Are you heading to the Middle East any time soon? Maybe you have business in the Middle East? Maybe there is a meeting in the Middle East you have to attend, or you simply want to travel to the Middle East? Whatever the case, if you are going there, you will want to make sure that you keep some important tips in mind so as to ensure that your trip is enjoyable.
First, let’s begin with some basic words you should know. While not every country in the region speaks the same form of Arabic, there are some common words you should be able to use everywhere, including in hotels and on flights. ‘Hello’ is pronounced Marhaba and should be said while looking the person in the eye and with a friendly smile. To say ‘good-bye’ you would simply say Saalam. ‘Please’ is midfadlik, and ‘thank you’ is Shokran jazeelan. While no one is expecting you to learn Arabic on the plane ride, knowing some simple words of courtesy can go a long way in making you more widely accepted.
When dealing with people in the Middle East you must understand some key points of etiquette to ensure you do not inadvertently offend others. First of all, whenever you enter a room, it is customary to greet all persons in the room individually. Failure to do so is seen as rude and offensive. If you are offered something, it is considered rude not to take it or at least try it. At meals the guest is always offered the choicest parts of the meat, which may include delicacies that you don’t particularly like. Failure to accept these is insulting to the host and may result in disharmony between you and them.
Middle Eastern meetings are much more casual and informal. Frequently, business and pleasure are mixed together. This means that people may come and go as the meeting is going on, even while others are speaking. If you are being ignored, do not be pushy or impolite. Wait until the time is right and then speak. Middle Easterners love to haggle and no price is ingrained in stone. If you do not haggle, this can be seen as offensive, so be prepared to adjust prices as needed.
You should be aware that personal space is much less of an issue in the Middle East than it is here. People do not normally consider a person’s “bubble,” and therefore may hug you, lean into you to speak, and stand in close proximity to you. Don’t be alarmed. This is just the culture.
Also remember that Muslims are required to pray five times a day. You must be prepared to see your meetings come to an abrupt end should it be prayer time. Be respectful of this and you will be fine.
While this is not a complete list, it should help you to keep out of trouble. Keep these things in mind, and I am sure you will have an enjoyable trip.