Cultural dos and taboos for foreign visitors
My home country is Saudi Arabia and it is a Kingdom situated in south-western Asia covering most of the Arabian Headland. The culture of the society is shaped by Bedouin values and Islam religion; hence important for visitors to take them seriously. Visitors of the country should adhere to certain unwritten rules to be seen to respect the Saudi society. The cultural dos and taboos are: never offering alcohol to an Arab since it is considered an offence; always accepting invitation to a home of an Arab home; foreign women should wear loose clothing that covers their body; respect the Ramadan month by avoiding to eat, drink or smoke in public; avoiding blasphemy in the presence of any Muslim; and not staring at people praying or passing in front of them. However, there are numerous dos and taboos but the important thing is just to do as other people are doing. If stuck one is free to ask as there are numerous people who understand English.
Advice on food, climate, shopping, customs such as gift giving and addressing people
The common foods (staples) are: chicken, rice, dates, yogurt, fava beans, and wheat. Animals for consumption must be dressed according Muslim traditions, thus the country is a major importer of live animals. During holidays like Ramadan, the meals are thick soups, rice, hummus, tabbouleh (salad containing bulgur wheat), stuffed vegetables, and bread eaten with all meals.
The climate of the country is extreme aridity and heat. Rain is limited to the months between January and May and amounts to 100mm, which is very little. Hence, shopping is done at cooler times of the day such as very early in the morning or in the evening. During the day it is very hot with temperatures reaching 500C. Shopping malls are the hangout and entertainment spots for most people as there are no bars. However, women are not allowed to be in sales hence only men are sales personnel.
Gift giving in Saudi entails rules such as: gifts being given to the most intimate friends; gifts being of the highest quality; never buying gold or silk for men but silver; giving gifts with the right hand; and the most common gift are scents. Furthermore, in addressing people Arabic phrases are well received and saving the face of an Arab colleague is also well taken.
Most people in the country are Arabs and are also Muslim. Therefore, the national and common language is Arabic. It is also recognized as an official language used by everyone. The second language is English that is commonly used by the government, in the media, in commerce, and other expatriates.
Laws in the country are based on the sharia based on the Quran and Sunna. The Justice Ministry is in charge of the sharia courts with the minister being the chief judge. Lower courts are supervised by the supreme council of justice who express legal opinions and reviews legal questions from the Justice Minister. Sentenced serious crimes can also be reviewed by the supreme council of justice. Therefore, serious crimes in the country are punished by death through hanging, beheading, or stoning. There is also amputation specifically in cases of robbery. When it comes to queries regarding personal status and penal suits, the cassation court is responsible for it.