Etiquette is very important in Saudi society, and includes both Saudi customs and Islamic tradition. Everybody in a position of authority has a proper title, and it is customary to greet all Saudis with "As-salam alaikum," meaning "peace be upon you." The appropriate reply being, "Wa alaikum as-salam," meaning "and upon you be peace." Saudi greetings and ceremonies are ritualistic, and contain many nuances, such as body language. Reserve and respect are important, and should be observed at Saudi social functions, business meetings, and especially when meeting Saudi royals. When meeting a member of the Saudi royal family, there are prescribed formalities.
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Dress appropriately. If it is known beforehand you will be in the company of Saudi royalty, be sure to dress suitably. A suit and tie is appropriate for men, while women should dress as conservatively as possible, wearing high necklines, sleeves to the elbow and a skirt extending below the knees.
Shake hands if and when the Saudi royal extends the offer, especially concerning women. Saudi men normally do not shake hands with women. Always shake hands using your right hand. If it is appropriate, the Saudi royal will extend his hand; do not refuse it. In fact, do not refuse anything. If a Saudi royal or person of prominence offers a gift, coffee or food, it is considered an insult if you do not accept.
Address the Saudi royal, when acknowledged, with "Your Royal Highness."
Tips and warnings
- Traditionally, the respectful greeting for Saudi royalty is to first kiss their shoulder.
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