From Copenhagen to Saudi Arabia - Life abroad as an ELUD graduate

Selling beer in country where alcohol is forbidden. Sounds like a challenge, well it is! Hear what our international graduate Rasmus, who is on a rotation to Saudi Arabia, has to say.

I have the toughest job in Carlsberg. I am currently selling beer in a country where alcohol is forbidden and importing alcohol will have severe consequence. I am selling beer in a country where refreshing beverages, like beer, are in high demand due to the climate. I am selling beer in Saudi Arabia.

Of course when I say beer, I mean non-alcoholic malt beverages, which are in effect a 0.0% beer. In Saudi Arabia, Carlsberg is a market leader. What you should know is that beer in Saudi Arabia is a somewhat mix between a 0.0% malt base and flavoured malt beverages, e.g. a malt beverage with apple flavour is a big seller here.

But that is mainly the market facts. The big question you are probably thinking about right now is how is it to live in Saudi Arabia? The answer is... different. I am a Dane, and have previously lived in the US and Singapore, but in Saudi Arabia I got the biggest cultural shock so far. 5 times a day, the Mosques call for prayer, and when this happen everything closes. I’ve been sitting in restaurants on my weekends watching football where the TVs were shut off due to it being prayer time. I’ve also been caught inside a supermarket in prayer time, leaving me no choice but to wander the store for 20-30 minutes, before I could finish my shopping. 

Now you might be thinking, yeah that’s all good, but how is working in Saudi Arabia compared to what you are used to? Again the answer is... different. The hours are longer, which is actually okay, given it is often too hot to be outside for most of the day. Also, being away from home means less social obligations – except for the skype calls with friends and family at home. The difference of culture also applies to work life. When dealing with external partners, you have to be vary of the word InshAllah (which means “if God wills it”). It is a way of neither saying yes nor no, but still positively emphasized (for the most part). It can give a sense of agreement without any real agreement, which is not always good if you need something urgently.

Being abroad with Carlsberg has been an amazing experience. Through my rotation abroad I’ve had the opportunity to experience a country I highly doubt I would otherwise have visit, and I’ve had a cultural experience that has taught me a lot about the world. And lastly, I have had some exciting projects that has taught me a lot. All in all, I feel I have grown through the Carlsberg graduate programme's international rotation - both professionally and personally.