Great Article! Cultural Clues & Communication Guidelines for Yemen

The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s and Taboos for Yemen – A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z

It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a big impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.

This article on cultural differences in Yemen and cultural travel tips for Yemen is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Yemen, tips for communicating in Yemen and business strategies for Yemen to help with understanding the culture in Yemen. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for Yemen and tips for intercultural communication!

Cultural Tips for Yemen – including some valuable business travel tips for Yemen!

The only absolute requirement of dress code in Yemen is modesty. Short sleeves are therefore acceptable but not short trousers.

The female dress code requires covering everything in public, however, a woman can wear literally anything she wants providing she covers herself thoroughly when she goes out.

The host typically sets the subject of conversation, and normally begin with general small talk such as “How are you?”, “Are you enjoying your visit?” etc.

Intelligent argument is admired and welcome, but only when it is courteous and reasoned. The more feedback you generate, no matter how forceful so long as it’s not angry, the more highly you will be esteemed.

Getting down to business can often be quicker than elsewhere in the Middle East, except for in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, where business is very westernized.

As is in other Arab countries, be prepared to tolerate multiple interruptions during conversations.

The standard greeting is “As-salam alaikum,” (“peace be upon you”) to which the standard reply is “Wa alaikum as-salam,” (“and upon you be peace”).

The use of first names denotes more familiarity than in the west and there is no real equivalent to Mr. or Ms. The noble title “Sayyed” refers to a Hashemite (an Arab claiming descent from Hashim, the great-grandfather of Muhammad), and should always be used before the first name.

A level of friendliness, without undue familiarity, is achieved by using the “kunya”. A man becomes known to his friends as “Abu” (father of), usually followed by the name of his eldest son. It is quite acceptable to ask a mutual acquaintance if you don’t know a man’s kunya. Somewhat less common is the female equivalent “Umm” (mother of).

The titles Doctor, Mohandas (engineer), Ustadh (professor), and Shaikh (chief) are used as honorable titles. “Shaikh” is similar in concept to knighthood in British English, and is used before the first name not the surname.\

On arrival at a reception room, the visitor should stand in the doorway and utter the former of these phrases. After receiving the reply, the visitor is entitled to enter the reception room for further greetings and introductions.

If the room is carpeted, remove your shoes and leave them outside to avoid bringing in impurities that would leave the carpet ritually unclean for prayer.

Once inside the room, shake hands with the most senior person first, usually but not always the host. Proceed to make your way around the room in a counter-clockwise direction, shaking hands with each person before taking your seat or joining in the conversation.

If there is a very large number of people in the room, or if the seating is inconvenient, there may be consensus permission to merely shake hands with the host and wave a greeting to the others.

It is best not to change the subject of a conversation except by logical opportunity or invitation, even though the Yemenis will feel free to do this themselves.

English is widely spoken enough not to require a knowledge of Arabic for general day-to-day purposes.

Business cards are common but not essential in Yemen. If used, the common practice is to have English and Arabic printed on either side. Brochures and other promotional literature should be printed in Arabic, either with or without English translation.

If seated, crossing your legs is acceptable, provided you don’t direct the sole of your foot to an individual, which is the “go away” gesture.

In business meetings, conversation should be communal. Don’t have a long private chat with an individual because more than one conversation in the room is thought to spoil the atmosphere.

Yemenis are very shrewd in business, so the details of any agreement should be detailed meticulously. The concept of commitment may differ from yours, and such terms as “immediate”, “prompt”, “on demand” or “soon” are particularly susceptible to disputed interpretation.

Hospitality is important throughout the Middle East, but in Yemen it is a requirement and must be accepted when offered. Being invited to lunch anywhere in Yemen is the promise of a feast. The food is both varied and distinctive, however, be aware that the southern cuisine is substantially spicier than the northern.

5 Key Conversation Topics or Cultural Gesture Tips

  • Maintaining eye contact is an important way of showing attentiveness in Yemen.
  • Everything offered to anyone should be offered with and taken by only the right hand.
  • Be open to standing closer, more body language, and touching between the same sex.
  • Be prepared for many interruptions by the Yemenis during conversations,
  • Restaurants and the varied, distinctive food are always appreciated topics of discussion.

5 Key Conversation Topics or Cultural Gesture Taboos

  • Nothing should be offered with the left hand which is considered unclean.
  • When seated, don’t point the sole of your foot to anyone, because this is a “go away” gesture.
  • In general, let your host guide the conversation and don’t change the topic unless invited to do so.
  • Don’t ask personal questions or discuss a person’s private life unless they bring it up first.
  • Don’t back away from Yemenis when they stand close to you or touch your arm or clothing during discussions.

Bon Voyage! Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for Argentina!

To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book

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Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers, and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!

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