Iraqi Culture


  • It is important to greet an Iraqi formally and respectfully when meeting them for the first time.
  • Men are expected to stand to greet a woman when she enters the room, and everyone stands when an elderly person both arrives and departs.
  • Muslim men and women generally prefer not to make physical contact with members of the opposite gender. Therefore, when greeting an Iraqi of the opposite gender, it is best practice to simply greet them verbally with a nod of the head and wait to see if their feel comfortable to extend their hand as well. 
  • It may also be appropriate to greet someone of the same gender verbally with a respectful nod and smile if you perceive they are unaccustomed to being touched. 
  • Greetings between men usually involve a handshake with the right hand. Iraqi men tend to shake hands gently, but hold the hand for a long time as they exchange verbal greetings. This hand holding may feel uncomfortable to Westerners; however, avoid retracting your hand before an Iraqi is finished greeting you.
  • Iraqi men may also kiss one another on the cheek when they meet. This is very common between close friends, but can also occur when first introduced to someone.
  • Greetings between women tend to be very affectionate, involving hugs and two or three kisses on each cheek. However, women may be far less physically affectionate if they are greeting in public or are in the view of men who are not family members.
  • One may indicate sincerity by placing their right hand over their heart after greeting another person. For example, an Iraqi may do this whilst saying “I am deeply happy to see you”, in order to express the honesty in their words.
  • Iraqis may kiss one’s forehead or right hand in a greeting to demonstrate deep respect. This would usually be done to someone of a high status (e.g. an elder) rather than someone of the same status (e.g. a neighbour).
  • The common verbal greeting is “Peace be with you” in Arabic (“Asalaamu alaikum”). The appropriate response returns the well-wishing: “Wa alaikum salaam” meaning “and peace be unto you”.
  • Use a person’s first name and title when greeting them unless they permit you to move onto a casual naming basis. If someone is a Doctor, you would say “Dr. (first name)”.

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