The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a culturally rich country, with customs that are centuries old. Even though some customs and practices have become open to modernization, they’re still very inclined to keep true to their roots.
Modern day Saudi Arabia is essentially based on strong religious values, beliefs, and customs to which it is expected that expatriates and guests should respect and observe.
Despite their deeply traditional culture, Saudis describe themselves as motivated to live for the moment and tend to be expressive.
Saudis are also highly family-oriented. Family bonds are strong and the family is still considered the single most important social institution. Loyalties encompass all facets of Saudi life, including the business world, and are the major basis of individual identity, status and social associations.
Saudis are also highly mindful of their lineage, their clan ties and their extended family. Obligations are taken seriously while providing a safety net in times of family need.
Overall, Arabs are very tolerant of social slip ups and don’t really take offence if they arise from ignorance. If one has knowledge about the local customs and etiquettes then they’d be welcomed very warmly as visitors, however, if one is unaware of the customs and cultures of the kingdom then the Saudi people are very hospitable in teaching them the customs of their country.
Greetings are formal and traditional in Saudi Arabia. They are also lengthy, Saudis tend to take their time and converse for a bit when meeting with queries about health and family. Men who are meeting for the first time will shake hands; men who are close friends or family will also add a kiss on each cheek. Women friends hug and kiss when greeting each other.
Meals with non-nationals are mostly hosted in restaurants and hotels; the parties are either all male or all female.
If you are invited to a Saudi home for dinner, it is important to be prompt and dress in accordance with the Arab tradition. Remember to remove your shoes when entering a Saudi home. There is expected to be a conversation before the meal and very little talking during the meal to focus on the pleasure of the food.
It is important to accept any beverages or dates that are offered to you. Hospitality is an important part of Saudi culture and declining it is seen as an insult. Eat with the right hand because the left is considered unclean and impure.
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