|Understanding Arabs: A westerner's guide
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Arab hospitality is world-renowned and something viewed with pride, generosity being the prime ingredient. This tradition was founded from the practical angle of helping travellers in the desert as well as from the Islamic fundamental belief of alms giving. In the simple situation of entering a traditional Arab shop you will be offered tea of coffee. This is not meant to be a question as to whether you would like something to drink or not, more a question of what exactly you will have to drink. It is rude not to accept either.
If you are invited to an Arab home for a meal, it is wise to eat only lightly during the day. Usually served in buffet style, there will be a tremendous amount of choice and variety and it is considered polite to try a little of everything and if possible have second helpings. It is a matter of etiquette for the host or hostess to offer more constantly, and if you invite Arabs to your home you should try to do the same. The Western custom of presenting a plate of food individual to the guest although commonplace in restaurants is considered strange at home. Once they have finished eating, guests will leave the table and normally depart the party en masse once the senior guest has departed.
Arabs love to be surrounded by people and have little concept of the privacy that Westerners covet. Friends are made easily; there is a genuine love of companionship as well as a respect for personal relationships (in terms of business). Part of this friendship will be regular mutual contact, as good friends should see each other often, and also mutual reciprocity of favours. If one friend feels that he will not be able to carry out a favour, he will not refuse directly. Good manners dictate that he should not reply negatively and in order to get around that he will use the non-committal “Inshallah” (God-willing) or may easily state an intention to try, even though he may know the request may be very difficult or even impossible to achieve.