October 12, 2010

Kindness vs Politeness In Egypt

What's the difference between kindness and politeness? People will tell you, all the time, that Egyptian people are some of the kindest people you'll ever meet. It's true. Most people I know here are really sweet and will help you if you need anything. There's no question about that.

There's a sort of over nice-ness that I can't really pull off. I can't compliment someone on her ring without her taking it off and wanting to give it to me. It's called "3azoomet morakba". Like when someone stops by and you're in the middle of dinner, you have to say "come join us" even when there's not enough food. I'm sure some people are sincere but mostly people are just trying to be nice. People insist that you must have something to drink if you visit and will swear by Allah that you simply MUST. I think this is one of the cute quirks about Egypt and it shows how kind they can be, even to their own detriment.

Politeness however, is another matter. Sometimes I think it's a bit of an American phenomenon. We were taught to say please, thank you, and excuse me as toddlers. In KG we pushed in our chairs after getting up and learned to form a single file. Lining up or forming a cue here is a problem. People can't seem to get the idea of one person in front of the other, first come, first serve in a setting simple as a busy supermarket.  I'm the only fool who holds doors open for people and children rarely say thank you when I give them something.

Why is this?


  1. I know what you mean.

    For me it drives me crazy when someone says something like "Get me water" If they just say "Can you get me water" it makes a huge difference to me lol.

  2. That's interesting...sometimes I think it's the other way around here (I live in Sydney). The polite surface is there but the underlying kindness can be lacking and there is a lot of selfish behaviour around.

    But I'm generalising and for the most part people are kind and polite. Except on public transport, then all manners seem to go out the window!

  3. I doubt it's kindness, I think it's obligation combined with 'saving face' syndrome.

    If someone is kind and polite, it would follow through in all their dealings :)

  4. Salams sis, How can you be kind without being polite. Who knows! But egyptians seem to pull it off.

  5. I didn't think it was kindness - it was more a cultural expectation of how people should act - especially when they're in that host situation.
    in Egypt I also thought a lot of people were over-kind until they followed it up by sticking out their hand for a tip or payment of some kind - even if it was 'helping' you reverse out of a tricky parking spot by waving their wand in a busy city street.

  6. I agree with Angie. And it's not only in Egypt, it's everywhere in the middle east. In Jordan it's even worse

  7. My Getaway, yea that's a good example.

    Bri, Interesting way to look at it.

    Organica, yea sadly, I think you're right.

    Slave2Allah, Seems like it.

    Ange, Yea foreigners always talk about how nice everyone is but it's for a rea$on.

    Dr. N, So I hear. :/

  8. I was pretty uncomfortable with both kids of super-kindness in Egypt. The kind for tips and the kind that is just over the top. It made me stressed... Always afraid I would have to give tips and not knowing how much I should give. Or else afraid I'd do something socially unacceptable or impolite!

  9. sounds more like an Arab phenmomenon to me rather than merely an Egyptian one!! :-)

  10. Candice, If you ever come back, just don't sweat it and do what you feel comfortable.

    Houda, Yea I suppose so.


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