The Arab people love social events. While the Western people are used to keeping things private, you might find yourself getting invited for dinner often in Middle Eastern countries. When you’re invited as a guest in an Arab household, it is best to be informed of the Arabic culture and customs to avoid embarrassing yourself. This article will give you a comprehensive guide on what to do and how to behave.
Guest Welcoming in the Arabic Culture
When you are being invited for a special occasion (and sometimes just for no occasion at all) never ever say no. Westerners are probably used to declining politely but most Arab people are going to take offence when you don’t want to be with them for dinner. It is part of Arabic culture and customs to make an effort to be acquainted with everyone. You might also be used to people on the West getting mad at you once you arrive late, but Arab people do not mind. It is part of Arab culture and customs to arrive later than the time agreed. Once the party is over the host will also invite you to stay longer for a chat. However, if you’re really tired and want to retire early they won’t take offence to it.
Entering an Arab Household
Arab people would appreciate it when you remove any footwear before entering the house. One thing you will notice is that most men will be on a certain part of the household and the women will gather in a different place. Never mix yourself with the opposite gender. The host will welcome you when you arrive, so it is best to learn words to reply to them such as: Ahlan-bik (reply to hello), Sabah an-nur (reply to good morning or good afternoon) and Masa an-nur (reply to good evening). Handshakes are a common greeting to men only and should never be done to women. After shaking the host’s hand, it is part of the Arabic culture and customs to ask about their well-being. When asking this, always keep in mind that they will take offence if you take interest on any of the female members. To be safe, address the question to the family in general.
When you’re already in the dining table, always accept the food or drinks the Arab people offer. Do not use your left hand when getting food from the serving plate – Arabic culture and customs consider this act unclean. Slouching and crossing of legs while at the table is always discouraged. Talking about politics or religion might be common to Western dinners, but these kinds of topics are taboo in the Arab dining table.
A typical Arabic dinner will last a long time with many dishes. It is custom to have as dessert sweets, tea, coffee and other treats.
When the party is over
When it’s time to leave, you know you’ve made a very good impression to the family when the handshake lasted longer. While shaking hands, the Arab people will usually say ala-khayr, which means “good night”. An appropriate reply should be wainta-min-ahlo, meaning “you too from my family.”