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Cultural Information - Jordan

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Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

If this meeting is for an official purpose, one should know that Jordanians prefer not to jump straight into business. They are quite hospitable and would rather spend a short time to greet the other person and exchange some small talk. If it is the very first meeting, and the visitor is new to the country, the host may ask about his or her impression about Jordan. This should not be taken as an opportunity to complain about any difficulty as it is only meant to break the ice. Such issues may be addressed later during the meeting.

If this meeting is for an informal or social purpose, then one may be at liberty to discuss various numbers of issues. One can safely ask questions about the country in general or the people you are meeting with, for example their social status, number of children and place of education etc. Controversial issues in politics and religion should be avoided to the extent possible, particularly if it appears that the visitor is likely to preach to the host. If such topics come up, and probably they would since most Jordanians love to discuss politics, then the visitor should make it clear that he/she respects the other person’s point of view although they differ in opinion.

In both the official and social contexts, the visitor would gain an advantage by using some Arabic words, for example to greet the other person, as it would please most Jordanians. One quite often notices that most Jordanians know much more about Canada than the visitor expected, which can put the visitor at ease.

One should remember that although the majority are Muslim Arabs, Jordanians are of different origins, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Add to that the social differences and one would be faced with a multitude of subcultures that may complicate things a little bit. A conservative approach that respects the norm would, therefore, be advisable. For example, alcohol is freely available in many supermarkets, served in nearly all hotels and in many restaurants. Jordanians of different religions drink alcohol, though religious Muslims do not. One would not know offhand whether his local contact would be offended if the guest consumed alcohol in his/her presence. This is important, since the religious prohibition is not just on consumption but also on association with alcohol. The safest approach would be to avoid drinking, unless it is in a private social setting and the host offers alcohol. Another example is the fasting during the month of Ramadan. Eating, drinking, or smoking in public is not only frowned upon, it is technically against the law.

Canadian Perspective:

Jordanians are very friendly and inquisitive, and will want to find out as much as they can about where you are from, why you are in Jordan, what type of job you have and they will also be curious about your family.

Family is very important in Jordan and whomever you are speaking to will likely be curious as to how you are coping with living so far away from your family. In addition to discussing your family, it is polite to inquire about his/her family.

Politics is a favourite piece of conversation amongst the locals, and can often result in heated debates. Unless you are familiar with the person you are speaking with, it is advisable to avoid discussing politics in order to minimize the possibility of offending the other person. Along the same lines, due to the political tension between Israelis and Palestinians and the fact that many Palestinians can not travel to Israel it best not to discuss at length your travels in Israel (if applicable).

Jordanians are very good-humoured, therefore as long as it is not offensive in anyway, it is perfectly acceptable to joke around with someone even at the first meeting.

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Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

In the formal setting, acceptable distances when speaking to someone are quite similar to what one finds in Canada or other western countries. In the social setting, within the same gender and depending on the extent of familiarity, one may notice some tendency to maintain closer distances or even physical contact such as arms over the shoulder.

Maintaining eye contact, among the same gender, is preferable. If the local person is avoiding eye contact, this need not be taken as a sign of dishonesty but rather an indication of shyness or respect. Some females may feel awkward if a male foreigner is looking directly at them, and most likely they would avoid making direct eye contact themselves. Some visitors, particularly females, may feel the same awkwardness due to staring by local strangers, for example while walking in a crowded area where there aren’t that many tourists or foreigners. This may be avoided by maintaining a conservative dress code.

One thing that might be puzzling to a visitor is the issue of handshaking with members of the opposite sex. Many religious Muslims do not initiate such a handshake, and while some would go along out of politeness if the other person initiates it, others may decline to do so thereby hurting that person’s feelings. While it is mostly females wearing the Islamic headdress who would not be comfortable with the handshake, the headdress alone is not a clear indication, as many females would wear it and still be very comfortable with shaking the hand of a stranger. In the case of the males, it would be even more difficult to anticipate whether the person would be comfortable or not merely from the physical appearance, for example a man may have a beard that is not grown for religious purposes. The safest approach would then be to verbally greet the member of the opposite sex and only put out one’s hand if the local person does so.

Canadian Perspective:

It is very important that you do not show the soles of your feet, as this is considered to be extremely offensive.

The concept of personal space in Jordan is similar to that of North America, therefore an acceptable distance when speaking to someone would be arms length.

Eye contact will differ depending on the circumstance. In business it is important to make eye contact. Outside of business, it is not recommended for women to make eye contact with men whom they are not familiar with as it may be taken as being overly forward and may result in unwanted attention. Likewise, a man should be careful about looking a Jordanian woman in the eye as it may make her feel uncomfortable.

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Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

One is more likely to see a public display of anger rather than one of affection. Also, it is quite uncommon to see any public display of affection between members of the opposite sex. It is advisable to avoid such public displays, as it may be frowned upon or attract negative reactions by strangers. One point worth mentioning here, is that Jordanians tend to side with the woman out of respect to her gender. Thus, if a female is angry with another person in public to the extent that it would attract attention, many local men could interfere, take her side and possibly inflame the situation. This would be the same whether the female is Jordanian or a visitor.

Canadian Perspective:

Any kind of public display of affection between men and women, even if it is just holding hands, is definitely not acceptable. It is common; however, to see two men holding hands or two women holding hands, which is a way of expressing their friendship.

Jordanians do not withhold their feelings. If they are upset about something they let it be known. It is quite common to witness public arguments, but they are generally resolved quickly.

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Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Jordan remains to a large extent a conservative country. While there are marked exceptions to this, for example in the big cities such as Amman, it is always safer to take a conservative approach. Wearing shorts for example, by either sex, or exposing cleavage may be frowned upon or at the very least attract unpleasant attention. Longer sleeves and skirts would be more acceptable for a female in the office and on the streets. Many Jordanian women, but most certainly not all, maintain an Islamic dress code but that is their own choice and is not enforced by authorities. Having said that, one should also know that in the swimming pools and on the beaches one could safely put on regular swimwear (no topless females or wearing of string bikinis).

Deadlines may not be taken that seriously by many Jordanians, nor is punctuality. This is rapidly changing though and one might face a local workforce that is split on such issues. Absenteeism and productivity remain problems, particularly in the governmental sector. There are some organizations, however, that have successfully addressed these problems. It is thus safer to assume that the meeting will begin as scheduled, be there on time, but not be upset if the other person is a few minutes late. One should schedule meetings with this factor in consideration so as not to be late himself/herself for a following meeting.

Canadian Perspective:

When meeting someone for the first time, whether it is a colleague or a supervisor, you should address him or her formally. A formal address is considered to be Ms./Mr/ Mrs and the first name. After the initial meeting with a colleague, he/she will most likely insist that you address them by the first name. After establishing a relationship with the supervisor, he/she will most likely also prefer to be addressed by the first name only.

In terms of how to dress for work, you should dress very conservatively and professionally. As long as you do not have any external meetings, the attire is business casual. Women can wear a skirt as long as it is well below the knees; it is also acceptable to wear pants. Men will often wear dress shirts and slacks without a tie. However if you do have any external meetings, particularly with important clients, you should wear a suit.

Although meetings are generally on time (expect someone to show up between 5-15 minutes late), it is considered impolite to jump right into business. You will usually first enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee or tea and discuss the family and/or other non-work related topics prior to conducting business.

Absenteeism is unacceptable; even if a colleague is not nearly as productive as you, if he/she is seen as putting in more hours, regardless of the quality of work, he/she will be more highly regarded.

As for deadlines, if it is a formal deadline, meaning it was explicitly stated that it has to be done by a certain time, it is expected to be done. However, if it was merely suggested that something be done by a certain date/time without setting a deadline, it will most likely not be finished by that time. In my experience, my local colleagues tended focus on the tasks that had a firm deadline and push aside all other tasks.

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Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

These qualities vary from one working place to another. While education and experience remain the strongest factors, as the workforce can easily determine whether they are relevant or not, the managerial and social skills are also quite important. If there were hints of nepotism in the selection of this person, then the attitude of co-workers would be quite negative even if the person had the required qualifications for the position. Such a person would have to work much harder to gain the respect of his/her colleagues.

There is a general tendency to assume that the non-local is an expert in his/her field. As such, the person would be expected to perform at a much higher level than a local worker. There could also be jealousy from equally qualified nationals who feel that they were not selected for this post because they are locals. One should carefully examine the situation, assure others of one’s own qualifications, ability and sincerity and give others the chances to contribute what they can to the overall effort.

To know how the staff views you, one should take the time to discuss things with the staff in a social setting, as they would be more open and not threatened by the supervisor/manager. Feel free to host a social gathering at your home or gladly accept their invitation. Depending on the setting though, some organizations may not appreciate this sort of behaviour. If you are there for a long time and are integrated into the workforce, then there should be no difficulty in this regard. However, if you are there for a short term, for example an expert mission to give recommendations to local decision makers, then the organization may feel that the local staff is trying to persuade you to see things their way. If that is the case, then one should refrain from the social contacts to the extent possible as they could undermine the mission.

Canadian Perspective:

Depending on the type of organization, typical manager qualities significantly vary. I primarily dealt with the private sector and business associations. In these firms the most highly regarded managerial skills included an entrepreneurial attitude, openness to new ideas, and being hardworking. In all of theses organizations, the executives were quite young (under the age of 40), extremely motivated, and full of new ideas.

If however, you are dealing with a government organization, experience is the most highly regarded attribute as employees are promoted based on as seniority. Typically these managers are not as progressive or open to change, as they are often fearful that change may diminish the importance of their positions.

In addition to those aforementioned traits, it is critical that the manager be very personable and culturally sensitive. My boss, who was also an expatriate, mentioned once that one of the most important aspects of managing was "making the rounds" visiting all the employees—discussing matters outside of work, such as inquiring about the families, and checking in on how everything was going at work. An expatriate must prove that they are really trying to understand the culture and are not simply attempting to proceed the same way they would in their country of origin.

Education is also very important. Typically anyone who is educated in Europe or North America will be more highly regarded than someone educated in the Middle East, regardless of the level of experience.

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Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

In general, the highest person on the hierarchal organizational chart makes all decisions. There is some delegation, for example on technical and administrative matters, but it is quite often that this person at the top takes all major decisions and many minor ones. This can be quite unproductive, and attempts to persuade this top person otherwise may provoke a backlash against the one who (in your mind) really should be making the decision, especially if it is viewed that you are making this recommendation because you are friendly with that other person.

It follows that the organizational chart is often, and strictly, adhered to. Therefore, you should not go over the head of your immediate supervisor as it may cause unnecessary friction. You may still write to the higher person through the official channel, i.e. through all those on the hierarchy between you and the top person, as they would have the chance to view your idea and add their comments and recommendations. This could in effect negate any chances of getting your idea clearly to the top person. A social setting may be the only alternative in that case.

You may also notice that some people with very good ideas will approach you and try to get you to pass it on to higher management as your own. Their argument is that the management will appreciate it coming from you but not from them. The management may also suspect that this is the case even if the idea is purely yours.

Canadian Perspective:

It is important to always go to your immediate supervisor for answers or feedback. Even if your immediate supervisor does not have decision-making authority, it is considered to be very disrespectful to go straight to the decision makers and bypass your immediate supervisor. The majority of organizations are hierarchical in that sense.

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Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

While keeping in mind the subculture differences pointed out under the First Contact paragraphs, the following discussion is a safe approach to the local attitudes to the following issues:

Gender: To a large extent, gender differences have been overcome in the work place. While some difficulties or stereotypes remain, females have gained from the increased level of education and the success achieved by many female pioneers in various professions. There have been several female ministers and elected members of parliament. Some males may still hold on to a notion that the female colleague is not serious about her work, that her family is more important for her or even that she is simply not capable of doing the work. Also, some sexist remark may be exchanged privately. All in all, however, things would not escalate to a level that would be damaging to the work environment. For example, when a male’s own Minister is a female, he would be inclined to accept that many of his other colleagues are females. Divisions of labour still remain. Secretarial staff is almost entirely female, and the few exceptions have a hard time with their female rather than with their male colleagues. Nursing on the other hand is largely a female domain, although there are many male nurses.

Religion: The issue of a religion is much less of problem than that of gender. Most Jordanians are Muslim, but there is a large Christian community. There is no discrimination in appointing staff on the basis of religion. At least this is the normal and official practice. There might be cases for one official, of either religion, favouring staff of the same religion. The motive in this case would be nepotism rather than conscious religious discrimination. As mentioned earlier, it is best not to discuss controversial religious issues with the local contacts. One should not be seen to be actively favouring one religion over another. Within the workplace, the religious practices of individuals are respected. Muslims for example, if the work allows, may take a short break to pray at the required time. Some offices provide facilities for performing ablution and prayer, while in others the person may pray just next to his/her desk. Christians working in the public sector get the religious holidays off, and are allowed to come late on Sunday morning to give them time to attend church service. Muslims working on Fridays may expect similar treatment by taking a long break to attend the congregation at a nearby mosque.

Class: There are no difficulties due to the person’s social class in the workplace as there is no social casting in Jordan. Outside of work, people may face difficulties due to their social class, for example refusal of a marriage proposal.

Ethnicity: This is a clear problem, although the official position is that is does not exist. The main problem here is between Jordanians and those Jordanians of Palestinian origins (though other ethnic groups may also make claims that they are discriminated against). Stereotyping and accusations are often whispered in corridors and are rarely spoken out loud. Some Palestinians for example may claim that they are being discriminated against from appointment in certain sensitive services, such as the Air Force or General Intelligence Department. The clear exceptions to any official discrimination are explained by the Palestinians as mere token appointments. Some Jordanians may equally claim discrimination in getting appointed to some universities, especially if the sitting president happens to be of Palestinian origin, or private establishments owned by Palestinians. They also explain the clear exceptions as mere token appointments. The truth is difficult to assess. The fact of the matter is there is no stated official policy on either side that discriminates in the appointment. There are clearly Palestinians and Jordanians in all positions and in all departments, sectors and establishments. The reason some feel this discrimination could probably be due to severe nepotism by certain individuals in the decision-making capacity. It is also a fact that Jordanians and Palestinians are quite in harmony on the social level with many mixed marriages and partnerships. The only logical explanation to this problem is that it is a direct result of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, and a manifestation of the frustration that all Jordanians (regardless of ethnicity) have due to this struggle and the instability that it causes in the region.

The above attitudes may lead to lower work efficiency and tension in the workplace. Such a situation may even escalate, unless it is warded off at the appropriate time, to groups forming (based on gender, religion or ethnicity) that try to undermine the efforts of other groups. Having said that, Jordanians have adapted themselves for working within these attitudes. If given the proper motivation, they will surely rise above these divisions and work for the common good.

Canadian Perspective:

Gender: Women do not share equal rights and in most cases, in my opinion, are seen as second- class citizens as is evidenced by the fact that women still cannot legally file for divorce, for instance.

In the workforce, however, gender inequalities are minimal. In the majority of positions, women receive the same pay as their male counterparts and it is not uncommon for women to have executive positions within organizations.

Religion: Approximately 90% of the population is Muslim, which does have an impact on the workplace environment, particularly during Ramadan. During Ramadan, working hours are halved and the productivity level during working hours also declines significantly.

Religion should not have an impact over the way that people are treated at work. The only religion that may be contentious is Judaism, due to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. However, I worked with a few Jewish colleagues and as long as they did not overly flaunt the religion, it was not an issue.

Class: There is a significant disparity between the lower and upper classes with a very small middle class. The majority of the population in Jordan live below the poverty line. However, in Amman, particularly in West Amman, the population is quite wealthy and can afford the education required to obtain good positions. The lower class will typically be employed as cleaning staff, drivers, or someone who does the errands, gets the coffee, etc.

Ethnicity: Jordan is not ethnically diverse. Over 60% of the population are Palestinian and the remaining is comprised mainly of Jordanian "Bedouins". Government organizations employ more Jordanians than Palestinians, whereas the reverse is true in the private sector. Palestinians are characterized as being entrepreneurial and therefore seem to have more success in the competitive environment of the private sector.

Besides Jordanians and Palestinians, there is a portion of the population comprised of immigrants mainly from Egypt, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Egyptians are typically considered to be cheap labour and are therefore mainly employed in construction and other types of manual labour. There are also many women immigrants from the Philippines and Sri Lanka who work as live-in housekeepers.

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Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

Quite often, this is an essential step, as Jordanians prefer to deal with a person who cares about them as individuals rather than just on a pure business contact. Jordanians are quite hospitable and love to bring you into their world, within the limitation of their own culture. They will respect you for who you are, regardless of the differences. Honesty is important to them and they are generally honest.

Show a willingness to learn more about that person, to visit their homes and invite them to yours. Pretty soon you will find that this social relationship has strengthened your work relationship. Although this is not necessarily common, do not be surprised if the social gathering is segregated between the sexes.

Jordanian families are strongly bonded and so are neighbours, friend and work associates. Thus, your presence if there is a wedding or a celebration would be expected and highly appreciated. Check with local contacts on what would the custom be for the situation that arises, for example do you send flowers in advance or do you take with you a gift etc. If the situation were sombre, a funeral for example, your absence would most certainly hurt the affected Jordanian person or family. Again, you need to check on what the specific customs are in that case. Do remember in these situations that there are differences in the customs within the Jordanian subcultures. Thus do not presume that what you did in one situation would be expected or even acceptable in another seemingly similar situation.

Canadian Perspective:

As previously mentioned, it is considered impolite to not establish a personal connection with a colleague and/or client prior to conducting business. Establishing such a connection could be as simple as discussing your family over coffee at the beginning of a meeting.

If a client that you are trying to do business with has the option of conducting business with someone with whom they have a personal relationship versus someone who is unfamiliar, they will always choose the former as mutual trust and respect will have been already established.

The easiest and most effective way to establish a personal relationship is to show real interest in Jordanian culture and ask for suggestions on how you can best integrate with locals. This will often be met with an invitation to a family dinner or another cultural event, as Jordanians are extremely hospitable. If you do not receive an invitation, consider taking the initiative to invite him/her to lunch or dinner.

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Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

This situation may arise, and if this preferential treatment is within your own work ethics then go ahead and do it. If it is not, then your safest approach is to refuse and explain why. Hopefully the other party will understand.

If you do grant these privileges, the situation might escalate and others would make similar demands that may not all be accommodated. The safest approach would then be to treat all of the people equally, to the extent possible, which most likely would end up in refusing all.

Canadian Perspective:

If you have established a personal relationship or friendship with a colleague or employee, he/she will most likely expect special considerations or privileges. It is very common in Jordan for organizations to hire and/or treat with special privilege the family and friends of staff, even if they are not suited for the position.

I would not recommend granting any special privileges or considerations as your friend can take advantage of the situation and also other employees would feel resentful.

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Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

It is normally best to address such problems privately, and if possible outside the work place. This would put the colleague at ease, as it would minimize the chance of embarrassment. However, one should be careful in this regard of the gender issues discussed separately under previous questions.

If the colleague is having a problem with you, that person may not often come out and state it. The person could plainly give you a cold shoulder while still maintaining the minimum level of interaction required. Changes in the body language would also indicate that there is a difficulty, for example the disappearance of the smile while greeting. One should not hesitate to approach the issue and take the initiative to find out what went wrong and how to remedy the situation. This would not be seen as a sign of weakness or admittance of wrongdoing, as much as it is taken as a sign of sincerity and willingness to accommodate.

Canadian Perspective:

Jordanians are generally very upfront with their emotions and will make it very obvious when they are offended or unhappy with something that you have done. If you do encounter this problem or if it is the other way around and you are offended by something he/she has done, it would be advisable to confront him/her directly, in private.

In my experience, my colleagues did not want to take ownership/responsibility over the work they produced. This meant that they would become very defensive and start pointing fingers. For this reason, I found it was best to communicate via e-mail so that everything was documented; this way, if a problem did arise; the root of the problem could easily be identified.

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Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

As in any society, job satisfaction, a sense of commitment, money, loyalty, good working conditions, fear of failure, all, to varying degrees, play a role towards a good job performance. It is interesting to note though, that as proud, hospitable and generous people, Jordanians often forgo many of these factors if they have an appreciation of the importance of their work and their own role in getting things done.

In some situations, particularly in the government, one finds poor performance due to low pay that forces staff to seek additional work outside their organization. As such, they often come exhausted to work, perform at a low efficiency and cannot wait till the end of working hours in order to run off and do their other work. Your understanding of the situation and willingness to work around the problem, for example by scheduling a meeting so as not to cause a time conflict for the others, would normally be rewarded by stronger commitment by the local staff.

Canadian Perspective:

It is difficult to generalize; I found that the motivating factors differed for each person. Some of my colleagues worked extremely hard, put in long hours, and it was obvious that they placed utmost importance on having a rewarding and successful career. However, there were also a number of colleagues who would only focus on getting the required work done and nothing more. It was very rare for these particular individuals to put in extra hours.

If I had to generalize, I would say that good working conditions and money were the primary motivating factors. I worked for a very good company who treated employees well and provided much higher salaries than other comparable organizations. These two factors definitely contributed to job satisfaction.

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Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Canadians planning to come to Jordan may begin familiarizing themselves with the country by interacting with the large Arab community that is present in Canada, such as in Mississauga, Ontario, or Montreal, Quebec. In such communities one could examine Mediterranean cuisine, which is very similar to Jordanian cuisine. There are also Jordanian dishes such as the Mansaf (lamb meat cooked in a sauce made from liquefied dried yoghurt and served on a mound of rice) that is traditionally eaten with one’s hand (to be exact, only three fingers and the thumb of the right hand).

Coffee is extremely important in Jordanian hospitality. You will be served coffee on plenty of occasions, and guests visiting your office or home would appreciate being served coffee. In some instances, the coffee served is similar to what one can sample in Canada as Turkish coffee. However, the traditional Jordanian coffee is bitter as no sugar is used. It is brewed with plenty of cardamom and served in small sips. The host will keep pouring some more so long that you don’t shake your cup, which indicates that you have had enough. It is not normal that one would exceed three servings. In some settings, refusing the offered coffee may be taken as a sign of hostility, or that one has a dispute that needs to be settled with the host. If your stomach can take it, you better take at least that one-cup.

There are numerous websites that one could visit to learn more about the country. For example www.nis.gov.jo, www.mfa.gov.jo and www.privatesector.com.jo and from any of these sites one could link to many other interesting ones. For those interested in Jordanian and Arabic arts, then a good site to visit would be www.daratalfunun.org.

Jordanian cinema is practically nonexistent, and foreign films that portray Arabs in general, or Jordanians in particular, are more about stereotyping rather than presenting factual situations. If one likes to examine the beauty of the country’s landscape and learn a little about its history, then one could do worse than watch "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962, directed by David Lean and filmed on location in Jordan).

Books about the country’s history, culture and various aspects are quite numerous and the selection of a particular book would depend on the visitor’s own interests. For example, to get a grasp of the current political situation in Jordan, one could consider reading Jordan in Transition (George Joffe, Editor).

Canadian Perspective:

Books: The Jordanian-Israeli War 1948-1951: A History of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Peace and the Jordanian Economy; Behind the Uprising: Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians; The Jordanian-Palestinian-Israeli Triangle: Smoothing the Path to Peace (Forewords by Crown Prince El Hassan, Simon Peres); any of Edward Said’s novels; and Lawrence of Arabia (I would also recommend watching the movie of Lawrence of Arabia to get a sense of the landscape).

As for food to eat, I would recommend going to a Lebanese or Iranian restaurant, as this food is very similar to Jordanian food.

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Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

Jordanian TV and radio have extensive programmes in English and French that can be useful for understanding the culture. There are also daily and weekly Jordanian newspapers, e.g. "Jordan Times" and "The Star", which are published in English.

As mentioned earlier, Jordanian cinema is practically nonexistent. Local cinemas show either western films or Arab films (mostly Egyptian). The theatre, however, has witnessed a resurrection during the past decade or so. The most favourite plays are mostly political satires, which would be worth watching although they are performed in Arabic. The lack of censorship on these performances can give a visitor a valuable insight into the heart of the Jordanian people.

Sporting events, particularly soccer, are quite popular. Tickets are quite inexpensive and there is no fear of hooliganism.

Local colleagues would be all too glad to play the role of a "cultural interpreter". You can also hire a local guide through your hotel or organization who can escort you to various attractions in the country. These guides are normally multilingual and have a good knowledge about the country’s history and current affairs.

There is one word of caution about attending social events or going to a café. The facilities are not segregated between the genders; however, some facilities may designate areas as only for "families." They mean by this term groups that either have both sexes or composed of just females. In certain places, groups of men, or one man, would not be allowed to sit in that same area. The practice is largely intended to prevent rude behaviour by insolent male teenagers around females, and may not always be strictly enforced.

Canadian Perspective:

I would highly recommend attending the Jerash festival, which is a cultural festival that runs for one month during the summer. It is best to contact or visit the Jordan Tourism Board to get a listing of all of the upcoming cultural events.

I found that the best way to learn about the culture and people was to visit nearby villages. I found that in the smaller villages, the people were more friendly and hospitable and welcomed the chance to share / educate foreigners on their culture. In the city, I would recommend visiting the teahouses and cafés, which is great for people watching and a good way to meet people.

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Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

To a large extent, Jordanians admire historical figures from the Islamic period such as Saladin. They identify with them and dream about the time that these figures were prominent on the world scene. They believe that a replication of the efforts of these figures would be a viable way for solving the political difficulties that Jordanians face in modern times, which are largely associated with the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

Jordanians admire the late King Hussein who was reigning monarch for most of the their lives. His hard work to build the country is evident wherever one goes in Jordan. Even those who differed with him politically, admire him to this day.

Canadian Perspective:

I would have to say that Jordan’s national hero is the late King Hussein. Many also idealize Yasser Arafat.

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Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

There has never been any animosity between Jordan and Canada. Jordanians respect Canada and its stance concerning Arab and Jordanian political issues. They value the assistance that Canada provides to their country and view strengthening these ties favourably. All in all, this could only positively affect work or social relations.

Canadian Perspective:

I cannot think of any shared historical events that would affect work or social relations.

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Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

It is very rare for a Jordanian to have negative or harmful stereotypes about Canadians. Canadians are seen as friends of the Arabs and are admired for their sincerity and strong work ethic. This lends itself to very good working and living conditions in Jordan for a Canadian.

Canadian Perspective:

None that I am aware of.

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Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Amman the youngest of four children to a prominent Circassian family. He was raised in this city, in the central part of Jordan, until the age of 17. He moved to the USA to continue his studies. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He returned to Jordan, completed a compulsory two-year military service and then joined the country's Nuclear Energy Department. He was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies at the Centre for Nuclear Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan, and graduated with a Masters of Science in Nuclear Engineering. He returned to Jordan and established the country's Nuclear Information Centre. In 1995, he joined the International Atomic Agency in Vienna, Austria, as a Project Officer in the Department of Technical Co-operation. From 1995-2002, he was responsible for a number of national and regional developmental projects in the West Asia region. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter immigrated to Canada to live in Ottawa. He is currently living in Nepean, pursuing a career in the nuclear technology field, and is married and has 2 children.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Calgary, Alberta the younger of 2 children. She attended high school in Vancouver and Toronto and continued her education at the University of Victoria, where she studied International Business, one component of which she completed at the Fachochschule Bielefeld, in Germany. Following graduation, she participated in the Department of Foreign Affairs Youth International Internship Program and was placed at a consulting firm in Ramallah. Due to the political tensions, one month into the internship she was relocated to Jordan, where she finished the remaining five months of the internship. After which time she obtained a full-time position on a USAID project and remained in Jordan for another year and a half. Your cultural interpreter is has been living in Vancouver, BC for the last 10 months and is employed in management consulting.

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Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.