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Customs & Traditions in Saudi Arabia

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General Etiquette

  • Men should not stare at women or offer compliments

  • Maintain eye contact with people of the same sex.

  • Men should show courtesy and respect for women.

  • Members of the opposite sex do not embrace or kiss in public.

  • Do not discuss religion or criticize Islam or Saudi cultural practices.

  • It’s illegal to take photos of women, in addition to military and government facilities.

  • Punctuality depends on the priority of the occasion. People are tolerant of lateness when meeting with friends. However, punctuality is expected and adhered to in professional meetings.

  • It is considered rude to check the time whilst in conversation with someone or at a social gathering. Time spent with friends is considered time well spent.

  • Show interest in the well-being of a Saudi’s family whenever you see them (e.g. “How are your children?”).

  • Do not ask about a man’s wife or personal matters unless they open up to you first.

  • Criticism must be indirect. If you need to correct someone, take an indirect approach to the comment and include praise of any of their good points.

  • Avoid sitting in any position that allows one’s shoe to face another person. This is considered insulting.

  • Pay respect to the elderly in all situations.

  • It is polite to avoid blowing one’s nose or spitting in public.

  • Avoid mentioning issues relating to women’s rights, or drawing assumptions about a Saudi woman’s freedom or happiness based on her hijab, abaya, or niqab. Wearing a hijab is a woman’s personal decision and does not necessarily indicate that she holds conservative ideologies or is oppressed.

  • It is polite to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in front of a Muslim during the daylight hours of the fasting month of Ramadan. In Saudi Arabia, it is considered disrespectful to engage in these activities in public.

  • Acknowledge Saudi Arabia’s modern advancements and achievements where appropriate. The country is currently in a state of cultural and social transition, and most Saudis are likely to appreciate it when foreigners recognize them as progressive people.


  • The family and tribe are the basis of the social structure.

  • Saudis take their responsibilities to their family quite seriously.

  • Families tend to be large and the extended family is very close.

  • The individual receives a social network and assistance in times of need from the family.

  • Nepotism is considered a good thing since it indicates that employing people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.

  • Family provides financial and emotional support.