Customs & Traditions in Algeria

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General Etiquette

- Algerians tend to speak quite closely to each other. It's normal to keep an arm's length or less. In general, this space is larger when interacting with members of the opposite gender than when interacting with members of the same gender.

- Touching is acceptable if you know someone; otherwise, it is reserved for family and close friends.

- In public, it is common for people of the same gender to hold hands or walk arm in arm. Most countries, however, discourage public displays of affection between opposite sexes.

- Eye contact is a sign of respect and one should certainly make eye contact when being introduced. However, overly direct eye contact should be avoided.

- Being punctual in social situations is not as important as in business situations.



Names

- The hierarchical nature of Algerian society makes titles important.

- When introduced to someone, try to call them by their title, professional, or academic title, and their surname.

- It is possible to have titles in either French or Arabic since the majority of people speak both languages.

- Common titles are "doctor", "professor", and "lawyer" in English. Some religious scholars may be called "Sheikh".



Family

- The family is the most important unit of the Algerian social system and defines social relations.

- The individual is always connected to the family.

- Nepotism and honor are important because the family comes first.



Meeting & Greetings

-Algerians greet each other with lengthy affairs.

- In addition to the handshake, one must ask about family, work, the house, the weather, etc. This is a part of showing concern for others.

- You may see people continue to hold hands after the initial handshake, this is a sign of warmth.

- Good friends and family usually greet each other with kisses, once on each cheek.

- When a man greets a woman A simple handshake is common during initial meetings.

- It is best to allow the woman to extend her hand. If the hand is not extended, then a slight bow or nod is the polite thing for men to do.

- Avoid long eye contact with women and do not ask personal questions.

- For women visiting Algeria note that religious men may not shake your hands - this is not a sign of disrespect but quite the opposite.




Visiting a home & Giving gifts

- Remove your shoes when entering any Algerian home.

- Men and women will be seated separately.

- Dress modestly.

- When you enter a room with people always greet the eldest first. Move around the room from your right and greet people individually. - When giving someone a gift give it with the right hand or both hands.

- When invited to an Algerian's home, the best gift to bring is pastries, fruit, or flowers.

- Roses or tulips are good gifts, but violets are a bad choice for gifts as they symbolize sadness.

- It is always a good idea to give sweets to children as gifts.

- Do not bring alcohol to the Algerian families.

- Gifts are not usually opened when received.



Dining & Food

- It would be polite for a woman to offer to help the hostess with the preparation/cleaning. This will most likely be declined, but the offer will be appreciated.

- There are several ways of dining such as sitting at low couches around a big table or on mats on the floor around a low table.

- You have to wash your hands before and after the meal.

- Food is usually eaten by hand.

- Couscous is eaten with a tablespoon while the stew is eaten with a fork.

- Only use the right hand for eating and for passing dishes.

- You will be urged to take more food. Try and start off with small portions so you can take more from the main dish and appear to have eaten a greater quantity.

- Leave food on your plate or it will be filled up again.




Communication style

- Algerians tend to be somewhat direct in their communication style but are not confrontational. One should never criticize another publicly as it can cause shame on oneself and one’s family. In these cases, an indirect style is more appropriate.

- Avoid talking about politics, sexuality, and religious issues until a stronger bond has been established, and even then tread lightly. Good initial topics of conversation include sports, family, Algerian music, food, and culture.

- If someone is honorable, the family is honorable too, and if an individual is shamed the family is shamed.

- As a result, the behavior of individual family members is viewed as the direct responsibility towards the family.

- Things to watch out for are criticizing others, insulting them, or putting them in a position that will be uncomfortable.

- If you dishonor someone you will spoil the relationship.

- Wagging an index finger at someone is considered rude it‘s better to point with the whole hand.





Other consideration

- Although alcohol is forbidden to Muslims and is often viewed poorly in public, it is somewhat easy to find and widely sold. The legal drinking and purchasing age is 18.

- Homosexuality is illegal and penalties include imprisonment.

- Photography of military or sensitive sites, including military or security personnel, may lead to arrest or detention and possibly deportation.

- It is against the law to attempt to convert Muslims to another faith or to distribute material that may be seen by local authorities as an attempt to convert Muslims to another faith.

- Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.



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