What to Know about Clothing as an ESL Teacher in Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Arabian culture is strict and conservative, so if you intend to teach English in Saudi Arabia, you should expect to wear formal attire to your place of work. There is gender segregation in the workplace, so men will only teach males, and women will only teach females.
The types of ESL jobs available in Saudi Arabia are similar to the opportunities available in most other countries. These are:
- Public schools
- Private schools
- International schools
The dress code for ESL teachers is “conservative,” however, there will be stricter requirements for women.When out in public, women must wear an abaya, which is a loose-fitting all-black garment from head to ankles that conceals the shape of the body. In class, Muslim women will be expected to wear a hijab or scarf to cover their hair, and while it is non-compulsory for foreign women, it is still considered to be respectful of the Saudi culture for all women to cover their hair in class.
In the classroom, you should wear calf to ankle-length dresses or skirts and long-sleeved shirts and blouses. Sleeveless tops, exposed shoulders, and visible cleavage should be covered. For women, you want to cover up as much visible skin as possible.
Men must wear dress pants. Jeans and shorts are not acceptable. Expect to wear more formal attire, such as jackets, for business luncheons or ceremonial functions.
For both men and women, your clothing should not be tight-fitting.
Shoes should be dress-style and certainly not sneakers or sandals.
It’s best to dress conservatively during the first few days and pay attention to what other teachers are wearing and adjust accordingly.
Be mindful of images and messages printed on your clothes, especially regarding politics, religion, profanity, and sex. You must be respectful of Saudi culture and norms.
When considering what to wear, also think about your comfort. You will likely be animated when teaching, so you’ll want to wear clothing that allows you to move around comfortably.
Seasons and Climates
Men’s hair should be nicely styled.
Women’s hair will be covered, so most hair lengths will be adequate as long as it can be concealed in public.
Many men have facial hair in Saudi Arabia, but when teaching, make sure yours is neatly cropped and well-groomed.
Tattoos are taboo at Saudi schools, and if visible, should be covered up at all times.
Wearing jewelry is okay though it is frowned upon to wear too much. Men should limit their jewelry to wristwatches or wedding rings. Avoid walking around with any other jewelry on, especially jewelry that displays religious symbols.