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Saudi Arabia Etiquette and Traditions

A Guide on Etiquette and Traditions in Saudi Arabia

If you're interested in visiting Saudi Arabia and want to know more about the etiquette and traditions you will find whilst there, then read this useful guide to get clued up before you travel.

Hand shake

What is Etiquette?

Etiquette can be referred to as a set of socially accepted norms, manners, and behaviours that control how individuals interact with each other in different social and professional situations.

Etiquette can vary between cultures, so it's important to research the rules and behaviours that the specific country follows to ensure you're remaining respectful whilst visiting.

Two women looking at a rocky cliff in Saudi Arabia

General Etiquette

The importance of punctuality in Saudi Arabia will be dependent on the priority of the occasion and is not governed by one solid rule. In general, Saudi Arabians are more relaxed with timekeeping compared to other nations and religions, with most individuals refraining from being strict with time schedules. Punctuality is, however, expected in more professional settings.

Covering up:

It is advised when visiting Saudi Arabia that your legs, arms and shoulders are covered and women must also cover their hair with a headscarf as a sign of respect.

Checking the time:

In Saudi Arabia, if you're having a conversation with someone or are in any social setting, it is deemed rude if you were to check the time. This vow of respect is common in other countries around the world, and is not present solely in Saudi Arabia.


Tipping in Saudi Arabia is a common practice, however, not felt to be mandatory like in the United States. The people of Saudi Arabia quite often tip expat service workers, such as those who work as porters or housekeepers. The amount that's tipped is usually quite small.

Island Mosque in Jeddah

Eating Etiquette

No alcohol consumption:

Probably one of the most important rules of etiquette in Saudi Arabia is the prohibition of alcohol consumption. It is a law that Muslims cannot consume alcohol, therefore when visiting the country, it's strongly advised to avoid alcohol for the duration of your stay.

Eating during Ramadan:

It is etiquette in Saudi Arabia to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in front of Muslims during the Ramadan fasting period when you're out in public.

When to begin eating:

It is common for guests in Saudi Arabia to not begin eating or drinking until the most senior person at the table has begun their meal. The start of the meal is also signified by saying 'Bismillah'.

Using the correct hand:

As a sign of respect in Saudi Arabia, you should only use your right hand to eat or pass food. The left hand is seen as dirty, and should never be used to handle food.

Two women looking at a rocky cliff in Saudi Arabia

Gift Giving

Small gestures:

Gift giving is very common in Saudi Arabia and it is common for visitors to bring a small gesture/gift when invited over to a Saudi's home. It is respected more if the gift is given to the whole family and not just one member.

Use the correct hand:

Just like in everyday life, gifts must be given using your right hand. The right hand or both hands are considered respectful either when giving the gift, or receiving one.

Responsible gifting:

Although gifting is so popular, there are certain gifts that are not seen as appropriate to be given to someone from Saudi Arabia. Do not gift alcohol, pork or related products, knives, or inappropriate images.

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