15 biggest cultural mistakes that every tourist make when visiting an Arab Country

Everybody who went to an Arab country knows this situation – when you went on vacation in some Arabic country, you came across a situation where you meet a local and you just can’t get along with him or her even after a genuine short conversation cause of cultural reasons!

Most of the time it’s just because you made a simple cultural mistake that you didn’t have any clue about.

Sounds familiar?

In this article, I will share with you the 15 most common cultural mistakes that people make when having their vocation in an Arabic country and :

  • How you should interact with the Arabs?
  • What are the biggest cultural differences?
  • When you should better ask instead of just doing something?

Always keep in mind that the Arabic culture is diverse – so inform yourself about it before you pack your stuff to make your stay more enjoyable.

Dressing up for the wrong occasion :
Most of the Arab cultures are based on the religion of Islam. dressing modestly is much more appreciated and shows respect to people, especially when going to traditional and old places or on the Ramadan month(fasting month for Muslims).

Going out half-naked to the Medina(Old city) might not be the perfect place to show off. So show them a little respect by covering your shoulder, breast, and knees – including your tummy! That applies to both genders. So get your oversized long clothes on if you have some in the closet!

Starring at the people :
I know, seeing people doing their Arab customs and wearing their religious clothes is always interesting, but please try to avoid starring at the people including the other gender.

Starring at somebody is seen as a way of flirting in the Arabic culture and especially starring at an Arab couple can turn out to be very respectless! So better get a small glance or look secretly or get some black colored sunglasses if you’re curious.

Being touchy :
If you already have or met some Arab locals, you may have recognized how touchy the Arabs are with the same gender. maybe as a guy it’s gonna be your first time seeing two old men holding hands with one another in public – don’t panic, it’s not what you think, it’s a common thing among the same gender.

also, shaking hands with the opposite gender defers from one person to another! – so better wait for the person’s initiative first and even when they don’t want to shake hands with you, then it’s fine, don’t take it personally! mostly it’s just because of religious reasons.

Window shopping :
Shopping in Arabic Countries is a great experience. In most of the western-countries is normal to do window-shopping. like trying on some clothes to see if they fit you – better not to do that in an Arab Country! Only try something on to possibly buy it or you will end up buying something you didn’t want to but believe me, they will convince you to buy things with their pressuring selling skills.

Entering a mosque as a non-muslim :
In most of the Arabic countries, it’s forbidden for non-muslims to enter the mosques. If you’re curious enough to visit one then please check out the mosques that tourists can visit and cover yourself with a Hijab(a headscarf for women) – women have to cover up their hair.

Both genders should wear long covering cloths like Jilaba or Abaya for ladies and Jalaba or Kamis for men or whatever is common in that country that you’re visiting.

Ohh yeah about the shoes, you gotta remove your shoes if you want to step on a carpet in the mosque and don’t walk in front of somebody who is praying, shut down your phone and better not to go in the section of the opposite gender!

Taking photos of Arab people without their permission :
Photos are memories and especially traveling to an Arabic culture will fascinate you and of course, you want to treasure these memories on a photo. But just imagine: You are doing your work and every 10 minutes there is this tourist who is holding his camera in front of your face and then disappears! How do you find this? what to do then? simply ask the person for their permission. Most of the people will be so thankful and this little gesture of respect will lead to even greater photos! Always remember – you are not in a zoo!

Leaving your shoes on while visiting local’s house: Maybe you are getting the great opportunity to visit an Arab family by hosting you in their house. Arab families tend to be very clean and hospitable.

The first thing you should do is to take off your shoes once you are about to step on the carpet– never walk over a carpet leaving your shoes on! Arab Muslims usually pray on those (if you don’t know how they pray, then click here to learn more about how Muslims pray). And don’t worry – they will give you houseshoes without you even asking them!

Intimacy in public:
There is almost nothing better than spice up your love life with your partner by traveling into another country. Arab countries are well known to be very romantic and cozy – but please don’t exchange kisses or even more in public or in front of Arabs.

Kissing your beloved ones is something very intimate for Arabic people. they could feel very easy offended by sexual behavior in the public.

So tame yourself in public and you are gonna see how important kisses will become when you don’t do it 24/7.

Eating in front of people on the Ramadan month:
The Ramadan month is the holy month in the Islamic calendar. This month, people don’t drink nor eat something during the day and they start eating and drinking again after the sun in down. These days you won’t find a lot of people on the streets during the day and in the night you’re gonna experience a whole new world. Having the Iftar (the “breakfast” after the sunset) with Arab people is one of the greatest experiences you can have. But be aware that during the day you should avoid some rules (10 don’t during Ramdan Month), one of the simple don’ts is that you should not eat in front of people who are fasting. unless If you are in a touristic place (restaurant or hotel) then don’t worry about it – but outside please keep in mind not to eat something publicly.

Not paying enough attention to your belongings:
While traveling, normally, you don’t want to spend the whole time taking care of your belongings and turning around nervously every minute. especially in the touristic places in the Arabic countries where old Markets normally tend to be crowded and people will recognize very soon, that you are not a local. So try to put your phone in a safe pocket and don’t take to much money with you (that’s also great for not buying something expensive that you were not looking for).

Pointing with your fingers:
In most of the cultures, it’s a respectless thing to point with your fingers on somebody. Same for the Arabic people – they don’t like it at all and take it as a very respectless gesture! As the Germans would say: “Don’t point with your naked finger on dressed people!

Drink or being drunk in public:
As I explained earlier in this article – almost all the Arabic countries are Muslim. Alcohol is not permissible for Muslims. Even though you will find alcohol shops and clubs and bars in Muslim countries, (but most of the time it’s very expensive – you should spend your money on nicer things), local people do not feel comfortable with it. You should never drink alcohol in public or be drunk in public (in some countries you will spend the rest of the vacation or even longer in a prison for doing so). If you feel the need to party while being in an Arabic country, please take a cap to your hotel straight after leaving the club/bar.

Criticizing the Religion:
Unfortunately, a lot of people traveling to the Arabic countries have many stereotypes about the religion and the culture that based on the local news channels they hear from the west. if you want to learn about the true Arabic culture and Muslims, then you really have to learn more about the religion first, You should know that for righteous Muslim people the religion is something very precious and they live it in their lifestyle. You can always ask them questions about the religion and they would love to answer those, but don’t bring up the western accusations and criticism.

Avoid offensive hand gestures:
No culture likes offensive hand gestures – for some people they would find it rude and for some other people, they might end up in a fight. The last thing could happen in an Arabic country – is to show somebody the middle finger.

Especially while driving the car you should be very careful and everybody who has been in an Arabic country knows exactly how easy to become a hothead.

Petting animals:
I know it’s hard for most of the tourists to see all those cute street dogs and street cats. Even though they are looking so cute – don’t pet them! First of all, there is always a danger of infections and secondly, they could be aggressive and bite or scratch you. Also, you should know that dogs are having another image in the eyes of Arab Muslims and you usually can’t find them inside the houses.

My final thought:
Enjoy your vacation in an Arabic country and don’t worry too much! Arab people are very open and friendly – if you are gonna make mistakes they would tell you very gently. They understand that you have a different cultural background and they have great hospitality! Most of the Arabs will never be able to afford to travel into another country, so they will be grateful and interested in getting to know someone from abroad. So take all your stereotypes aside and enjoy your stay in an Arabic country!

About the Author Simo

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut congue neque, sit amet pellentesque nisi. Phasellus at dignissim orci, a bibendum purus. Morbi ac consequat odio. Ut in nulla quis mi commodo egestas eget et lectus. Praesent elementum orci vitae pellentesque porttitor. Morbi dapibus lectus nec ornare eleifend. Pellentesque sapien arcu, luctus pharetra mauris vel, tincidunt vestibulum est. Ut elementum vitae ex imperdiet maximus. Integer convallis nunc id congue varius.

Leave a Comment: