Do's and Don'ts
- Be sensitive to the possibility that a person may have ongoing mental or physical health problems from the effects of conflict. It is highly likely that a Syrian-born person in Australia has experienced undue suffering from the effects of the Syrian Civil War, the Assad regime or insurgent forces.
- If the opportunity arises, offer sympathy to the current situation in their home country. Syrians are likely to deeply appreciate the gesture and respond with warmth.
- Expect a Syrian to try to get to know as much about you as possible immediately after meeting you. You may find their questions blunt or too forward (e.g. “Are your parents still alive?”), but be courteous and understand that this is the common way of acquainting themselves with people.
- Relax and feel comfortable to speak informally. Australians can underestimate the easy-going approach of many Syrians. Though Syrian etiquette is noticeably cordial and chivalrous, this does not translate to mean people are uptight about their conduct.
- Offer compliments and praise their good points when possible.
- Avoid talking about the Syrian political situation unless your counterpart initiates the conversation. It is a sensitive and painful topic; they may not wish to recall or think about it. Additionally, do not ask your Syrian counterpart to explain the conflict situation to you. If this conversation does occur, you may find that they become dismayed/frustrated by the average Australian’s lack of knowledge regarding the biggest humanitarian crisis.
- Avoid saying anything that could be taken as insulting or derogatory. Take an approach towards corrective remarks, being sure to always include praise that minimises potential offence.
- Avoid asking questions about a Syrian man’s female family members. It is appropriate and appreciated to ask someone about their family’s general health, but specific questions into the private lives of females can be mistaken for overt interest or even disrespect by conservative Syrians.
- Do not patronise or talk down to a Syrian for having poor English skills.
- Avoid telling dirty jokes. Such humour is not appreciated.
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