Last fall, a group of Saudi Arabian educators came to Turku to learn about the Finnish education system. They spent a semester immersed in a program that split their time between pedagogical studies at the university and classroom observation at a local school. Near the end of their program, I went to one of their sessions at the local school to see them present the results of their final research projects.
In the same way that I couldn't fully grasp the omnipresence of small talk in the US until I went back there, I had forgotten about the sheer force of Saudi Arabian warmth and hospitality until I was in their presence again after two years away from the Gulf. (You are not remembering wrong: I lived in the UAE, not Saudi Arabia, but generally speaking, half of any given class I taught there was made up of Saudi Arabians.)
Look, it's not that Finns are cold or unkind. They're not. But they are not overtly effusive in their generosity. They do not insist. They do not direct you to sit down in someone else's seat and it's just understood that nope, that person does not sit there anymore because YOU are sitting there now. They do not fish chocolates out of their purse and press you to take them. They do not become your bosom friend in an hour. But Saudi Arabians: they do.
I enjoyed spending an afternoon with them and remembering what it was like to live among Gulf Arabs in the UAE. Sometimes it takes so much effort to adjust to a new work context that you forget some of the things you loved the most about your old job!