10 Tips for Cultural Sensitivity during the Holy Month of Ramadan
10 Tips for Cultural Sensitivity during the Holy Month of Ramadan
If you’re an expat living in the Middle East, or you’re working or doing business with people of Islamic faith, you need to know how to adapt and be respectful in this very important period. Keep reading to find out how!
Eid Al-Fitr is a 3-day celebration of family and feasting, which usually becomes a week-long holiday in most workplaces in the Middle East. There is another Eid, called “Eid Al-Adha” after about two months, which lasts 4 days.
Ramadan and the two Eids are not the same date every year, because they do not follow the common calendar; they follow the Islamic calendar. The dates of the holidays shift about two weeks earlier every year.
So what to keep in mind during Ramadan? Here are my top 10 tips for cultural sensitivity during Ramadan:
1. Don’t eat or drink in front of colleagues.
Since they are fasting, we need to keep this in mind and be considerate. Don’t drink water, eat snacks or even chew gum in front of others.
When I was working in Saudi Arabia, we had a designated room at my workplace, on every floor, where expats who were not fasting could go and have tea or coffee, snacks, and eat their lunch. People are very flexible, and they understand that not everyone fasts.
And they even allow us to keep consuming food and beverages during the day, just in a separate area behind a closed door. Also during Ramadan, it’s best not to keep consumables out in open view. That includes packaged snacks and even water bottles.
2. During the Holy month, keep your behavior calm.
Remember that Ramadan is a time of self-reflection, prayer, peace, and happiness. Therefore, try not to allow your emotions to get out of hand. There should be no shouting, anger or frustration, or arguing in front of others.
It’s best also not to blast music in public, and generally just try to keep all behavior positive and under control.
Get to know Middle East
3. Dress conservatively, even more than usual.
As Ramadan is a religious period, it’s extra important to observe conservative dress in line with Islamic beliefs. Cover your arms, shoulders, torso and midriff, legs, and be careful not to wear anything super-tight or revealing.
4. Be patient. Things may take more time.
First of all, work schedules change in many places during Ramadan. Most workplaces have a reduced schedule. Many people stay awake at night, and may work at night instead of in the daytime. The speed of work may slow down, so don’t be surprised if there are delays.
It’s similar to how all work slows down or even stops during the Christmas and New Year period in many countries. Understand that for them, Ramadan is their most important period of the year, so please be patient.
Discover Middle East for business
5. Keep in mind the schedule differences and plan accordingly.
In some places, restaurants and shops will be open only after sundown. If you are used to grabbing lunch from a restaurant, keep in mind it may not be possible during Ramadan. Most or all restaurants will be closed during the day.
You may have to go home for lunch, or pack your lunch and eat it in the designated area.
6. Remember they are fasting. Go easy on them.
To be honest, in four years of teaching in Saudi Arabia, students never once accepted my offer to modify the intensity of courses that fell during Ramadan. They always insisted on taking exams and even giving presentations in Ramadan, which I found very impressive.
However, if I could modify anything, I tried to, just to avoid putting too much pressure or stress on them while fasting.
7. Enjoy delicious Iftars with your colleagues and friends!
Ramadan is a time to promote unity among family, friends, and community. So take this opportunity and participate in the festivities. If someone invites you to an iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast, consider yourself lucky!
Iftars are wonderful feasts of all kinds of food, plus it’s a time to share a meal in the company of the people you love.
Are you trying to learn about Middle East culture?
8. Give gifts of fancy dates, chocolate or other food items.
It’s always a nice gesture to give a gift of delicious food to your colleagues and friends during Ramadan.
10. Be happy and join in the festive feeling in the air!
Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to be a part of Islamic culture. Remember, when working or doing business with people from other cultures, need to understand and respect their traditions.
Dr. Julia Kirst, Ph.D. has done what so many of us aspire to do: she wrote a cross-cultural book. In this exclusive interview with Julia, we will learn about how she accomplished the seemingly unreachable goal when she published "What the United States Wants." How did...
Working and doing business in Saudi Arabia is a fulfilling and rewarding experience that has changed the lives of many expats who lived there. As with any culture different from your own, you need to be prepared in order to live and work successfully in Saudi...
IOnce upon a time, while working in Saudi Arabia, there was an expat manager who we will call John. John had a miscommunication with a team member who we will call Mohammed. One day Mohammed was absent from work. While Mohammed was absent, there was a goodbye party...
Hello everyone, and welcome back to my blog, the best place to learn about expat life, intercultural skills, and business abroad. You may have seen my YouTube videos 10 Questions about Saudi Arabia: Answered and 10 Reasons Why I loved Living in Saudi. Now it’s time to...
Hello everyone, and welcome back to my blog, the best place to learn about expat life, intercultural skills, and business abroad. You may have seen my previous video 10 Questions about Saudi Arabia: Answered. Now it’s time to explain specifically why I loved living...
So you’re finally going to visit Italy. Or maybe your family is going to live there! If YOU are going to Italy soon for the first time, this article is for you. Find out how you can adapt and be culturally prepared for your upcoming Italy visit or long-term stay in...
Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog, the best place to learn about expat life, intercultural skills, and business abroad. Today I’m going to answer 10 burning questions about Saudi Arabia, the questions you always wanted to ask, but didn’t know who to ask!...
I left a 6-figure job during the pandemic, to start a business in a country not my own. Sound crazy? Depends on your appetite for risk. It’s been exactly two years since I made the leap of faith into solopreneurship. Am I grateful for the choice I made to leave my...
We all know that building your network is something that people are always talking about. In this day and age, networking has become even more essential to career growth. What are the reasons for building a network? Well, if you’re comfortable in your job and you...
Effective cross-cultural leadership and management require what is known as the "pivot factor." What is a pivot? Pivot - a dance step in which the dancer suddenly turns to face the opposite direction.Pivoting in intercultural management The need to adapt your...
Looking for expat health insurance?
Cultural sensitivity during the Holy month of Ramadan
Ramadan is a time of year when Muslims around the world observe a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. For many Muslims, Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and increased religious devotion.
For expats living in Muslim-majority countries during Ramadan, it is important to be aware of the cultural sensitivities surrounding the holiday
I hope this article was helpful and I wish you all the best in your Middle East experience.
Get in touch with us for valuable insights and practical information on setting up your business in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Have expert cross-cultural training or consultation which will lead to your success in the Middle East
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to learn more about how to be culturally respectful, do business in other countries, and make the most out of expat life.
Dr. Julia Kirst, Ph.D. has done what so many of...
Working and doing business in Saudi Arabia is a...
IOnce upon a time, while working in Saudi...