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How Saudis really see Americans

If you believe a new Burger King ad playing in the kingdom, Americans are clueless about the Middle East.

 From an advertising firm employee in Riyadh:

“Pre-911 [sic], I got a lot of the typical: ‘Does your family own an oil well? Do they live in tents? Do you guys ride camels?’

“Then there was 911, and the questions became: ‘Is it safe over there? Aren't you afraid someone is gonna bomb you? Do people spray each other with machine guns all the time?’

“Absolutely no more camel & tent questions.

“It is quite obvious that people back in the USA assume I live in SaudiRaqiRanOstan.

“But the silliest question asked recently was [with a slight Southern accent]: ‘Is it true that if you look at a woman over there they will cut off your ding-dong?’”

Answer: No

From a Saudi woman studying in New York:

“I would have to say the most ridiculous question I keep getting is whether or not I'm a princess. I wish, but no, no … For some reason, being a female from a Gulf state and showing a somewhat reasonable propensity for styling yourself a certain way makes you a princess. Hey, I'm not complaining. It's just ridiculous in that it's so, so untrue!”

From an employee of a U.S. corporation with offices in Riyadh:

“I actually had an executive visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time to take part of an event I was doing. I was expecting a series of questions about security and safety of the country as those were very common. However the funniest and most outrageous question I got was: ‘Is English understood commonly?’”

Answer: Yes

From a Saudi male blogger in Riyadh:

“I got asked by a visiting female member of parliament: ‘Is it true that if your house has a girl ready for marriage you have to put a flag on your roof?’”

Answer: No

From friends of the blogger, which he collected for me by Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr:

“Is it true that a Saudi can marry four wives?”

Answer: Yes

“Are all your taxis BMWs?”

Answer: No

“How many wives do you have?”

“Have you seen Osama [bin Laden] before?”

“What is the name of the city in Saudi Arabia that allows alcohol??”

Answer: None. The questioner was thinking of the neighboring country of Bahrain, which permits alcohol consumption.

From an American who grew up in Saudi:

“The craziest thing I have ever had anyone sincerely ask me was if I spoke Muslim.”

From a Saudi student in Virginia:

“All the people that I know are quite educated, and I have never heard a crazy or stupid comment about Saudi Arabia from any of the people that I have met. I would call Americans, even those who are well-educated, outdated for the lack of a better term ... They still think that if you steal [in Saudi Arabia], they will cut your hands off!

“I usually respond by saying it's a law, but it's not implemented or enforced anymore — just like cohabitation laws in Virginia.”