Expat Series: From South Africa to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia

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  1. What is your name?


Ameena Pandor Harharah


  1. What country were you born in?


South Africa 🇿🇦


  1. What job did you have in your home country?

I’ve always been a housewife



  1. How long have you been living in your new country for?


I lived in Malaysia for 6 years in total.


I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for 4 years



  1. Did you immigrate alone or with your family and kids?

 I moved to Malaysia with my parents,  siblings and their spouses and kids.


I moved to Saudi Arabia alone as my husband is Palestinian but born in Jeddah, KSA.


  1. If you had immigrated with your kids, what were their ages when you immigrated and how did they adjust to the new environment?


I was 15 when we moved to the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.  I adjusted quite well as I was open to the new experience. Everyone studying the CIMP course was new so no one had formed cliques as yet which made it easy to make friends with many people. The students were all from various countries (Middle East, Malaysia, Somalia etc) which made my circle of friends quite interesting and a good learning experience in terms of other cultures, religions etc.


  1. How are the schools in the new country?


In Saudi Arabia the good schools (International) are extremely expensive. Usually affordable when an expats company agrees to pay for their children’s education.


I did the Cambridge O Levels via home schooling. I would write the exams at the British council in KL. Thereafter, I did my matriculation via the Canadian Matriculation Program (CIMP) at Sunway University.

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Since it was my last year of schooling I actually enjoyed it as I didnt have the stress to study for finals as the course was 70% assignments and 30% exams. Each class was different and hands on and not the typical classes you would expect in a final year. For instance, one subject was advertising and we had to create professional brochures to advertise a product. The other class was individuals and families, learning all about the various family systems. We even had the chance to do a mock wedding based on each person’s culture.


Thereafter,  I did a double major in International Trade & Marketing with an Australian university called Victoria University. This was situated inside Sunway University as Sunway offers different universities under one roof which makes it quite convenient. As with uni life, its stressful and lots of assignments  and exams but I used to enjoy working in groups as this is where I made more friends from countries such as Pakistan,  Yemen, Maldives, Indonesia,  Thailand .



  1. What is your job in your new country? 


I didnt have any job in Malaysia as I was studying.


In Jeddah, I didnt work either as I was there on a dependent visa (under my hubbys visa)which means I cant legally work there.


  1. What do you enjoy about your new country?


Food. Food & more food. Lol. Both countries everything is Halaal so I really enjoyed learning about the various cuisines local, and international.


I also enjoyed having peace of mind every time i left my home as it was so safe in both countries (though Malaysia does have its petty thefts). The safety of being able to walk the streets at night and not be paranoid that I’d be robbed. Heck, in Saudi families have picnics in the park at 11pm (during summer it gets too hot to picnic during the day).


  1. What do you miss the most about your home country?


I used to miss being able to talk to random strangers. Even if we’re in a queue or in an elevator,  South African’s just tend to be a chatty & friendly bunch. In Saudi Arabia and Malaysia I found people to be a bit reserved in that aspect.


I also missed not being defined. Let me elaborate, when I was in Malaysia & Saudi, people always wanted to know where I’m from. I had never thought of myself anything but South African. When I moved to Malaysia as a teen, I realized that people want to know where I’m from because I don’t fit the stereotype of what a South African looks like.


  1. What advice would you give someone that is contemplating to immigrate to the country you have immigrated to?


Whether its Malaysia or Saudi Arabia,  it would be an incredible experience. In Saudi you get to learn more about the Middle Eastern culture. The foods. And with Malaysia, there’s so many beautiful islands to explore during your vacation breaks. Both countries have culture, history,  and scenic places to tour.


  1. What challenges, if any, would you advise them to anticipate based on your experiences when you first moved to your new country?


Definitely culture shock in Saudi Arabia. Having to wear an Abaya,  women not being allowed to swim in pools or beaches unless they are private.


Also, things tend to work at a snails pace. When you are packing your belongings,  don’t forget to also pack a lot of patience because there will be times when you will need it.


  1. What advice would you give them to overcome those challenges based on how you overcame them?


Sabr- Patience and having an open mind.


  1. How was the visa process for immigrating to your new country?


Malaysia we had gone on the Second Home program. A certain sum had to be invested in the country in order to obtain the visa. I cant explain further as my dad had it all done.


Saudi Arabia was a nightmare because they initially denied my dependent visa. No valid reason. Sometimes it just depends on the guy’s mood. Literally. So I had to wait in South Africa away from my hubby for over a year. You have to obtain permission from the Ministry,  once they give the go ahead you have to take attested documents such as your marriage certificate to VFS Tasheel and they will handle issuing you your visa via the embassy. Once you’re in Saudi you need to apply for the Iqama (the residency card).


  1. How is the cost of living in the new country compared to your home country?

 Malaysia at the time was reasonably cheap. Im not sure how it is now.


Saudi has gone a bit expensive but it also depends. You can get a full meal such as foul (beans) with a huge Naan bread for less than R30. I remember our electric bill used to be cheap at around R300 a month but now they’ve increased it as well as the petrol price. Petrol used to be cheaper than water! Schools & rent can be extremely pricey as well.


  1. Anything else you would like to add, or any advice you would like to give to anyone that is contemplating moving to your new country?


Don’t overthink it, being an expat is an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity. Its a learning experience that will forever be not only in your memories but in your heart as well.

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To see Ameena’s journey you can follow her Instagram page by clicking here.


From South Africa to Istanbul

From South Africa to the UK

From Lahore to London

From Cape Town to Abu Dhabi

From South Africa to Saudi Arabia