Saudis issue 'culture clash' guide for travelers abroad
Saudis issue culture cl
By ADAM GONN, THE MEDIA LINE
October 26, 2009 01:28
2 minute read.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry has compiled a series of guidelines for citizens wishing to travel abroad, following a series of incidents in which Saudis traveling abroad ran into trouble with local authorities.
"Do not treat your children harshly," is among the ministry's instructions, along with guidelines on avoiding claims of sexual harassment and abuse.
Among the instructions issued by the ministry:
Do not treat your children harshly or kiss them on the mouth in public places in order to avoid having legal action taken against you on grounds of mistreatment. The family may even lose custody over the child.
Avoid talking with children or adolescents over the Internet, inviting them to your house alone, or being alone with them.
Observe culture differences and avoid behavior that is customary in Arab culture but is not customary in other cultures, such as kissing other children or cuddling them.
If a domestic dispute reaches the security authorities, the one who caused it will be punished, even if the other side backs down from the case, so take care to limit family disputes inside the family framework.
Don't carry personal documents belonging to other people, including your wife, in order to avoid being accused of holding someone else's documents and stealing them.
Avoid flattering or showing admiration to people you don't know, because this behavior could be understood as sexual harassment, which is a crime.
Tariq Almaeena, a Saudi journalist based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said the instructions were long overdue.
"It's about time, I would say, that they gave something out because not everyone traveling is a seasoned traveler," he told The Media Line.
"You have to remember that the travel facilities are for just about everybody, be they educated or not," Almaeena said. "This list is more geared towards those who are a bit ignorant about society elsewhere.
"There are a lot of first-time travelers that tend to take off and they do not realize certain rules, and don't forget that laws are very dynamic in a lot of countries pertaining to sexual harassment and child [abuse]," Almaeena said. "So you have to bring this to their attention."
A recent report by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities found that to date $1.2 billion has been spent this year by 870,000 Saudi tourists vacationing abroad. The destinations most visited by Saudi Arabians include Bahrain, with 406,500 tourists, Jordan, with 169,000, and the United Arab Emirates, with 78,000.
In addition to the growing number of Saudi tourists traveling abroad, more and more nationals are taking advantage of generous benefits being offered by the government. Funding for study abroad often includes a scholarship and paid tuition, and is increasing the number of Saudis being exposed to foreign cultures.