The Egyptian culture is different from the culture in the United States in many ways. Therefore, when traveling to Egypt, don’t expect to be able to behave the same way you do in the United States even though such behavior may be normal to you. Different facts and tips about the Egyptian culture need to be considered before walking on Egyptian soil. For example, differences between the United States and Egypt may include the following: dining etiquette, dress code, behavior, body language, and laws. It is important to be aware of all these major existing differences between Egypt and the United States to make your stay in Egypt a more pleasant and welcoming one. The topics that are to be discussed are outlines of the main differences that are advised to be understood before making your trip to Egypt; the purpose is to make the trip a successful one for you and the company.
On your trip to Egypt, you are expected to do good business. In order to do this, you should know a few aspects about the Egyptian business atmosphere. A lot of businessmen in Egypt will only do business with people they know and respect; therefore, it is important to build good relationships and know how to behave.
When it is time to set up a business meeting, make sure to do so well in advance. Egyptians like to plan their meetings ahead of time, but also like to be confirmed of such meetings (“Egypt-Language”). At a meeting, it is usual for Egyptians to offer tea or coffee when they are getting to meet someone. You should accept the drink offered during your meeting; otherwise, it is seen as being rude (“Egypt-Language”). If any documents are sent to the person you are having a meeting with, make sure to send them both in English and Arabic (“Egypt-Language”). Once you get into a conversation, Egyptians like to look directly into people’s eyes for honesty (“Egypt-Language”). In general, Egyptians don’t like confrontations or to even say “no”; therefore, Egyptians will try to avoid any confrontation and will remain silent if they don’t agree with something (“Egypt-Language”). Discussions during a meeting may take some time since Egyptians like to negotiate for a long time (“Egypt-Language”). When a meeting has reached a point where a decision needs to be made, it will be made by the person with the highest authority since rank is very important to Egyptians (“Egypt-Language”).
During your stay in Egypt, you will at some point attend a business or friendly dinner. No matter the case, it is very important for you to know what things to do or not to do while you are having dinner with your hosts. The dining etiquette in the Unites States is different from that in Egypt; therefore, it’s important for you to learn the differences in the dining atmosphere.
If you are being invited to a house for dinner, it is important that you remove your shoes before entering and wait to be seated by the host. Egyptians, especially the host, see it as an insult if you add salt to your food; it shows that you don’t like the food the way it was prepared for you (“Egypt-Language”). If you do not leave any food on your plate at all, then the host will keep serving you more; therefore, it is a good idea to leave a little bit of food on your plate if you don’t intend to eat anymore and it is also considered an insult (“Egyptian-Language”). You should always eat with your right hand because it is disrespectful if you eat with your left hand (“Egypt-Language”). Egyptians will eat some of their food with their fingers, so be prepared to do so if you want to blend in (“Egypt-Language”). During a dining experience, on top of all, it is of most important to compliment the host for the food to make a good impression (“Egypt-Language”).
When deciding what to pack for your trip, it is important to know that the dress code in Egypt is influenced mainly by the following: religion, gender, and weather. The main religion in Egypt is Islam, which requires that women cover their body completely; only the hands and face are acceptable to be visible in public (“Conditions of Muslims”). Egyptian women wear a head scarf that must be worn whenever they are out in the public in order to cover their head (“Conditions of Muslim”). Although, it is acceptable for women just visiting the country not to wear a head scarf, unless visiting a mosque, it is important to expect the Egyptian women to wear head scarves since it’s not a custom seen very often in the United States (“Good to Know”). In a mosque, women must cover their hair and take off their shoes; otherwise, it is seen as an insult to the Islamic religion. It is also expected from women, including visitors, not to wear anything that is too fitted to their body since it would show their female figure (“Conditions of Muslim”). Men, including visitors, cannot wear shorts or show their shoulders (Eavelyn). Even though the dress customs mentioned are not usually practiced in the United States, it is important to respect the people from Egypt when visiting their lands by dressing more conservatively than you usually would.
The weather in Egypt is very different than the weather in the United States; there is a lot of heat and it is very dry. It is very important to stay protected from the heat by wearing sun block and sunglasses (“Good to Know”). Whether you are a man or woman, it is important to make a good impression in Egypt by dressing properly as a way to show respect. However, this doesn’t mean that you are expected to dress exactly like the Egyptian people; all you need to do is try to follow the guidelines mentioned.
The behavior that Egyptians have is different in some instances from that of the people of the United States. For example, if you happen to invite an Egyptian to a gathering, they would reject your invitation because it is polite to do so at first (“Good to know”). On the other hand, if you were the one to be invited to a gathering by an Egyptian, you would also have to refuse at first and the Egyptian person would insist as a way of being polite (“Good to Know”). Once you refuse to an invitation, they would insist, to be polite, that you visit their home someday (“Good to Know”). If you end up going to an Egyptians home, it is good to bring a gift for the host to show how appreciative you are of the invitation (“Etiquette in Egypt”). When handing an Egyptian a gift, give the gift to the person on the right hand (“Etiquette in Egypt”). Also, don’t expect the gift you gave to be opened in front of you. The same works if you were the one receiving a gift; don’t open a gift if it is given in front of the person that gave you the gift (“Etiquette in Egypt”). When interacting with a group of Egyptians, it is important to them that you show respect to the elderly (“Egypt-Language”). Another way to show respect is by not having any kind of physical affection with the opposite or same sex (“Etiquette in Egypt”); behavior like this won’t be tolerated by the Egyptian people. The only time that men and women can have body contact in public is by a handshake when being introduced (“Etiquette in Egypt”). In this case, the woman is the one who initiates the handshake, and if she doesn’t, the man should just bow to show respect (“Egypt-Language”). You should also know that in Egypt, it is not okay for men to approach women in a flirtatious way (“Etiquette in Egypt”. Even though being flirtatious is the kind of behavior with the opposite sex that would be completely fine in the United States, it is not accepted in Egypt.
It is not only important to watch how you behave in Egypt, but also to watch the body language you portray to the people you interact with. For example, it’s perfectly normal in the United States to cross your legs while you are sitting, but it is not fine to do so in Egypt; you want to keep both of your feet on the floor while you sit (Jackson). Also, it is important to know that you cannot show the soles of your feet or shoes to people because it is seen as an act of disrespect (“Etiquette in Egypt”). It is easy for someone from the United States to have body language that will offend an Egyptian. For example, waving to someone in the United States can be one of the most common ways to express “hello” to another person; however, in Egypt it’s a form of disrespect (“Etiquette in Egypt”). “Although Egyptians are not superstitious people, for some the palm indicates the warding off of evil” (Etiquette in Egypt”). In this sense, Egyptians get offended if you wave at them.
In general, the crime rates in cities like Cairo are still low, but it is always good to be cautious during your stay in Egypt since you’ll be in a foreign place (“Egypt”). It is important to be aware of the laws in Egypt to avoid getting into any unnecessary trouble. First of all, it is illegal to drink in the streets of Egypt; it is only allowed to drink in public places that have been licensed to do so (“Egypt”). Just as in the United States, it is also illegal to possess any illegal drugs. Also, even though you might like to take pictures of everything to record your experience, make sure not to take any pictures of any military sites or military officials because you may be arrested (“Egypt”). As mentioned before, it is improper to show any kind of affection in public (especially between same-sex couples). This kind of public affection, other than seen as immoral, could get people arrested for public indecency (“Egypt”).
It is very important to really consider all of the key points discussed in this report before visiting Egypt. In order to focus on the main purpose of your trip, it is crucial to know what to expect from the native people of Egypt by being aware of their different customs before you arrive. As you already realized, the culture in Egypt is a very different one from in the United States, which is not a bad thing. You should really just know to respect it and embrace it. In Egypt, you will be dealing with Egyptian people every day, so it is important to know the proper way to behave in front of them. Body language is very important too because you may show certain body language that is really normal in the culture of the United States, but not that of Egypt. You will need to show respect to the Egyptian culture to be accepted by the people of Egypt. The show of respect of the Egyptian culture can be shown in many different ways; one way of showing respect is by acting correctly in a dining setting. Again, you may not be used to many of their customs, such as only eating with the right hand, but it is important to earn their respect by showing respect to these customs. By being part of the culture in the United States, you most likely don’t practice the Islam religion. Even if you are not Muslim, it is important to show respect to the Egyptians’ religion since religion is of great importance in their lives. You can show respect to the Egyptians’ religion by being more conservative in your clothing. Although, you should know that Egyptians will not appreciate you trying to pretend to be an Egyptian by dressing exactly like them, but they will appreciate people coming from foreign places that try to dress more conservatively.
The general rule for traveling to foreign countries is very straight-forward; be respectful of the culture you are visiting. No matter what country you are visiting, in this case Egypt, the culture is very meaningful to the people that are part of it because it defines their everyday life and what they believe in. You do not have to pretend to be part of the culture you are getting to know more of, but to only learn to respect it. By respecting the culture, you will most likely receive a welcoming attitude from the people of Egypt during your stay.
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