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People shake hands in Jordan much more than in the West, and even the merest contact with a stranger is normally punctuated by at least one or two handshakes to indicate fraternity.

Personal space is treated rather differently in Arab cultures from in the West: for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist.

Social interaction in Jordan is replete with all kinds of seemingly impenetrable verbal and behavioural rituals, most of which can remain unaddressed by foreigners with impunity. The energy which Jordanians put into social relationships can bring shame to Westerners used to keeping a distance.

Total strangers greet each other like chums and chat happily about nothing special, passers-by ask each other’s advice or exchange opinions without a second thought, and old friends embark on five-minute volleys of salutations and cheek-kisses, joyful arm-squeezing or back-slapping, and earnest enquiries after health, family, business and news.

It’s almost inevitable that during your time in Jordan you’ll be invited to drink tea with someone, either in their shop or their home.

It’s quite likely too that at some point you’ll be invited for a full meal at someone’s house.

If your hair is blonde, you must unfortunately resign yourself to a bit more inquisitive attention – at least when walking in more conservative areas.Your experience of Jordanian people is likely to be that they are, almost without exception, decent, honest, respectful and courteous.It seems only right that you should return some of that respect by showing a grasp of some basic aspects of Jordanian, Arab and Muslim culture.Loose-fitting, opaque clothes that cover your legs, arms and chest are a major help in allowing you to relate normally with local men.On women, shorts appear flagrantly provocative and sexual, as do Lycra leggings. The nape of the neck is considered particularly erotic and so is best covered, either by a high collar or a thin cotton scarf.

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