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A Guide To Non-Muslim Expats in Gulf Countries During Ramadan

by : Joy

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July 07, 2015 (06:46)
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Ramadan (or Ramzan) is the ninth month of the Islam calendar and is observed as the month of fasting by Muslims worldwide. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and commemorates the first revelation of Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The holy month lasts around 29-30 days, based upon the sightings of the crescent moon.

Being a non-Muslim expat who is living and working in a Gulf country for the first time you might be wondering what this month is all about and how to deal with it without creating any untoward scenes. It is common for new expats to hear a lot of rumours during this time of the year and experience certain anxiousness related to the change in atmosphere that they will undergo. Here we will get to know some of the etiquettes and behaviours that the gulf countries expect from the non-Muslim expats. But, before that you should know a bit about the basic rules that Muslims follow during Ramadan:

  • No eating, drinking, smoking or indulging in physical pleasures between sunrise and sunset.
  • Curbing of undesirable emotions like greed, anger, lust and envy.
  • Keeping of thoughts and actions clear and free from impurity.
  • Being charitable and helping of those who are in need.
  • Making it a habit to visit friends and family.

As a non-Muslim expat it is expected that you do not perform any act that will hurt the sentiments of the locals. Refrain from any public display of vulgar and other habits like smoking in public during this month.

Expats in Gulf Countries during Ramadan – How to deal with the change in culture

Many Gulf countries have come with the idea of serving guidelines to the expats who are new to the area. Though, most of these guidelines are done with the intention of creating a cultural understanding, you should make it an effort to follow those. There are instances of behaviour policing in many Gulf countries and even time-to-time incidences have resulted in fines and arrests.

Thus, keeping in view with the local traditions and cultures, we have extended some guidelines how to behave and some tips while you are visiting or working in a Gulf country during Ramadan:

  • It is not legal (in most countries) and ethical to smoke, drink or eat in public during daylight hours as it is deemed against the culture. This is applicable while travelling in public transports as well.
  • Be discrete while you are at home and having a drink or smoking, so as not to come face-to-face with Muslim neighbours during fasting. Also try not to make loud noises if you are partying with friends inside your house.
  • Dress in a sensible and modest manner so that you do not offend the propriety maintained during Ramadan.
  • Try to go shopping in the morning and you will be able to avoid the crowd as they are more congested at night after Iftar (breaking of fast) during Ramadan.
  • Be careful while driving during the Iftar hours as during this period people are in a hurry to reach home to break their fast.

Working etiquettes in office as a non-Muslim

The first thing that you did in the morning while you came to office is wish your Muslim colleagues ‘Ramadan Kareem’. That is great but did you by mistake asked him to have some of your special cooked dish that you made last night. That would be a disaster! So, to avoid such situations in your office, here is a list of the etiquettes that you need to keep in mind while you are in an office during Ramadan in a Gulf country.

  • Patience is something which you will need during this month when you are working with a Muslim colleague. Due to fasting, energy levels will be low and you need to be patient while dealing with them.
  • Never ask awkward questions or say things that are obvious and sound insulting. E.g. ‘Is it alright if I eat in front of you?’ Nobody minds if you are eating in front of them. ‘You must be very hungry’. They do not need your empathy on this matter, it only worsens their situation.
  • Meetings which include lunch and which extend after Iftar hours (usually after 5) should be generally avoided.
  • You can hold Iftar dinners for Muslim co-workers; it will be a nice gesture on your part and give others an opportunity to learn about the festivities associated with it. If you are invited for any Iftar dinners, accept it. It is fun and good way to cross into a new culture.

Ramadan is the month in which the Muslims try to reinvigorate their spiritual self, make amends of the past and try to change for the better. As an expat in a Gulf country during the Ramadan, you might feel a change in the normal life, but, if you understand the culture and have an open attitude, you are going to enjoy everything, from the sumptuous Iftar dinners to having an altogether new experience.

 

Author Bio:  Hasibuddin Ahmed is a foodie and an avid reader with the same voracious appetite. Currently working for Naukri.com, his writings encompass a variety of topics related to career and employment.  You can reach him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn



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