Invitation etiquette – Saudi way

invitation etiquette - thoughts & notes Riyadh

Whether you are living in a compound surrounded by expatriates or you are living in the city and dealing with Saudis, being invited by a Saudi is a very nice opportunity to know more about the Saudi way of life by enjoying the differences of this culture.

Some tips

  • Try to be punctual by arriving on time.
  • When arriving, you may need to remove your shoes, except if you are asked not to.
  • If you are with your wife/husband, it is possible that men sit in the “Majles” and women could other women. This differs from family to another and how conservative they are.
  • You will sure be offered Arabian coffee which is served often with dates! For the first time, it thoughts it tastes weird, but trust me, now I love it! The Arabian coffee has saffron, cloves and cardamom in it. For Arabs, Coffee is a sign of hospitality in Saudi Arabia so it is better to accept it. If you are not a coffee fan, don’t worry. It has nothing to do with the coffee that you usually drink.
  • Don’t shake hand with Arab women or men unless they do. In Islam, a men/women won’t touch someone if it’s not from their close family. You can always place your hand on your chest, this also means that you are greeting the person without the hand shake. A kiss on the cheek is normal between male friends. Women would also kiss.
  • When addressing to a woman, be careful that it is okay to talk to them without any problem, you will notice by body movement if it is okay or if they address to you too in a conversation.

Table manners

  • Always eat with your right hand, you may notice that sometimes, people put their left hand behind the back to allow others to share when it is crowded and to eat only with the right one. The left hand is used only for “unsanitary”.
  • If the meal is offered on the floor, cross your legs and sit on the floor. Never put your feet facing someone, it is very offensive.
  • Sometimes, no cutlery is offered, this would be your chance to learn how to eat with your hand. The meal would be rice and meat, make a ball in your hand and throw it in your mouth. Of course, if you don’t want to eat in your hands, you can always ask for a spoon. Know that Saudi appreciate it a lot if you are trying to eat like them but it is not a must.
  • Please avoid talking about religion or politics to avoid any confusion or offensive statement. After all, we all are different, and we never know what is acceptable or not in another culture. Let’s always respect other points of view.

I hope those tips will be useful for you, I am not an expert but those are things we have realized during our stay in Saudi Arabia. After all, people are understanding and respect your culture too, so don’t worry too much! … and bon Appétit!

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invitation etiquette - thoughts & notes Riyadh
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