Kuwaiti Customs

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Kuwaiti culture and customs have become less rigid and more like Western cultures over the years. However, the culture is still generally traditional. Some Kuwaiti’s expect visitors to behave to their customs while others accept that they may not understand the culture. Here is a guide to some of the traditional customs that in the main continue to this day.

Visiting Someone’s Home

Kuwaiti’s enjoy having visitors to their homes. This is the main place for socializing, with much of Kuwaiti culture centred around the family. When visiting someone’s home it is usual that you bring a small gift. If the gift is wrapped don’t be offended if they don’t open it in front of you as they will generally do this later on. Alcohol should not be given as a gift and men should only give gifts to women on behalf of a woman. When entering someone’s home you should remove your shoes. Particular respect should be given to the older members of a family or group; this is a theme in families throughout the country.

Most of the socializing is done prior to a meal rather than after. When you visit someone’s home you are unlikely to eat immediately as this is the time you will be introduced to the members of the family you have not met before and socialize. Once the meal begins guests will be served followed by the older members of the group, and ending with the youngest. It is considered rude to refuse food or drink. You should leave some food on your plate if you do not want anymore as they will assume you want more if you have eaten everything. Don’t feel as though you are being rude by not clearing your plate. The custom is to only eat with your right hand. The host standing up signified the end of the meal. Once the meal has been finished the evening comes to an end, socializing does not continue after this.

Socializing Outside of the Home

Although a large proportion of socializing happens within the home, it also takes place in restaurants and hotels. It is common though, for men and women to socialize separately in these situations. If a group attending a social event includes both men and women they may be split and be in different rooms. This is not as common as it once was but still happens on some occasions.

How to Dress

Kuwaiti’s dress conservatively with many wearing traditional dress. Traditional dress is not expected to be worn by foreigners but they are expected to dress conservatively. Men shouldn’t wear shorts and should not be topless unless by a swimming pool or other places where it is deemed appropriate. Women should not wear short skirts or dresses, and their knees should be covered. Their shoulders should also be covered.


Business meetings are in many ways less formal than in the West. Meetings are often interrupted by people walking in to ask questions, possibly unrelated to the meeting. This is considered normal. Partly due to this meetings can be a drawn out process and it is rare for there to be a specific planned finish time. Negotiation is common and it can take a lengthy period of time for decisions to be reached. In negotiation with other businesses or individuals it is vital that you don’t look as though you are deceiving them. Business relationships are built on a foundation of trust and if they believe you may be untrustworthy they will not want to do business with you.

Andrew Marshall (c)

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