Unique Customs to Learn if You’re Moving to Jordan

A Bedouin man in traditional clothing pours a cup of coffee in front of a fire

Every country has its own unique set of customs, and Jordan is no exception. Learning the unique social cues will help increase your cultural awareness and regional expertise.

For example, if you need to point something out, use two fingers together or gesture in the direction with your entire hand. Pointing at someone with your index finger casts an “evil eye” and is considered bad luck.

One of the country’s most unique customs is how Jordanians use humor to show affection. People commonly greet their close family and friends with insulting pet names as a sign of endearment. If you address a friend politely, they may wonder if something is wrong.

Outsiders should also be prepared to “take a joke.” Jordan is home to a variety of large populations from across the Middle East. People often make fun of each other for speaking in different regional Arabic accents. Even the subject of the jokes will join in on the laughter.

One thing that’s no laughing matter though is how Jordanians find ways to reuse everything. Locals save their plastic shopping bags for reuse. They also use empty peanut butter jars and tubs of butter to store other food items, which can be quite helpful given that hosting guests is a big part of life.

If you’re living in Jordan, you’ll likely receive an invitation to a local’s home for tea or a meal at some point. It's considered rude to refuse invitations outright regardless of how valid your reasoning may be. A socially acceptable way to decline is to smile, lower your head, place your hand over your heart, and say, “shukran, shukran” meaning, “thank you, thank you.”

Before any meal in Jordan, the host will hand you a thimble-sized cup of coffee. It’s important to finish this quickly since the meal cannot begin until all participants finish their coffee.

The Bedouin tribe has their own more extensive customs surrounding coffee. When a Bedouin man begins grounding coffee using a “mihbash,” a small mortar and pestle, the distinct rattling sound signals the surrounding neighbors to gather at the man's home.

The host then serves three rounds of coffee in small cups. The first cup is “l’thayf” and indicates hospitality. The second is “I’kafy” and represents a relaxed atmosphere, and the third is “I’sayf” and demonstrates there is no animosity between the guests. This ritual is done before any other interaction can begin.

Learn More:
Culture and Etiquette in Jordan
10 Customs Only Jordanians Can Understand