Living in Damman: The Best Expat Guide in 2023

living in Damman

Living in Damman offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition. Many expatriates are drawn to the city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and promising economic opportunities.

If you’re considering living in Damman, this guide will provide essential insights to help you navigate your new life.

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Table of Contents

Why Explore Living in Damman

Living in Damman presents a world of opportunities. The city boasts a thriving economy, a diverse expat community, and a rich tapestry of cultural experiences. Living in Damman ensures you’ll always have things to explore, from its bustling markets to its serene beaches.

As the fourth-most populous city in Saudi Arabia, Damman is a major administrative center for the Saudi oil industry. The city’s rapid growth rate of 12% annually makes it the fastest-growing city in Saudi Arabia, the GCC, and the Arab world.

Living in Damman also means being part of the Greater Dammam area, which includes the ‘Triplet Cities’ of Dammam, Dhahran, and Khobar, offering a combined cultural and economic experience.

Damman’s history and culture

Living in Damman gives you a front-row seat to witness the harmonious blend of ancient traditions with modern advancements. The city’s roots trace back centuries, and its cultural landmarks remind it of its storied past.

The area that eventually became Damman was settled by the Dawasir tribe around 1923, with the blessings of King Ibn Saud. Originally a fishing hamlet, Damman underwent a significant transformation within half a century after the discovery of oil in the region.

The city’s growth was further propelled when it became the capital of the newly formed Eastern Province after the unification of Saudi Arabia.

living in Damman
Living in Damman also means being part of the Greater Dammam area, which includes the ‘Triplet Cities’ of Dammam, Dhahran, and Khobar, offering a combined cultural and economic experience.

The Oil Boom and Damman’s Rapid Growth

The discovery of oil in the region marked a turning point in Damman’s history. The planning for drilling wells began in 1933, and by 1938, Dammam Well No. 7 started producing a significant amount of oil.

This discovery led to a construction boom in the 1940s and 50s, with the city becoming a hub for the Saudi oil industry. Living in Damman during this period meant witnessing firsthand the city’s transformation into a modern urban and industrial center.

Modern Developments and Connectivity

Over the decades, Damman has evolved into a contemporary urban hub. The city is well-connected with other parts of the country through roads, highways, and the King Fahd International Airport.

Additionally, the King Abdul Aziz Sea Port in Damman is the largest on the Persian Gulf, further boosting the city’s economic significance. Living in Damman today means being part of a city that seamlessly blends its rich history with modern amenities and opportunities.

Cultural Significance and Entertainment

Living in Damman also offers a plethora of cultural and entertainment options. As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program, several entertainment destinations, including amusement parks and theaters, are being established in the Eastern Province.

Moreover, the city is home to various local markets, malls, and shopping centers catering to both locals and expatriates.

Cost of Living in Damman

Living in Damman, like any major city, requires a keen understanding of the cost of living. Your expenses can vary significantly based on your lifestyle choices, from housing to transportation to dining.

Housing and Accommodation

One of the first things you’ll notice when you start living in Damman is the variety of housing options available. Whether you’re a single professional or moving with a family, Damman offers a range of accommodations to suit your needs.

Renting vs. Buying

For many expats living in Damman, renting is the preferred choice. It provides flexibility, especially if you’re still gauging your stay’s duration.

On the other hand, if Damman is your long-term destination, investing in property might be a smart move. Real estate in the city has seen steady appreciation, making it a potentially lucrative investment.

Popular Expat Neighborhoods

Damman boasts several neighborhoods that are popular among the expat community. These areas not only offer quality housing but also come equipped with amenities that enhance the experience of living in Damman.

These neighborhoods, from international schools to shopping centers, ensure that everything you need is just a stone’s throw away.

Transportation Costs

Transportation is an integral aspect of living in Damman. While the city is expanding its public transport infrastructure, many residents and expats prefer using private vehicles for convenience.

Public vs. Private Transport

Public transportation, though growing, might not cover all areas of the city comprehensively. Hence, many expats living in Damman opt for private vehicles.

It offers the convenience of traveling at one’s own pace and can sometimes be more cost-effective than relying on taxis or other modes of public transport.

Car Ownership Considerations

Owning a car while living in Damman comes with its set of expenses. Apart from the initial investment, you must consider recurring costs like fuel, maintenance, and insurance.

Investigating these expenses is essential when budgeting for life in Damman.

Food and Dining Expenses

Living in Damman is a treat for the taste buds. The city offers a rich culinary landscape, blending traditional Arabian flavors with international cuisines.

Grocery Shopping Tips

Local markets in Damman are a treasure trove of fresh produce. Moreover, with the city’s cosmopolitan nature, supermarkets stock a mix of local and international products.

This diversity ensures that you can easily find ingredients for any dish you wish to whip up while living in Damman.

Dining Out: Local Eateries vs. International Restaurants

Damman’s dining scene is vibrant and varied. Local eateries offer traditional dishes, often at pocket-friendly prices. On the other hand, the city also houses several international restaurants, perfect for those days when you crave flavors from back home.

Regardless of your preference, living in Damman ensures that you’re never too far from a delicious meal.

Job Market in Damman

Living in Damman provides expatriates with many job opportunities, thanks to the city’s booming economy. As the 6th largest city in Saudi Arabia, Damman, along with its neighboring cities like Khobar and Dhahran, forms the Greater Dammam area.

This region is not only known for its historical significance but also for its economic prowess, especially in the oil industry.

Popular Industries for Expats

While the oil industry remains the backbone of Damman’s economy, the city has diversified its economic landscape over the years.

Living in Damman allows expatriates to venture into various sectors:

Oil and Gas

Historically, the region’s economy was centered around fishing and pearl diving. However, with the establishment of Saudi Aramco in neighboring Dhahran and the subsequent development of oil exploitation, Damman has witnessed significant economic growth.

The oil sector remains a major employer for both locals and expatriates living in Damman.

Retail, Education, and Construction

The retail sector, education, and construction have seen rapid growth in recent years. The influx of foreigners living in Damman has led to steady employment growth in these sectors, offering diverse job opportunities.

Attractions, Food/Catering, and Entertainment

The entertainment and food industry in Damman has expanded, catering to the diverse population living in the city. The city offers a rich culinary experience from local eateries to international cuisines.

Local Employment Laws and Regulations

Expatriates living in Damman must familiarize themselves with the local employment laws. Saudi Arabia has specific regulations concerning work permits, contracts, and other employment-related matters.

Work Permits and Iqama

To legally work in Saudi Arabia, expatriates need an Iqama, a national residency permit. This permit contains essential details like name, nationality, job title, employer, and expiration date.

It’s imperative to carry the Iqama at all times, as failure to present it can lead to fines or even jail terms.

Saudization Policy

Saudi Arabia has implemented a Saudization policy that prioritizes the employment of Saudi nationals, especially in the private sector.

This policy has reduced the number of vacancies available to foreigners, making it essential for expatriates to have specific skills and qualifications that are in demand.

living in Damman
Expatriates living in Damman must familiarize themselves with the local employment laws. Saudi Arabia has specific regulations concerning work permits, contracts, and other employment-related matters.

Networking and Job-Hunting Strategies

Building connections is vital for anyone living in Damman. The city’s job market thrives on networks and referrals.

Online Job Portals

Several online job portals, including Bayt, Naukrigulf, and Mihnati, cater to the Middle Eastern region. International websites like MonsterGulf, Glassdoor, and Indeed also list job offers from Damman.

These platforms are efficient ways to scout for job vacancies.

Direct Applications

Sending your CV and Cover Letter directly to companies of interest can be an effective strategy. Researching top businesses in your field in Damman and checking their LinkedIn pages or official websites can provide valuable insights.

Networking Events and Expat Groups

Engaging in local networking events and joining expat groups can provide insights into the job market. Interacting with fellow expatriates living in Damman can offer guidance and introduce you to potential job opportunities.

Embracing the Local Culture

Living in Damman provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in a rich tapestry of traditions and customs.

The city, like the rest of Saudi Arabia, holds its cultural values in high regard, and understanding these nuances can significantly enhance your experience.

Learning the language: Arabic basics for daily life

While English remains a widely spoken language, especially in business circles, acquiring some basic Arabic phrases can be invaluable. Not only does it make daily interactions smoother, but it also demonstrates respect and appreciation for the local culture.

Living in Damman becomes more enriching when you can greet your neighbors with a friendly “Salam” (Hello) or thank someone with a heartfelt “Shukran” (Thank you).

Cultural etiquettes and norms

Saudi Arabia, and by extension, Damman, strongly emphasizes respect and modesty. Living in Damman means adapting to these cultural norms, which can differ significantly from Western practices.

Dress code and behavior

Modesty remains a cornerstone of Saudi Arabian culture. For those living in Damman, this translates to dressing conservatively. Men typically wear a ‘thobe’ – a long white robe, while women don an ‘abaya’ – a black cloak that covers the body.

While expatriates aren’t strictly required to adopt these clothing styles, dressing modestly, especially in public places, is essential. For women, this means avoiding short skirts or sleeveless tops; for men, shorts or sleeveless shirts are best avoided.

living in Damman
From the holy month of Ramadan to the Eid celebrations, the city comes alive with events that offer a deep dive into Saudi Arabian culture.

Social gatherings and local customs

Participating in local festivities and traditions is one of the joys of living in Damman.

From the holy month of Ramadan to the Eid celebrations, the city comes alive with events that offer a deep dive into Saudi Arabian culture. However, there are some essential customs to be aware of:

  • Engaging in Small Talk: It’s customary to engage in small talk before discussing any particular matter, especially with a Saudi counterpart. For instance, asking about their family’s well-being is a common practice. However, refrain from inquiring about a man’s wife or personal matters unless they initiate the topic.
  • Acknowledging Achievements: Living in Damman during this cultural and social transition era means witnessing the country’s modern advancements. Acknowledging these achievements, especially in conversations, is appreciated by locals.
  • Religious Observance: Respect for religious beliefs is paramount. This includes making accommodations for prayer times and understanding the significance of fasting during Ramadan.
  • Generosity: Generosity is highly valued. If you’re living in Damman, you’ll notice that Saudis often go out of their way to help those they have a good relationship with. Reciprocating this generosity, whether with your time or by performing favors, is seen as a sign of good character.
  • Avoiding Sensitive Topics: While living in Damman, it’s advisable to avoid discussing sensitive topics like politics or the royal family’s leadership. Similarly, assumptions about religious interpretations or comments about women’s rights, especially based on their attire, can be inappropriate.

Healthcare and Medical Facilities

Living in Damman ensures you have access to top-notch healthcare services. With state-of-the-art medical facilities and a team of skilled healthcare professionals, the city prioritizes the well-being of its residents.

Healthcare System in Damman

Damman’s healthcare system stands out for its efficiency and modern infrastructure. Both public and private healthcare facilities serve the residents, ensuring comprehensive care.

Living in Damman means you can expect high-quality medical services, from routine check-ups to specialized treatments. The city continually invests in its healthcare infrastructure, ensuring that medical facilities remain updated with the latest technologies and practices.

Finding the right medical insurance

Having the right medical insurance is crucial when living in Damman. While the city offers excellent healthcare services, medical treatments can be costly.

Comprehensive medical insurance gives you peace of mind and ensures you receive the best care without worrying about expenses. Many insurance providers in Damman offer plans tailored for expats, covering a range of medical services.

It’s advisable to compare different plans and choose one that aligns with your needs and budget.

List of recommended hospitals and clinics for expats

Living in Damman offers you a choice of several top-tier hospitals and clinics. These medical facilities cater specifically to the expat community, ensuring that language isn’t a barrier to receiving quality care. Some of the renowned hospitals in Damman include:

  • King Fahd Specialist Hospital: Recognized for its advanced medical equipment and skilled professionals, this hospital is preferred by many expats living in Damman.
  • Dammam Medical Complex: Offering a range of medical services, from general medicine to specialized treatments, this complex ensures comprehensive care for those living in Damman.
  • Saad Specialist Hospital: Known for its state-of-the-art facilities and patient-centric approach, this hospital is a testament to Damman’s high standards of healthcare.
  • Al Mana General Hospital: With a reputation for excellence, this hospital is another excellent option for expats living in Damman, ensuring top-notch medical care.

Education and Schools

For families considering a move, living in Damman makes it crucial to select the right educational institution for their children. The city, the capital of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and the sixth largest in the country offers many schooling options.

living in Damman
International schools, which predominantly follow global curriculums such as the IB, IGCSE, or the American curriculum, are popular among expatriates. These schools often cater to a diverse student body and offer a more global perspective.

International schools vs. local institutions

Living in Damman provides parents with a diverse range of schooling options.

International schools, which predominantly follow global curriculums such as the IB, IGCSE, or the American curriculum, are popular among expatriates. These schools often cater to a diverse student body and offer a more global perspective.

On the other hand, local institutions in Damman provide a more traditional approach, deeply rooted in Saudi Arabian culture and values. These schools primarily teach in Arabic and follow the national curriculum.

Notable International Schools in Damman

  • International Indian School Dammam: Catering primarily to the Indian expatriate community, this school follows the CBSE curriculum.
  • Al-Khozama International School, Dammam: A renowned institution offering a blend of local and international education.
  • International Schools Group Dammam: Known for its rigorous academic standards and diverse student community.
  • GEMS Saudi International Schools, Dhahran: Part of the global GEMS network, this school offers high-quality education focusing on holistic development.

Characteristics of Local Institutions

Local schools in Damman emphasize Arabic language proficiency and Islamic studies. They consist of separate facilities for boys and girls, and modern classrooms create a positive learning environment for students.

Education System in Damman

Before deciding, it’s vital to grasp the nuances of the education system when living in Damman. The academic year in Saudi Arabia typically starts in September and ends in June, with slight variations depending on the school.

The teaching methods might differ from what expatriates are accustomed to, with a significant emphasis on rote learning in local institutions. However, international schools often adopt more interactive and student-centric approaches.

School Holidays and Breaks

Living in Damman also means adapting to the local academic calendar. While international schools might follow their respective country’s holiday schedule, local schools have breaks centered around Islamic holidays and events.

Being aware of these dates is essential, especially when planning family vacations.

Tips for enrolling your children

Securing a spot in top schools can be competitive when living in Damman. It’s advisable to start the enrollment process well in advance. Research schools, visit them, and understand their admission criteria.

Gather all necessary documentation early on to avoid last-minute hassles. Living in Damman offers a rich educational experience, and with the right preparation, you can ensure your child benefits from the best the city has to offer.

Financial Planning and Banking

Living in Damman requires a keen understanding of your finances. With many banking options available, selecting the one that aligns with your needs is imperative.

Opening a bank account in Damman

When you decide to start living in Damman, one of the first tasks you’ll face is opening a bank account.

Several banks in Damman cater specifically to the needs of expatriates. These banks often provide multi-currency accounts, online banking, and customer service in multiple languages.

Before you commit to a bank, compare the fees, services, and account types they offer. Remember, choosing a bank that understands the unique challenges of living in Damman can simplify your financial journey.

Documents required for account opening

While the exact requirements can vary between banks, expatriates living in Damman typically need to provide the following:

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of residence in Damman
  • Employment verification or a job offer letter
  • Initial deposit (amount varies by bank)

Understanding taxes and financial regulations

Living in Damman exposes you to a different tax structure. Saudi Arabia does not levy personal income tax on salaries.

However, if you have global income sources, it’s essential to understand how they might be taxed in your home country while you’re living in Damman.

Additionally, the Saudi government imposes a levy on expatriates, which increases based on the number of years you’ve lived in the country.

living in Damman
Modesty remains a cornerstone of Saudi Arabian culture. For those living in Damman, this translates to dressing conservatively. Men typically wear a ‘thobe’ – a long white robe, while women don an ‘abaya’ – a black cloak that covers the body.

Value Added Tax (VAT) in Damman

In recent years, Saudi Arabia introduced a Value Added Tax (VAT) system. If you’re living in Damman, you’ll notice this tax when purchasing goods and services. As of the latest update, the VAT rate stands at 15%. It’s crucial to factor this into your budget, especially for significant expenses.

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