Cultural Observation II

When you are the host/ess it is extremely impolite, downright rude as a matter of fact, not to profusely offer whatever it is you’re serving. They will say no (see next little bit) but you must continuously insist that they have a little, even going to the extremes that you will be personally insulted and disappointed if they don’t. Swearing by God’s name that they take some is also acceptable ( even expected?) if they refuse. This shows them that they are appreciated, loved, etc.

Likewise it is extremely rude to accept whatever is being served without a few protests (see cultural observation I about being ‘full’). You must insist that “You couldn’t possibly!” “You’ve just eaten!” or “Really there’s no need to go through all the trouble!!” 

Two scenarios that illustrate my point:

A good friend had a potential MIL over. She, being raised in a somewhat ‘westernized’ household, hadn’t been taught the proper etiquette of dealing with potentials and her mom wasn’t there to guide her. She came in with the coffee and asked if they wanted. They, obviously, replied that she shouldn’t have gone through the trouble! and they couldn’t possibly have any! So she turned around and took the tray to the kitchen. Untouched. They verbally raped her when the left. Her reputation suffered horrendously. 

Me. Our foreman was over, back when we were renovating our house, and I was serving something. I asked him if he wanted. He said no. So I went on to the next person. He’s like “Hold on! Get back here! I forgot your Canadian.” And he takes some. LOL. Needless to say, none of the other men present refused anything from that day on.



Filed under Cultural Observations, Only in Syria, Syria

9 responses to “Cultural Observation II

  1. Hahaha. Ya I like the “foreigner” excuse myself. I am tired of eating too much (at other ppls homes) and asking too much (as in your exampl) and simply just wasting my breath and energy on stupidity. SubhanAllah. How about a little forthrightedness (is that even a word?)…. like dude, come on. Hahahha.

    Nice post 😉

  2. Great post! You know, certain traditions are really beautiful and differentiate a culture which expresses genuineness and generosity over the “as you please” type of offer. The “Western” way of accepting or refusing an offer so casually is void of a personal touch.

    -“Can I offer you a drink?”
    -“No thanks”
    – “As you please, I’m going to have one and enjoy it right in front of you and you can drool..”

    We should be proud of our culture and it is shared by many (Chinese, Indian, etc.. – those I’m familiar with) and our ways of honoring a guest. After all, our forefather, Abraham, slaughtered a lamb just for two guests and was offended that they did not touch it until he knew they were angels. So, generosity runs in our blood… 🙂


  3. Its kind of funny really but there should be a handbook or something. My uncle used to swear he’d divorce his wife if we didn’t eat something!

    I offer stuff and lay the disclaimer that I don’t know how to “I3zim” so please help yourself.

  4. “hadn’t been taught the proper etiquette of dealing with potentials” – I don’t think anyone can win this race, coz they always find something or the other to assault you with.

    WHY would you refuse it if you want it people!!!! ARGHHH!

  5. LOL!
    As I read this I couldn’t help but laugh!!
    I also remembered a story that a sheikh once said about himself when he first came to the US..
    He said, he was visiting over at some friend’s house…and he was STARVING!…
    When they offered him food, he politely refused (thinking, they will offer again and force him)…
    Little did he know that we don’t really do that and he got stuck not eating anything while everyone else was eating!!
    Not only was he starving, but he was also living on his own at the time and had not had “cooked” food for a really long time as he lived on milk and cookies 😀 lol

  6. So yeah, he learned his lesson 🙂

  7. Have you also noticed the over exaggerated compliments?? I always tell people (Arabs) that I don’t know how to do that or reply back to their un realistic compliments so please “excuse me” lol 🙂

  8. ummtravis – I think, going on three years, I’ve overused the foreigner excuse. But I couldn’t really care less. I pull it out whenever I want to refuse to conform with their cultural norms.

    ATW – Hmmm. I think you do have a point about the generosity of Arabs. Ekram al dayf (Honoring the guest) isn’t just an Arabic tradition, it is an Islamic obligation. What I take issue with, in the case of offering up the dyafeh, is the extreme measure they’ve gone to. Ones that I haven’t found an Islamic basis for. To be clear, I don’t think the scenario you gave is correct either – a little sensitivity about the feelings of the other guest (he could be shy, unsure, hesitant) would be nice. But there really is no need to (as Mamamona pointed out) swear by your marriage, your children, your parents graves, or Allah for that matter. I think it goes back to the basics – an awareness of the guests intentions in refusing or accepting the offer and catering, within Islamic limits, to that persons needs.

    Mamamona – Grr… I HATE that divorce thing. It’s been haram-ed by sooo many scholars, yet so many men insist on it. And when they’re refused! Ya Allah! Imagine living in haram because of one stupid remark.
    And I love that disclaimer – like I said, may have overused it but it’s still working!

    meow – AGREED!! There is no such thing as perfection, even in the race for holy matrimony, but at the risk of sounding like I’m talking about a bunch of monkeys jumping through hoops: some have been better trained than others!

    hiddensouls – LOOOOL. OMG, I think some sheik said that too! Do you remember who by any chance?
    And the compliment thing is crazy!! I just generally say thanks when they compliment me. And when I need to compliment someone I end it with “And this isn’t a Syrian compliment (called taghmeel)! For real!

  9. Um Omar

    Yes! I so hate this strange custom. Personally, I don’t care if you want to drink my juice or eat my food. Either you do or you don’t. It won’t bother me in the least. Alhamdulillah I don’t have many Arab visitors and I am rarely around the Syrian inlaws to have to deal with this. But to me, no is no and I won’t force people to eat. The best way I find to get around this is to make a plate for each guest and send it in to the men. Then, my husband can pass around the plates to each guest to either eat it or not.

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