Monday, January 26, 2009

Tips on Etiquette or Manners in the UAE

How to treat the Arab Woman
Women are respected in UAE society.Some guidelines for the westerner include: respecting the privacy and role of women in society;
stand when a female enters the room;
understand that in many households there are separate living areas, so when visiting a home, you wouldn't socialise with women.

Things that males should definitely not do include:-

-Do not talk in public to professional UAE National women, unless it is business related. You will understand when you are allowed to cross the limit, when prompted to discuss other matters
- Do not shake hands with a UAE National female, unless prompted to.
- Do not flirt, touch or hug females
- Do not stare at women or maintain eye contact
- Do not ask an Arab about his wife or female members of his family

Getting your social etiquette right can be crucial in establishing relations, whether business or personal in the UAE. To be aware of the local rules, practices and customs and to familiarise yourself with them can go a long way, and with minimal effort. The following are customs that may differ from social norms in the West.

How are you? Always answer with 'Al hamdulillah' which means All praise is due to Allah. What this means is, essentially is that all is as it should be, since your wellbeing is governed by Allah. Even if you are very ill, you would answer with this phrase.

The sole of the foot is dirty When sitting cross legged, never point the sole of your foot in the direction of an Arab. The foot is considered dirty, and what this act is saying is the same as giving someone the finger - or even worse.

Crossing legs is a no go sometimes Crossing your legs in front of someone of high importance is considered disrespectful and should not be done

Don't give them your back If someone is talking in your direction, you should always turn to face them. And not just in this part of the world. It's just rude otherwise.

I wanna hold your hand Shaking hand is the normal greeting with a male. But having your hand held for longer than usual is a sign of brotherly bonding, not that of homosexual tendencies.Your hand may even be held for longer than usual, while walking down the corridor.

Always shake hands If you don't shake hands when meeting or leaving, it could be considered rude.

The right hand is clean In most instances, the right hand is clean, and the left hand is dirty, so, when accepting food or drink, do it with your right hand.

Shaking female hands is not done Although some do in this part of the world, it should never be assumed that a female will shake your hand which could lead to an awkward moment. A better suggestion would be to wait if a hand is offered by the female. Females do shake hands with each other, and occasionally a kiss kiss is shared.

Show respect to females always Females demand a certain respect in the Muslim world. Always give women the option to sit down where she wishes to sit, stand when she enters the room, and let her go through the door before you. The basic rules of chivalry work well.

Culture demands respect of elders Always respect your elders. It's even more important in the Arab world.

Never give the finger Yes never, but never beckon anyone with one finger pointing up. If you do need to beckon, use your full hand pointing downwards

Say yes to drink, always When offered something to drink, always say yes. Saying no would mean rejecting someone's hospitality. Drink more than one small cup (tea, arabic coffee) but never more than anyone else.

Never express admiration Be very careful when expressing admiration for an Arab's possession. You may find that he or she offers the object to you. (using "itfudul" - my pleasure) And then declining becomes a problem, followed by offering something back at a later date. Stating that you like your friend's Porsche Cayenne is somewhat risky therefore.

Polite chit chat can last for numerous meetings. When initiating business, it may be necessary to meet with a contact numerous times for him to scope you out, before committing to talking shop.

The office coffee shop It is not uncommon for offices to contain a number of sofas, and for many people to come by while you are sitting in a meeting. Bear in mind that while you may pay someone a visit, the pleasantries requirement may be sprung upon you, with numerous people popping by for a gossip.

The closest position is the most important When visiting others' office's you will be invited to take a seat according to your perceived level of importance. This might mean that someone gets up to make room for you. But you may have to move later if you drop down the pecking order!

Patience is a virtue Business may move at snails pace, but patience can buy you a big amount of respect.

Body language in the UAE and amongst Arabs is completely different to that in the West. And because there are many Arabs here from different countries, it would make sense to understand a little about what certain body language might mean. Remember that in the Middle East, the concept of personal space is a lot smaller that in the West, and though you may feel that your space is being invaded, this is a normal part of society. Be careful when dealing with females making sure that you do not stare or initiate physical contact.

Hand on Heart - While this is usually just used as a phrase in the West, the Arabs actually place their hands on their heart to show genuine respect and humility. Sometimes, this is used in combination with a small bow, meaning thank you.

The Chin Scratch - Scratching or holding of a chin or beard is an indication that someone is thinking. It might be wise to wait until the person has finished thinking this before continuing talking, if it takes place during a moment of silence.

Kissing - Friends kissing each other on the cheek is considered normal and not linked to homosexuality. It is a sign of friendship, and it is common amongst male friends.

Kissing the shoulder - This is another greeting and usually one of respect. It is often used when Muslims go on the Hajj to Mecca.

The hand hold - Holding hands even for a long period after shaking hands is common place and a sign of friendship

The hug - If a hug is initiated by an Arab, then it is a sign that you are considered a trustworthy friend.

The refusal to touch - If an Arab refuses to touch you, it may be an indication that he considers you untrustworthy or unclean

Conversational staring - If an Arab stares you in the eye as you speak, it means that he is giving you his full attention. If he doesn't, it means that he may not care what you are saying. Bear this in mind and reciprocate giving eye contact.

The sideways finger bite - If an Arab bites their right finger, it is a sign of contempt and that you are not liked, and this will usually be accompanied by a muttering of some sort of curse!

The hungry sign - If a semi clenched hand is placed in front of the stomach, it means that you are thought to be a liar.

The finger on the Nose - This means that it is the intention of the person to undertake what you are talking about. Sometimes, this takes the form of the finger on beard, nose or head also, all meaning the same.

The cup - The hand signal of putting all your fingers and thumb together, sort of cup like, means 'Wait just one minute' or 'Slow down'. This sometimes may be used to indicate that the person is getting impatient at your speed.

The Head Snap - Snapping of the head upwards while tutting means No or an indication that you are wrong or that what you are saying is untrue.

The Nose Touch - You will often see Arab Nationals touch noses three times as they shake hands. This is a traditional Bedouin greeting.

The left finger clasp - If the fingers of the left hand are clasped together and touched with the right forefinger, this is the equivalent of giving someone the finger in the West. It is a very rude gesture.

The Scratching Claw - A clawing action with the right hand is usually indicative of a beckoning to move closer or to come into a room. This is probably equivalent to a beckoning with the one finger, used in the West, but this would be considered rude, if used in the Middle East.

Of course many Western gestures are used, in this multi cultural society, and you may find yourself learning all sorts of hand movements from all over the world.This was a general overview of what some of the Arab gestures actually mean.

Having Refreshments

- A shake of the cup shows that you have finished.
- Not shaking the cup and giving it back to the server will result in another cup being poured.
- If you prefer another drink before the server comes around with the spout and are offered, then do not be afraid to ask.
- Only use your right hand when drinking, eating or offering.
- Coffee means Arabic Coffee.
- Turkish Coffee is the thick coffee.
- Nescafe means American Coffee.
- If you ask for Nescafe with milk and sugar, do not be surprised if you get condensed milk with 3 teaspoons of sugar.
- Sometimes, but not always, dates will be offered with the coffee.
- You will sometime be given a glass of water with your coffee.
- Increasingly companies are starting to offer Western type of refreshments, although the essence of hospitality remains.
- Tea is actually more popular than coffee, although both are a prominent part of society.

Finally, the dallah makes a great memento of your trip to the UAE. You can get some great intricate designs, both for use and as an ornament, from the souks and the superstores. Shop around for one that you like.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting & informative article on the required etiquette's and manners while on holidays in Dubai