Saudi Arabian family feels at home and welcomed in Findlay despite cultural contrasts

. March 2, 2017.
From left to right, back row: Audhuh Alamry; daughter Sarah, 2; K Alghmadi, father-in-law of Alamry; son Bader, 15. Front: Daughter, Danah, 13; son Omar, 5; daughter Layan, 8; wife Salwa, and daughter Yara, 3 months.
From left to right, back row: Audhuh Alamry; daughter Sarah, 2; K Alghmadi, father-in-law of Alamry; son Bader, 15. Front: Daughter, Danah, 13; son Omar, 5; daughter Layan, 8; wife Salwa, and daughter Yara, 3 months.

The manager of the medical imaging department of a large hospital in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Audhuh Alamry and his wife, Salwa Alghmadi, moved to Findlay in early 2014 with their family. On paid leave to further his education,  Alamry was interested in the Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography Technology (PET/CT) program at The University of Findlay, a program not widely offered in the U.S., he said.

Moved to attend school

Audhuh and Salwa have six children – Bader, 15; Danah, 13; Layan, 8; Omar, 5; Sarah, 2; and Yara, 3 mos. They love Findlay, and after completing his coursework and moving on to a new program in Philadelphia, the family chose to stay. “We have had so much support in Findlay,” Mr. Alamry explained. “Everyone is welcoming, everyone is always helping my wife when she is out of the house and covered (most of Saudi Arabian women cover all skin except for their eyes in public). We love the way there has been an acceptance of our culture. We haven’t felt like we need to change our lifestyle.”

Mr. Alamry enjoys cooking and is part-owner of Circle of Friends restaurant, located downtown, which features food from the Mediterranean, Nepal, India, Asia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. “This is a way to say thank you, and to meet more friends,” Alamry said. “We wanted to share healthy, high quality organic food with beautiful tastes and flavors from other countries with the people of the Findlay area.”

Audhuh loves inspiring people. A book he recommends is “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” He also is a decorated table tennis player, placing 7th in a large national tournament in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. He takes his rackets everywhere he goes, “I am attached to them,” he says, smiling.

Some differences between Findlay and home

In Saudi Arabia, the family was living in a large city, so the pace of life in Findlay is slower. The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is much lower than here, so many luxuries were left behind— a large home, workers to help in the house and a driver. Saudi Arabian women do not drive, but Salwa recently obtained her license to transport the kids to school and activities and to be ready when driving is permitted back home. The family works together, with tasks assigned to everyone,  and they have become closer while in Findlay. In Saudi Arabia a high percentage of women are homemakers, and they gather with female family and friends when their work is done. The husbands will also gather together often, several times per week.

The Alamrys have noted that American families and individuals are very independent. “It is rare that you don’t see people gathering in Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Alamry said. “It is a very social life. We believe the best investment in life is to have friends.”

The family is Muslim and they pray five times per day. Before praying, they wash their hands and forearms, their feet, and faces. “We ask God for help and thank him for what he gave us, for being together, for not being sick, and to shower us with acceptance and patience if bad things, God forbid, happen. Being close to God help to relieve tension. We believe people are rewarded in the afterlife for their goodness.”

 

Cultural-Connections

 

Audhuh and Salwa were brought together though an arranged marriage. Saudi Arabian women do not change their last names when they marry because there is great pride in your “tribe,” Alamry explained.

Favorite Findlay spots

For a date, Audhuh and Salwa enjoy dinner at Red Lobster or with the kids in tow, Cheddars, is a favorite stop. For some fun with the kids, Rolling Thunder Skating & Family Fun Center is a family favorite. Salwa enjoys shopping at Findlay Village Mall, Gabe’s, Kohl’s and TJ Maxx, while 15-year-old Bader gave a shout out to clothing store Hot Topic in the mall.

Cultural traditions from home

The family loves to be social above all else. While chatting with the family, I was treated to delicious Saudi Arabian coffee, tea, and various types of traditional dates, nuts and seeds. My cup was never empty, due to their culture of flowing hospitality. I felt honored to be invited for dinner. The family prepares a setting on the floor, while they sit and share, using utensils and fingers to eat as preferred. The family has a large table for special occasions but feel isolated from one another when using it. It was a pleasure to taste the basmati sella (specially fl

avored rice) mixed with salad vegetables; delicious boiled, baked and seasoned chicken, spicy mango seasoning and mandarin oranges.

 

rice

 

The family enjoys outdoor grilling and American pizza and their kids like sleepovers with friends. “That is a huge trust between families,” Mr. Alamry said. “It is a great tradition. The kids have loved it. They can try new food and learn new behaviors. They learn when they stay at their friends’ and they have a great time.”

Parenting tips

Audhah and Salwa use time-outs for younger children. When the kids make mistakes, they may take valued items from them or prevent them from doing things they enjoy.

It is important that they understand there are consequences for their actions, tailored to each child’s specific interests or personality. “When they make mistakes we talk to them. We advise them to be honest,” Mr. Alamry said. “It takes a lot of time and effort, but you can see it. They are good kids.” The Alamrys’ daughter, Danah, 13, is a student at Glenwood Middle School and won Most Incredible Kid, Diversity, from Northwest Ohio Camp Fire for 2016.

Favorite food

Mr. Alamry loves the mandi dish at Circle of Friends. Mandi, a traditional aromatic rice made either with chicken or lamb, marinated before cooling for 24 hours.

Lasting impressions

Alamrys are thankful for the time they have spent in Findlay and embrace it. “We wanted to raise our kids in a safe environment and one that is accepting of diversity,” Mr. Alamry said. “Our children are being educated here, they are learning English and often subjects in the Findlay City School district. They are adapting and have been successful. We feel so lucky.”

He continued, “We have found that every human is the same. People cry, they feel happy, they feel sad. It’s people. We see the way people here are happy to help and guide and they are not looking for any reward.

“This is the deep meaning of our religion, and we found it here.”