008) asserts that auto-ethnography is a method that uses personal observation and reflexive analysis to obtain information from the field. Essentially, the research attempted to answer a set of questions related to the unique lifestyles and cultures in the countries.

Research Questions

  1. What are some of the major differences that concern the lifestyles of people in the United States and Saudi Arabia?
  2. What are the diversities that the United States and Saudi Arabia have about culture and religious beliefs?
  3. What is the position of women and education in Saudi Arabia and the United States?

Literature Review

The lifestyles of people in the United States and Saudi Arabia are very different. Rouse (2013) highlights that the citizens of the United States are liberal and dynamic. The individuals from Saudi Arabia are highly attached to the practices provided by the Islamic religion. Remarkably, individuals in Saudi Arabia behave by the regulations provided by the holy Quran.

Consequently, the people of the United States practice lifestyles that are free from any kind of religious attachments and cultural orientations. Imperatively, the main principles that create a distinction in behavior and lifestyles of people from Saudi Arabia and the United States regard religious attachments and cultural orientations.

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Several diversities differentiate the United States from Saudi Arabia. According to Hertzke (2013) and Wright (2005), in the United States, people engage in a life that is free from any cultural or religious orientations. Furthermore, in the United States, individuals have the liberty to practice and profess a religion of their choice freely and fairly. Conversely, the people living in Saudi Arabia have high regard for the provisions of the Islamic religion, which they practice.

In Saudi Arabia, the main religion professed by individuals is Islam and other religions comprise a small percentage. Davidson (2013) asserts that the cultural diversities present between the United States and Saudi Arabia are evident in several aspects, which include dressing, cultural organization, and behavior of individuals. Individuals in Saudi Arabia wear long gowns and hijabs, whereas their counterparts in the United States dress liberally according to their preferences.

Women have lower positions in Saudi Arabia as opposed to men. The high attachments that people in Saudi Arabia accord to the Islamic religion dictates that men should rule over the family. Therefore, many men in the country believe that women are lesser and inferior beings (Human Rights Watch, 2008). The belief that women are inferior and lesser to men results in their oppression and unfair treatment in various social and workplaces.

Moreover, education in Saudi Arabia requires alignment with the provisions of the holy Quran. Shahi (2013) and Ahmed (2008) outline that the implication of the alignment results in a system of education that provides the requisite elements of education and instills religious values in the children. However, the situation is different in the United States where men and women treat each other equally and the education system is liberal.


The method used in the study is auto-ethnography, a method that utilizes personal observations and investigations, which are reflexive. Through the method, the study is effective in assessing the politics, cultures, and social settings of a particular organization. Fundamentally, the method is very useful as it gives room for the researcher to exercise subjectivity during the study. Chang (2008) explains that the method is effective when the researchers participate as they collect the findings from the field of study. It is important to elucidate that auto-ethnography is a method that enables the researcher to pull out ideas, feelings, and opinions from individuals through participant observation.


Ahmed, Q. (2008). In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc.

Al-Rasheed, M. (2010). A History of Saudi Arabia. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Bowen, W. (2015). The History of Saudi Arabia. California: Greenwood.

Cavendish, M. (2006). World and Its Peoples. Singapore: Marshal Cavendish.

Chang, H. (2008). Auto-ethnography as Method. Michigan: Left Coast Press.

Davidson, L. (2013). Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction. California: Praeger.

Hertzke, A. (2013). The Future of Religious Freedom: Global Challenges. New York: Oxford University Press.

Human Rights Watch. (2008). Adults before Their Time: Children in Saudi Arabia’s Criminal Justice System, Volume 20. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Nazir, S., & Tomppert, L. (2005). Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice. New York: Freedom House.

Rouse, L. (2013). Marital and Sexual Lifestyles in the United States: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Relationships in Social Context. New York: Routledge.

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Shahi, A. (2013). The Politics of Truth Management in Saudi Arabia. New York: Routledge.

Thomas, R. (2006). Religion in Schools: Controversies around the World. Connecticut: Praeger.

Wright, J. (2005). Shapers of the Great Debate on the Freedom of Religion: A Biographical Dictionary. California: Greenwood Press.

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