11 Rules of Etiquette Important in Arab Culture

Two Egyptian women laughing| ©Tribes of the World/Flickr
Two Egyptian women laughing| ©Tribes of the World/Flickr | Flickr
Picture of Jessica Harn
Updated: 24 October 2017
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While Arabs are some of the most friendly and warm people in the world, there are still a few things to remember when meeting Arabs for the first time or when travelling to an Arab country. Within their colourful and diverse culture, there are social rules that are considered basic etiquette. Learn these and you’ll be welcomed with open arms!

Standing when someone enters a room

Arabs are all about respect, and one way of showing this is to stand up when someone enters a room to greet them. This way, you are showing that the person entering is important enough for you to take the time and effort to really say “hello”.

Meet and greet time!
Meet and greet time!

Greeting everyone individually

This is another way of showing respect, by greeting each and every person individually. If it gets too tiring to say “hello” over and over again, a nod with eye contact and a warm smile is usually enough!

The host escorts their guest to the door

To show that they really did enjoy the company of their guests, Arab hosts will walk their guest to their car or to the outside of the house to make sure they leave safely. The “goodbyes” and “thankyous” won’t finish either until the guest is finally out of earshot!

Never open a gift in front of the giver

Arabs are all about showing the upmost respect towards others, and this manifests in the idea that gifts should not be opened in the presence of the giver, in order to avoid any possible embarrassment either of the giver or the receiver. Don’t be offended if an Arab rushes to put your gift out of sight; they’re doing this out of respect for you!

Put elderly people first

Elderly people are always given the best of everything, and Arabs will do everything from opening doors for them, serving them food first, and greeting them first. If you’re an older person among Arabs, get ready to feel pampered!

Enjoying the good life
Enjoying the good life

Men should always offer their seat to a woman or elderly person

For those who believe in chivalry, you should hang out with Arabs! Arab men will always offer their seat either in public or in private settings to a woman or older person if there is nowhere else for them to sit.

Give attention to the correct person

Arabs will consider it rude if you, as a man, are meeting a couple for the first time, and end up speaking to the wife more than the husband (and vice versa if you are a woman). Both the husband and the wife will be offended and notice this detail, so try to remember to speak to them equally!

Don’t show the soles of your feet

To show someone the bottom of your feet, which are considered dirty and only for the floor, is considered very rude. Be careful when sitting or lounging about, and try to always face the bottom of your feet away from your Arab friends, especially the elders.

Take off shoes before entering someone’s home

Similar to the soles of the feet, shoes are considered dirty and just for the outdoors, and should always be taken off before entering the home of an Arab person. Arab homes will almost always be adorned with richly designed carpets, and to dirty these with your outside shoes would be a tragedy!

You’ll understand why shoes are taken off once you experience the joy of laying on an Arabic carpet!
You’ll understand why shoes are taken off once you experience the joy of laying on an Arabic carpet!

Always share your food

Arabs love food, and they are generous with it and love to share it. When eating out with your Arab friends, try to ditch the only-order-for-yourself mentality, and indulge in sharing large plates of delicious food.

When serving tea, fill the cup to the top

If serving tea to Arab guests, make sure to remember to always fill the cup up to the brim with tea, as anything else will be considered an insult. If you do make this mistake however, don’t fret too much – Arabs love their tea, so any tea is good tea – as long as it has sugar in it!

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