Travel Etiquette 101: Scandinavia & United Arab Emirates

Travel Etiquette 101: Scandinavia & United Arab Emirates

Travel Etiquette 101: Scandinavia & United Arab Emirates

When traversing the globe, we should never forget that we are guests in the countries we visit. Acting respectfully of the local customs is not just preferred but expected, so you should be prepared and know which actions are acceptable. With that in mind, here are general etiquette introductions to Scandinavia and the United Arab Emirates.


Never Call Someone a “Scandinavian” — While the three countries that comprise Scandinavia–Norway, Sweden and Denmark–share many cultural similarities, they still maintain strong independent national identities. Refer to each country’s people individually (ie. Norwegians, Swedes, Danes) rather than collectively. Also, inhabitants of Finland and Iceland, while sometimes included with their Scandinavian neighbors, are more accurately classified as Nordic.

All Men & Women Are Created Equal — Equality of the sexes plays a strong role in Scandinavian society, in both professional and familial roles, so always treat both sexes the same. That being said, chivalry still has a place, so men should never shy away from opening a door for lady.

No Time for Chit Chat — Scandinavians typically avoid idle conversation. So as much as you’re tempted to ask, “How are you doing?” it’s best to be direct with your conversation while looking them directly in the eyes.

Don’t be Late for Dinner Parties — Scandinavians tend to be extremely punctual, so if you are invited to someone’s home for a meal, show up on time. Also, a small gift is expected, such as sweets for the host’s children or a bottle of wine for the host.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Respect Goes Both Ways — Consisting of seven principalities or sheikdoms, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a rising star in the travel world. Although 80% of the population is Muslim, the country is, in general, very tolerant of all visitors in order to appease the business travelers who frequent Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Travelers, however, should never take this tolerance for granted. Both men and women should show respect for the country’s religious beliefs by dressing moderately and not showing a lot of skin.

Please Drink Responsibly — While most of the Muslim population stays clear of alcohol, it is still available in select restaurants and nightclubs. If you partake, drink responsibly in order to refrain from any “boorish” activities, which might attract the attention of local authorities.

Meet and Greet — Greet everyone in the room with a gentle handshake, direct eye contact, a smile and a polite “Salaam aleikum,” or “Peace be upon you” (the reply to which is “Aleikum assalaam,” or “and on you peace”). As with many Middle Eastern countries, always shake with your right hand, since the left is occasionally used for less sanitary purposes.

Sit Up, Soles Down — When sitting in a group, slouching is considered rude, so sit straight. Also, the soles of your shoes should remain on the ground and never be pointed in someone’s direction.

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