Arabic Customs and Etiquette – What To Consider When in Middle East

Here are some Dos and Don’ts when visiting an Arab country. Learn Arabic customs and etiquette to make your trip more enjoyable

Arabic Customs and Etiquette – What To Consider When in Middle East

Middle Eastern cultures and traditions are not quite the same as the culture and traditions and etiquette you’re likely used to. That means if you plan on visiting an Arab country, like for example, Lebanon, understanding Arabic customs and etiquette will make your visit more enjoyable. If you plan on studying abroad in Egypt or doing business in Morocco, here’re some Arab culture facts to know:


Faith


One thing you’ll notice about Arab culture is that Islam is deeply interwoven within it. However, while Islam is the main religion of the Middle East, Arabs do treat other religions with respect. Muslims believe that God (Allah) has already planned their lives out before they were born. As a result, man can do little but accept his fate, making one’s religion vital to the life of each Arab. For this reason, there is no separation of church and state. For instance, even public schools teach religion to children. Likewise, Islamic Law (Shariah) is equal to every other type of law.

Muslims consider every mosque as holy and you must follow certain rules when visiting one. For example, you should never walk in from of someone who is praying. Taking pictures or video of people in the mosque is also verboten. Likewise, men wearing shorts and women wearing sleeveless or short-sleeved dresses cannot enter a mosque.


Family


Next to religion, family plays a vital role in Arab culture. Loyalty and duty to kin comes before any loyalty to friends, work and even the needs one’s self.

In Arab culture, marriage is the foundation on which the family is built and Arabs think of their children as prized treasures. Likewise, fathers, mothers and sisters and brothers all have their distinct roles within both family and society.

Indeed, an Arab’s honor and self-respect is a result of their family. This is due to the family being a tight knit unit that builds a person’s individual character and achievements.


Greetings

  • Arabs often shake hands when both greeting and saying goodbye. An Arab may hold the handshake a little longer or grasp your elbow while shaking hands. This is totally normal in the Arab world where Arabs have less personal space than Westerners.
  • Hugging and kissing on the cheek only occurs between close friends and only of the same sex.
  • Normally, an Arab female will not shake a male’s hand nor will an Arab male shake a female’s hand. They’ll simply place their right hand over their heart and perhaps nod a little to acknowledge the greeting.
  • Shake with the right hand only. As a matter of fact, use the right hand to eat, touch and present gifts, too.
  • Do not ask an Arab man about his wife or any other female members.
  • Arabs are on their own time schedules, so plan on your meeting, interview, etc., to take longer than you’d normally expect. Otherwise, if you seem to be in a hurry, your host may get offended.


Hospitality and Visiting

  • Arabs are duty-bound by culture and religion to be hospitable, friendly and generous. Truly you will find that they really are all of these things.

  • When sitting, don’t stretch your legs out in front of you and don’ point the soles of your feet at anyone. Arab culture considers this very offensive.

  • Remember to eat and pass food with your right hand only.

  • Do not talk loudly as to draw attention to yourself.

  • Don’t speak of politics or religion.

  • Be ready to eat! Arab food is delicious and your hosts will not allow you to go away hungry.

  • If you’re the host or hostess offers something to drink, accept it. It’s rude to do otherwise.

  • Take off your shoes at the entrance and leave them there before going in.


What to Do and Say for Every Day

  • Arabs believe that saying “No” is impolite. Instead, they say Inshallah / “As God wills” which is a bit more polite, especially when it’s a request from a friend.
  • On the other hand, saying “Yes” also means “Maybe” in some parts of Arab culture.
  • Remember the old adage “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine?” Well, this applies to the Arab world, too. So, if someone does you a favor, be sure to somehow return the favor.
  • In general, Arabs are a sociable and hospitable people. If you’re relaxed and personable enough, you’re sure to make lasting friendships.


As you can see, when you visit an Arab country, knowing the customs, traditions, and language can help a lot when it comes to having a great experience. We’ve shown you the customs and traditions, so why not let us show you how easy it is to learn Arabic? Whether you’re visiting Egypt or Palestine, you can learn the right Arabic the right way with the Kaleela Arabic learning app. Download it today and start speaking Arabic tomorrow. It’s that easy! Visit Kaleela for more info.


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