Bahrain Customs and Etiquette

General Information

If you’re invited to the home of an Arab, you should always accept. You should generally take every opportunity to become acquainted with local people and avoid the natural tendency to stay within the social and physical confines of your foreign ‘ghetto’. Your Arab host will be interested in you and your views. However, you should avoid politics and religion as subjects for discussion; your opinions might be regarded as ill-informed or even offensive, even if they seem acceptable to you from a western perspective.

You should accept refreshment whenever it’s offered, but note that you should always use your right hand for drinking and eating, as the left hand is regarded as unclean (as it’s used for ‘toilet purposes’). Similarly, you should avoid showing the soles of your shoes or feet, which implies that you think the other person is ‘dirt’, which is obviously highly offensive. You should therefore keep your feet flat on the ground and not cross your legs.

You should also never call at an Arab’s house without warning him that you’re coming. If the women of the family are present, this won’t be appreciated. You should also avoid expressing admiration for any of your host’s possessions, as tradition dictates that he must then offer it to you. Although this tradition isn’t followed by everybody, it can nevertheless cause embarrassment. What’s more, the correct response is for the recipient to give an even more valued gift in return, so think twice before admiring an Arab’s Rolls Royce!

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