My friend recently had a bizarre encounter while utilizing the car service, uber. This made me think about the common courtesies that exist here in Saudi, that may not exist elsewhere. Courtesy and etiquettes in Saudi are general based on their socio-cultural norms, many of which are based on Islam, the religion of the country. Saudi courtesy is many things that we may not think about in the west; below you find a few things that I think are important to be mindful of when traveling to or living with in Saudi Arabia.
1. Shaking Hands
While shaking the hand of someone of the opposite gender in the west is view as respectful, in Saudi Arabia - it is a major faux pas. As a part of an Islamic society, men and women who are not related should not have physical contact and therefore - even in the event that you want to thank someone for their service, a simple "Thank you/Shurkran" is sufficient.
2. Proper Greeting
So if you don't shake hands how do you greet others? When greeting someone of the opposite gender, a gentle head nod is acceptable. ...but what about people of the same gender? Women who are meeting women and men who are meeting men have very similar greeting methods of which typically include a soft "Asalaam Wa'Alikum" and a gentle shake with the right hands of each party and a kiss on each cheek - it is possible that the Saudi may go back in for a couple more cheeky kisses but just go with it.
3. Eye Contact
It is a common courtesy when living in to Saudi to "lower" your gaze. Lowering your gaze is a sign of respect for both men and women alike. When crossing paths with the opposite genders, lowering your gaze is a sign of respect for yourself and the other person. If one does not lower their gaze, then this can be seen as a potential "pass".
Eating? Yes, I'm sure you already know that you should not eat as if you are a cow at the trough but there are a few things to be mindful when dinning with Saudis. Eating with your right hand is rule no. 1, and then aside from that it is possible that you could end up eating at a table or in the more traditional sense, on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor, NEVER point the bottom (sole) of your feet towards the food. Aside from this it is considered a general courtesy to try each dish that is presented/
Why are you bringing up a wasta? Let me tell you, as the wife of a Saudi - I cannot express how many times I get asked consistently if I know a wasta or someone who can help. For one, I do not know any one. Next, if you're asking someone this question - be mindful that wastas come from family connections and the chances of someone revealing their wasta to you, is VERY slim.
Note: If you are the potential wife of a Saudi, don't ask other wives for their wasta. It is not your job to locate a wasta, it is your husbands job. Aside from all of this, there is absolutely nothing that you can do about your permission process, it lies with your husband.