(MENAFN - Arab News) WHEN I PACKED my bags to return home after nearly a decade in the United Kingdom, the most prominent question my friends asked at the time was: How are you going to adjust to living back home again?
Interestingly, the question often came from those who had been away from home for less than two years or a few months, yet the thought of going back was already a terrifying prospect!
I was asked this question even after my return, and the fact is that I did not go through a depression after returning - thank God. Perhaps because I had decided beforehand, not to repeat the mistake of other scholarship returnees, and their eternal complaints that annoy all those around them, or maybe because I was homesick. I was not afraid of going back home, because I realized that life experience anywhere has its benefits and flaws, but I know that returning home already haunts a significant proportion of scholarship students. So one wonders, what is the reason for this?
Reverse culture shock, which afflicts expatriates after returning to their countries, is not our own unique problem.
However, there are a few disturbing things are unique to Saudi women who return home after the experience of life abroad. She would deal with people from other cultures and be self-reliant in many ways.
These women know they will lose their freedom of movement, and when I say freedom of movement, it does not mean just driving a car, for not all women abroad have cars or driver's licenses, but also the use of public transport - buses, subways etc. This freedom of movement also applies to their male guardians, as they are no longer obliged to work as a driver for the family all the time, but know they can rely on their female relatives to manage most of their affairs and family matters.
Even without the use of transportation of any kind, the female scholarship returnee knows that back home, she will not be able to even walk to the end of the street to buy what she needs from the pharmacy or grocery store. Not because there is a law that prevents us, but because our customs say doing so is unsafe and is not fitting. Even if she gathered her courage and ignores traditions, she finds that it would be actually impossible. There are no pedestrian crossings on any roads, and most of us do not have the courage to risk our lives trying to cross!
Leaving the subject of transportation, its importance and its association with each part of the lives of women, there are simple pleasures they would be denied back home. These innocent pleasures include the presence of affordable health clubs in each district in towns and cities, the presence of beautiful large parks to be enjoyed, and public libraries. We also will find that there are a lot of activities that mothers are deprived of doing with their children.
Next comes the absence of entertainment, such as cinemas, theater and similar forms of entertainment. Before we get into the argument of Halal and Haram, the Kingdom's state television since its beginnings presented Arab and foreign films after selecting those most suited to our culture, and deleting some unsuitable scenes, which a lot of neighboring Gulf countries are doing. Their cinemas are packed with Saudi families every vacation. The family also can pick what is appropriate; even in the West there are categories for films by age. We are not talking here about sexual scenes only, but also violence or horrific scenes and bad language as well. Cinema seating areas for single men, and others for families could provide, for it is not necessary for us to import things as they are, but we can bend them as we like to suit our values.
Some believe that when we talk about successful and beautiful cities, that we are just talking about a clean and safe place - Such as cities with paved roads, good schools and functioning hospitals, nor do we just mean competent municipalities that take action, or efficient water, electricity and sewage networks, as well as good recycling waste management.
Of course all these are non-debatable priorities, but entertainment and fun for individuals and families are also priorities that should not be ignored in any city. A city should not just be a home for people to live in, but should also be attractive and distinct, especially to bright and successful young people. In a country with a young majority such as Saudi Arabia, the reality is current cities do not reflect the aspirations of young people, their dreams and their lifestyles thus making them want to immigrate because they feel that their cities are expelling them.
God has granted us a wonderful homeland, with many great things, but which, if we follow Sharia law and not follow restricting social customs, could become a fist class tourist attraction in the region and the Islamic world. But at the moment we have to think about how to make it more attractive to its present population and for those thousands returning from overseas before we talk about tourism for those from other countries.