First Time? (How to Survive in the Middle East)

Filipino nurses (Photo credit:
Filipino nurses (Photo credit:
Filipino nurses (Photo credit:
Filipino nurses (Photo credit:

Middle East.

For many years now, Filipino nurses decide to work in the Middle East for various reasons. One of which is it is easier to penetrate than other countries Meaning, less requirements such as exams, less expenses with the processing of documents ans everything and the whole duration of the processing is faster. Most of us think that we’d use our experience in the Middle East as our “stepping stone” when we decide to venture out to a bigger horizon.

That’s why after completing our 2-year experience in the Philippines, most of us hurriedly applied just to get out of the country (well, with the economic instability of our country it is expected that we’d do so). Technically we are still first timers. Despite our experience in the Philippines we are still considered as newbies in this field. Based on my own personal experience, the transition from being a nurse in the Philippines and becoming a nurse in one of the countries in the Middle East had been quite hard,very hard actually.T he entire adjustment period took quite a while and it had been draining.

So here are my SURVIVAL TIPS for Nurses in the Middle East

1. KNOW THE CULTURE. There’s a big difference with our culture and their culture. So in order for you not to be in a state of “culture shock” it is advisable for you to read before hand some articles about their ways here. Let me tell some examples necessary in our filed of work.

a. ONLY female nurses are allowed to handle female patients.

b. The men are very possessive when it comes to their women and are very strict not to let any other man see their faces. So when it comes to examining the patient, make sure that they are properly draped/covered before calling the doctor to start the examination.

c. Some locals are very particular on how you hand them anything. They may ask you to give them using your RIGHT HAND (clean hand) because they consider the LEFT HAND unclean.

d. During their prayer time, they must be left undisturbed. Even the doctors close their clinics when they pray.

2.LEARN THE LANGUAGE. Yes. IT IS DIFFICULT TO LEARN. It is also the same in our country where we have different dialects.The Middle East people also have lots. So you might hear the Egytians speak different Arabic than the Saudians. The Arabic in of Syrians is also different. There are some variations in how they pronounce their words, their intonations,etc. You might find that the Arabic-English dictionary you bought is pretty much DIFFERENT. Nevertheless, DON”T FRET.

a. First step is to LISTEN to conversations (the words may seem like alien language to you but getting your ears used to them would help a lot).

b. Have a jot down notebook. Pretty much like when we we’re nursing students, we have our trustworthy jot down notebook with us all the time, do the same now. When you learn a new word, write it down and it’s meaning. After your shift, try to memorize and remember your newly learned words.

c. Try to make sentences using the words you’ve learned.

d. CONVERSE. Try to talk to your patients. Even if you cannot understand every word they’re saying, you can get the whole context if you become familiar with the language.

You might not notice it, but in a few months you’d be speaking their  language (well,there’s a limit to that too. Of course,you’ll just be able to speak the words you encounter daily).

3. RESPECT THEIR RELIGION. It is within our knowledge that the main religion in the Middle East is ISLAM. As,foreign workers,we must not question their religion, what they will do for their religion. We must not try to convince them out of their beliefs and impose our own. RESPECT. That’s should be in our minds all the time if we don’t want to get into trouble.

(Those 3 are the MAJOR tips. Here are some other add ons which you might find useful.)

* Be PROFESSIONAL. You are the nurse. They are the patients. Do your nursing duties according to the standard so you’ll never go wrong.

*Be FIRM. No means NO. Some locals think that all FILIPINAS can be bought with money. (Sadly,they view our women that way also because some are actually giving in to them for a price). So when someone tries to give you money or gifts in exchange for your number or for a date or other things, BE FIRM and turn them down. Some people on the other hand give you gifts because they are pleased with your professional service. I think it’s fine to accept them. You can tell if they are giving you gifts without hidden intention, so just use your own judgement.

*Be STRONG. Most of them have dominant personalities so if they see that you are ‘weak’ they’ll just shout at you and order you around like some slave. So meet them eye to eye and hold your chin up. Don’t act like a scared lamb when facing them. Remember you’re a professional. DEAL with them.

*Carry yourself with DIGNITY. Face the mirror and say, “I’M A FILIPINO NURSE.I’M ONE OF THE BEST NURSES IN THE WORLD.” Say that over and over. and you’ll be able to boost your self confidence.

Just another piece of advice, before you decide whether or not you indeed want to go and work here in the  Middle East, ASSESS yourself well if you are ready to do so. You will be in a faraway land miles away from home.You can’t go home whenever you want to.Y our life will change in more ways than you can imagine. There will be days when you’d realize that the monetary compensation isn’t actually worth it.


And if you are really decided to take the challengeFACE IT HEAD ON. No regrets. Just BE STRONG.

God bless!

© 2012, Filipino Nurses. All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER: The accuracy of all articles contained in this website are the responsibility of their respective authors. All articles are for informational purposes only and are NOT intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The owner of this site disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on these information. If you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician. If you feel ill, please seek medical attention immediately.

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About april13 12 Articles
A graduate of West Visayas State University ..currently a Nurse in Riyadh,KSA
  • sheyne

    i think these things are not only applicable in Middle East, it is also applicable to other foreign countries. Once we leave our native land to work overseas we should always remember and hold to our values.

  • Mary Christine Pechon

    yes very right i agree whatever we are whoever we are and wherever we are going don’t forget our roots and live up to our own values …

  • Rosella

    helpful tips indeed. i work in the ME, too but in a country that is a little more relaxed than in the KSA. i’ve been here for a few years, aside from arabic that i’ve picked up pretty fastly, i’m still learning most of their ways like i’ve just arrived yesterday– you just never get used to some of their practices. nevertheless, the most important thing when you do decide to relocate here is to open your mind. it’s a totally different world but if you are ready to learn and accept new challenges then the experience of living and working in this part of the world wouldn’t be as bad as what other people say.

    the practice of nursing is the same all over the world thus, it’s our attitude and dedication toward the profession that gets us through and helps us cope whatever the circumstance or environment we may be in.

  • agree much!
    my first year was the hardest, but i survived.
    2 years completed and still counting..=)

  • guidetomrcpch

    This a android mobile app for engilsh to arabic with medical and common words. Very useful for nurses and doctors going to arabic countries. Copy and paste link to browser and download the app.