Social etiquette and rules in Saudi Arabia

Expats have been living and working in Saudi Arabia for decades. Despite being the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, the Kingdom is diversifying its economy so there are many work opportunities in the region. While all of these changes are great for expats living or considering moving to Saudi Arabia, there remain some laws and rules that you should be aware of, and abide by as an expat working in Saudi Arabia.

  • Alcohol is banned.
  • Women should wear an Abaya in public, but headscarves are not compulsory any longer.
  • You should refrain from holding hands and public displays of affection. This is also applicable in the UAE and the GCC.
  • Gambling is banned in KSA as well as in the UAE.
  • Look out for the family sections of cafes and restaurants; if you are a male who is alone, don't go in.
  • Certain beaches in Jeddah are expat only and you can wear swimwear and shorts. This is not the case in public beaches elsewhere.
  • Only shake Muslim females' hand if offered by her, otherwise a simple hello or hold your hand over your heart.
  • Only use your right hand for shaking hands or for handing anything. It’s considered rude to use your left hand in Islam.
  • Respect the religion. Shops, cafes, etc. will close for a short while during prayer times.
  • Shops and many services are closed on Fridays, the holy day. The working week is Sunday-Thursday.
  • Ramadan is the Holy Month where Muslims fast during daylight hours.
  • Do not have any water or food visible in public during this time, even in your car, or you risk fines.
  • No dress code exists for children.

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