This image may seem too familiar to many Saudis who travel to other countries: People abroad automatically assume they are wealthy tourists and bombard them with unreasonable prices and offers.
While some citizens complain that the image of “cash machines”, otherwise known as “Saudi cash” is leading them to have financial difficulties, experts says Saudis are also contributing to spread this view about them.
Many Saudi tourists are keen on wearing expensive clothes, spend extravagantly and offer great tips when they leave the Kingdom. Ironically, many of those travelers who like to show off an immense fortune, struggle to pay off the travel debts when they return home.
Khaled Jelban, Family and Community medicine professor at King Khaled University, said that these stereotypes are mostly related to the country’s oil. “People immediately assume that a country that is wealthy must also have wealthy citizens,” he pointed out.
Dr. Mohammed bin Mitrik Al-Qahtani, faculty member at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University’s psychology department, argued that this “Saudi cash” image has been deepened by the stereotypes about Saudi people.
He explained that this case is similar to many other stereotypes some have about other nations such as the image that one nation is too serious, or another is hardworking. “When it comes to Saudis, the oil triggers stereotypes of wealth. Some people actually believe that each Saudi has an oil field,” Dr. Al-Qahtani said, laughing at the idea.
Jelban explained that people have a tendency to generalize, even if it’s about a whole country. “If people see two citizens of the same country spending lavishly on looks and cars, they think that all citizens of that nation have the same lifestyle,” he clarified.
Al-Qahtani agrees. He says that Saudis tend to overdo it with their looks during travels explaining that many Saudis spend a lot of money and rent expensive cars that they don’t have at home.
In turn, businesswoman Nura Al-Rifa’i says that Saudi tourists’ lack of planning and budgeting their trips has made them subject to extra expenses just for being Saudis. “Saudi people’s belief that they can’t control their expenses subjects them to exploitation,” she said. Al-Rifa’i added that many Saudis don’t spend time doing a little research. “For example, many don’t check the exchange rate so they fail to compare prices to the riyal and can’t determine if prices are realistic or not,” she said.
Al-Qahtani believes that a solution to this popular stereotype is to follow the lead of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and be more cautious with spending. Other ways to overcome this problem, according to Al-Qahtani, is to have school classes about the best way to portray the image of the Saudi people abroad as they are considered ambassadors of their country.