Palestinian Culture

Greetings

  • The most accepted form of greeting among Palestinians is a handshake and smile. This is appropriate in casual and professional settings. Always use the right hand when shaking hands.
  • Palestinians often hug and give one another a kiss on each cheek to greet. This is the most common greeting among close friends, especially amongst women.
  • Some Muslims may prefer to avoid physical contact with members of the opposite gender. This can vary depending on their religious adherence, conservativeness or the location of the gathering or meeting. Therefore, when greeting a Palestinian of the opposite gender, it is best practice to simply greet them verbally with a nod of the head and wait to see if they feel comfortable extending their hand.
  • If a Palestinian prefers not to make physical contact during a greeting, they will often place their right hand over their heart whilst giving a verbal greeting.
  • In rural villages, it is appropriate to greet someone of the same gender verbally with a respectful nod and smile.
  • It is rude to greet people while sitting down. If seated, stand up to greet any adult entering the room or the conversation for the first time.
  • People are expected to greet everyone they see, even in passing. It is very rude not to stop to say hello to someone you recognise.
  • The common verbal greeting is “Merhaba” (Hello). Some may use the traditional Islamic greeting, “Assalaam ‘alaikum” (May peace be upon you), to which the reply is “Wa ‘alaikum assalaam” (And peace be upon you).
  • Palestinians often ask about one’s family name when first meeting one another to gauge a person’s background or status.


Titles

  • Use a person’s first name and title when greeting them unless they invite you to move on to a casual naming basis. The Arabic titles include “Anisah” (Miss), “Sayyidah” (Mrs) and “Sayyid” (Mr) with first or last names.
  • Adults are often referred to by a nickname (kunya) that describes their relationship to their eldest son. This uses the titles ‘abu’ (meaning “father of”) and ‘um’ (meaning “mother of”). For example, the father of Ahmad would be referred to as “Abu Ahmad” and the mother would be called “Um Ahmad”. It can be polite to address colleagues or superiors in this way as it indicates familiarity and respect.
  • Palestinians may refer to elders by titles such as “Ammo” and “Amto” ( uncle and aunt) or “Khalo” and “Khalto” (maternal uncle and aunt). One does not have to be related to the person to use these titles.

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