If you don’t already know, Ramadan is an Islamic holiday where Muslims fast for 30 days to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Mohammad. Traditionally they are to refrain from eating or drinking (even water) from dawn until sunset. They also abstain from sexual relations, smoking and sinful activities such as lying. Every day at sunset they are allowed to break their fast with a traditional meal called Iftar.
As someone raised Christian it has been quite a treat spending some of my time living in Turkey. Since being there I’ve not only been exposed to new cultures and traditions but along with it comes a whole new category of etiquette, in this case Ramadan etiquette.
Whether you’re living in or visiting a Muslim country as a foreigner, or interacting with Muslim friends or coworkers, it’s nice to know how to appropriately handle yourself when it comes to holidays you may not be familiar with. After all etiquette is about making those around you feel comfortable and when you’re not informed about the subject matter it may be hard to do so.
These few tips will help you to navigate Ramadan etiquette in a way that makes everyone (yourself included) feel at ease.
1. Don’t enjoy your food too much.
Ok you can enjoy your food, but don’t make it so obvious. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat in front of your fasting friends but don’t rub it their face that they can’t also devour that delicious mozzarella sandwich. They understand you’re not obliged to follow the same rules but keep the “omg I was so hungry” and “this so delicious” comments to yourself.
2. Avoid all food talk.
In fact, keep all food talk to a minimum. Have you ever been hungry and just the mere mention of food will cause a tummy grumble? Exactly. Save your recipe sharing and foodie experiences to yourself until later that night or after their fasting has been completed.
3. If in a Muslim country, keep your eating and drinking confined to appropriate places.
No body expects you to fast if you’re a foreigner but it’s disrespectful if you’re whipping out your granola bar in front of hungering crowds . Of course if you’re in a hotel or restaurant where it’s expected to eat then it’s perfectly acceptable, but if you’re taking public transportation or in a place where it’s avoidable then try to keep your munching to a minimum. Again it’s all about making others comfortable. It doesn’t mean you must participate but if there’s some minor step you can take to put another at ease then do so. In more traditional countries like Saudi Arabia it’s actually illegal to eat in public during daylight hours during Ramadan. So it’s wise to read up on the country you’re in.
4. Don’t make it about wight loss or compare it to your diet.
Yes the first thing many of us may think when we hear there is fasting is what a great excuse for a diet. Killing two birds with one stone right? Filling the religious requirement and getting bikini body ready at the same time! Well… no. That’s not quite what it’s about and it can come across as rather disrespectful to suggest so. In reality many people gain wait during the Ramadan month as they indulge at night during Iftar and even eat throughout the night in preparation for the next day.
5. Ask about it.
Don’t be afraid to ask about it. Would you be offended if someone asked you what Christmas was about? Most Muslims will be happy to share facts about their culture and religion. If you have the opportunity to connect with a practicing Muslim take the chance to expand your knowledge. It will only show your openness and respectful nature. Of course it should go without saying to not criticize or belittle whatever they have to share.
6. Don’t mention the bad breath.
When you haven’t drunk or eaten the entire day bad breath is bound to happen. Just don’t be surprised if you get too close and if you do don’t mention it or become obviously repulsed. It’s a natural side effect that’s unfortunately unavoidable.
HOMEWORK: Are there any other Ramadan etiquette tips that are helpful during this season? If you know of any please do share them in the comments below.