Your first dinner invitation to egyptian home. DOs & DON'Ts
This piece of advice is written pretty much for my fellow expats. This is how I see Egyptian home dinner invitations from my perspective.
So you got invited for a dinner for the first time. My guess is, that either you are a potential new family member or potential business partner or a very good friend of host's kids :) These invitations might leave you feel little bit anxious, as you don't know what to expect and don't know the culture.
Rule number one - Don't bring wine
It's common in Western world to grab a bottle of fancy wine on the way to a dinner party. Not that common here. I have seen people drinking alcohol in Egypt before. But never did I see alcohol being served over the dinner or people coming with a bottle in a gift bag. Stay on the safe side and bring a cake instead.
Rule number two - Don't come empty handed
Nobody will EVER tell you a thing, if you come with empty hands. (They will comment when you leave hahaha) BUT it's somehow an unofficial rule, that guests usually bring a cake, box of chocolates or whatever, be it flowers for exmple. If you are coming as a group, please don't get 35 cakes, but rather one and then a box of a chocolates. Those can be eaten later on.
Rule number three - Don't panic if you are running few minutes late
Traffic in Cairo is really congested sometimes and therefore you might be running late unintentionally. Do not panic. People are used to this and gladly wait couple of extra minutes. That doesn't mean, you don't try to catch it on time though.
Rule number four - Keep it decent
Unless it's a BBQ in the garden behind the house, or you have visited this house before and know what's up, try to keep it somewhere around the smart casual. You don't want to show up underdressed and feel miserable, pulling you skirt down, low waist pants up or holding your breath cause the shirt is going to tear in pieces in case you exhale fully. For the ladies, I say cover the line between your breasts the least and wear something, so that your panties and bra are not showing (maybe a tank top under that white schiffon blouse or spanx under the transparent dress etc...).
Most of the people I visited, don't require to remove the shoes, but it happened couple of times. So don't rely on it and please make sure to check your socks before you leave the house. My personal rule to dress for these events is: " dress in a way, that if you are seated next to a veiled woman, you don't feel naked" :)
Rule number five - Don't eat 48 hours prior the dinner
Well, I'm joking obviously now, but let me tell you something. MIDDLE EASTERN HOSPITALITY is not a myth. When I came for a dinner to my, back then, future in laws for the first time, my first question was : "who else is coming?" and "why does it look like there is a little wedding reception here tonight?" People in Egypt are so generous and will pamper you like a royalty, even though they see you for the first time in their life, and maybe the last too :)
Now, let's get down to eating. You will have to try everything, or as many dishes a possible. Please be strategic and take a spoon from each dish, not more. Then, if you are still breathing, go for the second round, but gotta warn you. There is still a cake and tea coming up, so watch out!
Rule number six - Keep cool when the maid enters
It is very common in Egypt to have a maid. Well, obviously not everybody has one. I'm most likely talking about upper middle class people. It was the biggest shock for me. Growing up in Europe, we had no helpers at home. No maids, nannies or drivers, so this was super strange at the beginning. It took me a long time to wrap my head around it, but I'm cool with it now.
Rule number seven - Don't sit there for ages
When you finish your cake and tea and feel like it's time to go, it most probably is. Now, Egyptian people will never ever say: "ok, have a good night". They will say: "Whyyy? Staaay! Stay for another tea and another cake. It's too early. Don't go." That's because they are polite people. Just go. They also need to rest and you need to go home and search for the nearest gym to register in, cause you have got yourself extra 4 kilos on your waist and tights area tonight.
Rule number eight - If you ever come to my dinner party...
DO NOT bring an ice cream cake please. I would ban those cakes, I swear to GOD. They come in this giant styrofoam boxes, that take up to 75% of your freezer and they take forever to eat cause nobody eats them! Thank you for understanding.
Please guys, share with me your dinner invitations/ cultural shock stories. They are my favorite ones of all! TTYL
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