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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Algeria


The family is the most important unit of the Algerian social system and defines social relations. The individual is always subordinate to the family or group. The family comes above all else and we see this manifest in nepotism and the importance of honour.

Honour is a foundation block of Algerian society. Honour is delicately intertwined with a family's good name their reputation. If someone is honourable, the family is honourable and if an individual is shamed the family is shamed. As a result the behaviour of individual family members is viewed as the direct responsibility of the family. Honour can be lost in many ways, for example Algerians believe that turning down a friend's request for a favour causes the other person to lose honour. Therefore, they will agree to do something rather than risk either party losing face. Things to watch out for are criticising others, insulting them, or putting them in a position that will be uncomfortable. By dishonouring someone you also spoil the relationship.

The use of titles in important in Algeria due to the hierarchical nature of the society. When introduced to someone, try to call them by their honorific, professional, or academic title and their surname. As most people speak French and Arabic titles may be in either. Common titles are 'doctor', 'professor' and 'lawyer' in English or 'docteur', 'professeur' and 'avocat' in French. Some religious scholars may be called 'sheikh'.

The urban population lives at a frantic pace, much akin to European urban dwellers, in the main cities, but in the south and in rural areas people are much more open and friendly. Algerian women are expected to dress modestly in rural areas but this is not necessary in Algiers.

Meeting & Greeting

• Algerians greet each other with lengthy affairs.
• In addition to the handshake one is obliged to ask about family, work, the house, the weather, etc.
• This is all part of cementing a relationship and showing concern for others.
• You may see people continue to hold hands after the initial handshake is a sign of warmth.
• Friends and family will also exchange kisses on the check.
• When meeting women initially nod and wait to see if a hand is extended.
• Avoid prolonged eye contact with women and do not ask personal questions.
• For women visiting Algeria note that religious men may not shake your hands – this is not a sign of disrespect but quite the opposite.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Gift giving is a part of Algerian culture that is used to cement relationships. The gesture of giving is more important than the gift.

• When invited to an Algerian's home, bring pastries, fruit, or flowers.
• Roses or tulips make good gifts.
• Violets as they symbolize sadness.
• Children will always appreciate sweets.
• Do not bring alcohol unless you are sure they partake.
• Gifts are not usually opened when received.
• Give gifts with the right or both hands.

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