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Kuwaiti Etiquette Tips

In Kuwait, beware of the differences in body language between our culture and theirs. For instance, the "AOK" sign has a positive connotation in American culture, but in Kuwait, it's a sign that indicates the "evil eye." It's even used in curses!

Kuwaitis are very hospitable to guests, but in many ways they can be conservative and private. Kuwait is 85% Muslim, and some of their etiquette draws upon that. It's important to remain respectful and learn a bit about Kuwait's culture. Below is a list of etiquette tips for your trip to Kuwait.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress conservatively for business meetings.
  2. DON'T wear revealing or tight clothes if you are a woman. Western attire is becoming more acceptable, particularly among younger people, but it's wise to dress on the more conservative side. Exposed flesh can be considered disrespectful to some.

2. Table Manners

  1. DON'T use your left hand to eat.
  2. DO expect guests and the most elderly to be served first.
  3. DO leave some food on your plate to indicate that you are full. An empty plate means it will be filled with more food.
  4. DO note that alcohol is illegal in Kuwait.

3. Tipping

  1. DO tip 10-15% at a restaurant.
  2. DON'T tip a taxi driver. It's not customary.

4. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T hit your right fist into your left palm. It indicates obscenity.
  2. DON'T make the "AOK" sign. It means the "evil eye."
  3. DON'T point your index finger at someone. It's disrespectful.

5. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands upon greeting someone. Greetings are usually done only with members of the same sex. Kissing cheeks is common among good friends.
  2. DO inquire about the person's health, family, and mutual friends while greeting.

6. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO check to see if your host is wearing shoes. If they are not, you should remove yours.
  2. DO greet elders first upon entering.
  3. DON'T turn down offers of food or beverages. It's rude to turn down hospitality and your hosts may feel rejected.
  4. DO bring your hosts a gift, such as chocolates, a plant, or a gift from your home country.

7. Language Etiquette

  1. DO try to learn a few words in Arabic. As a guest to Kuwait, you will not be expected to know Arabic and English is widely spoken, but it will be both polite and impressive if you make an effort.

8. Business Meeting

  1. DO exchange business cards
  2. DO have one side of your business card printed into Arabic.
  3. DO be patient. Decisions happen slowly and go through a hierarchy.
  4. DO mention if you have an advanced degree, as Kuwaitis value education.
  5. DON'T schedule meetings in July or August. The summer heat is strong during those months and many Kuwaitis leave the country.
  6. DO understand that meetings might be interrupted if they are during prayer times.
  7. DON'T change your negotiating team.
  8. DO keep proposals clean and simple, and avoid high pressure sales tactics.
  9. DO expect a bit of getting-to-know you chit-chat in the beginning of the meeting. Kuwaitis prefer to do business with those they know.

9. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DON'T open a gift upon receipt. Wait until later.
  2. DO say that a gift is from a female relative if you are a man offering a gift.

Kuwait etiquette may differ greatly from ours, but you will find that Kuwaitis are very accommodating to visitors to their country. Often you can learn from simply following the lead of those around you. Try to be conservative in your dress and behavior whenever possible and enjoy your trip to Kuwait!

 
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