Allow us to give you an introduction to Arabic culture. Today is all about the dos and don’ts in Arab culture. Like every country or region, Arabs have Arabic culture rules. We gladly want to give them to you. So shall we?
We started our list with guests. This is for a very good reason. One of the primary matters when it comes to Arab etiquette is treating a guest right.
Hospitality is very important. It is the most important to be very specific.
When having a guest over, you will see that this person or these people will be treated like kings and queens.
Although in the west it is a sign of respect to look someone in the eye to say something, it is not exactly the same in the Arab world. Eye contact is essential, but it depends on the situation. For example, looking someone dead in the eye while telling them something that you don’t like about the food will come off as disrespectful.
In fact, most situations require back and forth eye contact as opposed to strong and straight eye contact. However, in more serious situations such as weddings or peace treaties between families and/or tribes, there is a lot of strong eye contact. This is to prove a point and show seriousness.
You will notice that Arabs will over-fill your plate. This is not to say that you eat a lot nor that you need to lose weight. It is simply them giving you as much as they can from what they have. Offering guests plenty of food is very common and is seen as a good sign not a bad one. It is pretty much an action of respect as opposed to anything else.
Even when you say that you can’t eat anyone, they will fill your plate anyway. Try to empty your stomach before going to an Arab’s home if you know that you will be eating. Expect nothing less than lots and lots of food on your plate.
Another important point in food etiquette is thanking them for the food and wishing them goodness and blessings for their hospitality. This is seen as a respect to the respect they have given you.
Common phrases include:
/Yesalim edekom/ /يسلم ايديكم/ which literally means thank you to your hands. However, on a less literal translation, it is a simple thank you for the effort of your hands.
This is more commonly used in countries like Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. In other words, the Levantine-speakers.
/Shokran/ /شكرا/ which is a basic thank you. This is used in all dialects and is obviously a formal Arabic word.
Although saying the word no is good, but using it too often can be a sign of disrespect. This is especially true when you are offered food or drink as a guest. Even if you are not hungry or thirsty, an initial no is fine but insisting too much on most items that are offered is not considered nice.
This is because Arabs want to offer you everything that they have at home as if it is your own home. Literally. Even if it means accepting it, and barely having a taste, it is ok. You don’t need to finish that drink or cupcake. Go with the “You shouldn’t have” attitude and you’re fine.
In fact, we could all learn a thing or two from different cultures.
See you next time!
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