Jordanian Culture: Your Questions Answered About The Kingdom of Jordan
Curious about what the culture is like in the country of Jordan? Western tourists might be surprised to learn about some of the cultural differences between Jordanian customs and the traditions you’re probably used to!
Jordan culture reflects a unique combination of modern and ancient world influence with Arabic and Islamic elements, much of which can be very different from traditions in western culture.
Arab and Muslim culture both impact the daily lives of more than 95% of Jordanian society. From ancient-influenced cities to rural communities and deserts stretching to the Dead Sea, Jordan-visiting tourists are sure to find something astounding around every corner.
Jordanian People and Community
Having cultural sensitivity where there may also be some cultural divide is important for you to have a safe and positive experience while traveling abroad.
Jordanian society, like most, functions with its own set of norms and unspoken rules. While some of these may seem like a bit of a foreign notion, knowing what to expect will only improve your experience!
Here’s what you need to know about Jordanian social norms and interacting with Jordanian people:
Anyone who prioritizes family can relate to this Jordanian norm. Family is hugely important to the people of Jordan, and big families are very common. Getting married and starting a family is a major priority in Jordanian culture.
Jordanian men and fathers are typically in charge and expected to provide for the family financially. Women are responsible for child rearing and maintaining the family house. There are very few women in the workforce in Jordan currently, with only about 15% working a traditional job outside of the home.
Punctuality in Jordanian Culture
If you’re someone who tends to be late for everything, or who struggles to get a plan in place, Jordan might be the place for you! Jordan’s customs around punctuality and planning are extremely laid back.
The attitude among the people of Jordan is a very go-with-the-flow, take-each-moment-as-it-comes kind of vibe. That being said, don’t take offense if the local people and guides are a little behind schedule when it comes to activities. It’s all part of their unique charm!
Jordanian Greeting Customs
In the West, most of us are used to a handshake or a hug when we greet. In Jordan, you would typically only shake hands and/or kiss the cheeks of people the same gender as you. Members of the opposite sex usually don’t have any physical contact with non-family members.
If you’re in a situation where you’re not totally sure what’s appropriate or expected, placing your hand on your heart with a smile is always a safe bet.
The people of Jordan are historically hospitable and incredibly kind. Generosity is ingrained in the culture of Jordanian people, who are known for being friendly and often invite travelers into their homes. One of the best ways to experience Jordanian hospitality is simply by accepting it, and enjoying the company of some of the kindest people on Earth.
Pro Tip: “shukran” is a universal way to say “thank you” in Arabic
Jordanian Negotiating Culture
Jordanians are always up for negotiation and bargaining. Similar to the customs around punctuality, negotiation is meant to be a friendly, laid-back conversation.
Local people typically don’t respond well to playing hardball when it comes to negotiating. Stick with kindness and fairness and you’ll be just fine making a deal.
Religious Customs & Holidays
More than 90% of the country’s population are Suni Muslims, and only about 6% are Christian. Expect to see some of the most beautiful mosques in the Middle East hosting spectacular religious events.
Ramadan is one of the biggest religious holidays among Jordanian traditions. During this time the Islamic people fast from sunrise to sunset, and there’s a strong focus on charity and doing good for others. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are two more Muslim holidays of significance in Jordan and are determined by the Islamic or Hijra calendar, which is based on the lunar year.
As a traveler, you might not be able to purchase alcohol in a lot of places during Ramadan. Sometimes you can still find alcohol served in hotels and more urban areas, though!
Language and Communication Styles
- Official Language of Jordan. Arabic is the official language of Jordan, though English is widely spoken in the cities. French, German, Italian, and Spanish are also commonly spoken since many Jordanians travel to study abroad.
- Communication Styles in Jordan. Don’t be afraid if you hear some REALLY animated conversations. People in Jordan tend to be direct and express a lot of emotions when they communicate.
Food in Jordan
Popular foods in Jordan draw inspiration from nearby Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. Lots of dishes are centered around crops like wheat, barley, lentils, and chickpeas combined with rich flavors or unique spices.
Za’atar Spice is super popular in tons of Jordanian cuisine. Made with oregano, thyme, cumin, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac — a tangy lemony spice that grows locally in Jordan.
Coming in hot as the national cuisine of Jordan and a big player in Jordan’s national identity, mansaf literally translates to “big dish.” This savory sensation has ancient Bedouin culture roots and was traditionally made with camel meat on a bed of flavorful, milky rice, bread, and veggies. Today the choice of meat has evolved to typically be lamb or mutton (mature sheep).
On a typical day of eating in Jordan, people will have breakfast early in the day (usually before 8:00 AM) and lunch sometime between 1:00 and 3:00 PM.
Most people take a break around what we western women would consider dinner time, typically around 6:00 PM for coffee and pastries. The main meal of the day, though, typically isn’t eaten until well after 8:00 PM. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to be pretty quiet until 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening.
In Jordan, coffee is much more than a beverage. It’s a universal way of bringing people together and serves as a symbol of hospitality and trust between guests and hosts. It’s considered a symbol of generosity, and sharing coffee as a courtesy has become ingrained and expected within the culture.
Culture and Etiquette in Jordan
People in Jordan are typically kind, polite, and courteous. That being said, they also have a somewhat strict ‘code of conduct’ when it comes to social situations and dress codes. Modesty is very important in Jordan, particularly for women.
Locals’ most common complaints about tourists are around dress, public displays of affection, and lack of mutual respect. Trust us, no one wants to change your vibe, but adhering to social expectations when visiting another culture is a sign of respect.
Dressing modestly is expected in the Arab world of Jordan, but so is dressing with pride. You’ll rarely see people in torn or scruffy clothes in Jordan and other Arab cultures.
- Male dress code in Jordan. Traditional men’s clothing is usually a dishdasha, a long-sleeved one-piece that covers the entire body. Keeping with the theme of decency, men in Jordan are expected to wear long pants. Avoid wearing shorts when visiting Jordan as it’s considered disrespectful. It’s slowly becoming more acceptable for teenage boys to wear shorts, but grown men should stick with trousers. T-shirts are typically fine for men.
- Female dress code in Jordan. Jordanian women are expected to have their knees and shoulders covered (yes, showing your upper arms counts as your ‘shoulders’). Women traveling to Jordan shouldn’t be afraid but should keep respecting traditions in mind. Folks in Jordan may not be used to seeing western women in shape hugging athlete’s shorts and tank tops, or to seeing long hair hanging down a woman’s back. In some areas, being in public with wet hair is seen as advertising sexual availability. Drying your hair before heading out is probably a good idea.
First and foremost, do NOT get caught eating with your left hand in an Arab country. It’s considered pretty darn rude (sorry, lefties). Your left hand should also never touch any common dishes, and if you’re sharing a dish with others it’s considered rude to eat any portion of the plate that’s not right in front of you.
Keeping physical contact to a minimum and maintaining personal space is expected in Jordan, even from foreign women and men, and especially with those of the opposite sex.
Even the merest contact can be easily misconstrued as sexual or inappropriate, and people have been charged with public indecency for displays of affection as simple as kissing in public.
Jordan, According to Explorer Chicks
When the Explorer Chick team saw opportunities in Jordan, we jumped right on it! Rural tourism development has been on the rise in recent years in Jordan, making it easier for visitors to access ancient religious sites like Wadi Rum and the deserts of Jordan Valley.
Want to know what Explorer Chicks had to say about their group adventure to Jordan?
“I returned home after a week of traveling with new memories, new friends, & a wealth of knowledge after exploring one of the most historically vibrant countries in the world.”Kirstie M.
Ready to Explore Jordan?
Has making a journey to the Middle East been on your mind? Get your butt in gear for the girl’s trip of a lifetime — Explorer Chick’s Jordan and Petra Ultimate Adventure!
This epic trip is designed to maximize FUN and foster new friendships and includes a fully immersive week experiencing the magic of the Middle East.
Hike to the Lost City of Petra and recover with a Dead Sea-inspired spa day. Challenge yourself with rock scrambling and reward yourself at sunset as you toast local spirits with your fellow adventure buds.
Meet the Writer
April is an adventure lover and freelance writer based in New England, with a passion for public lands, wild places, and all things outdoors. She loves camping in any form and spends as many weekends as she can hiking New Hampshire’s highest peaks, or road-tripping with her sweet dog Marley. If not in the mountains, you can find her planning her next expedition or caring for one of her far-too-many-houseplants.
Favorite outdoor adventure: National Parks Hiking and Road Trips!
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