Page:A short guide to Syria (1943).djvu/10

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by treating them politely, and by being careful never to offend them through carelessness or ignorance.


Courtesy. The Syrians make a good deal of courtesy and politeness. If a man should kiss your hand or raise his fingers to his lips after shaking hands with you, don't laugh. It is his way of paying you a compliment.

Americans slap each other on the back and jostle each other in fun. Syrians do not. Avoid handling them and do not try to wrestle with them. Even if you think you know them well, do not touch their bodies in any way. Above all, never strike a Syrian. They do not know how to box. You might think you were just sparring and knock a man down or even injure him. They would be certain to misunderstand it and word would spread rapidly, as it does among people who don't read and who rely on gossip for information, that Americans hit people on the jaw. Besides, it is dangerous. Syrians, like most people of this desert world, know how to use knives. Never get angry at these people. It is one thing to issue orders and get them carried out; it is another to rub the people the wrong way. Save your fighting for the enemy. You're here to fight with these people against the Axis.


Manners, Private. Syrians, like most orientals, pay much attention to good manners. Moslems do not let other people see them naked. Do not urinate in their presence. They do this squatting and dislike to see others do it standing up. These things may seem trivial, but they are important.


Manners, Public. You will find it difficult sometimes to distinguish manners from religious practices. Many Syrian customs are religious in their origin. Moslems live their religion far more intensely than most of us do. Begin by watching them carefully.

Social customs enter into not only your personal relations with Syrians you have met, but all public activities, such as buying in the bazaars, eating and drinking in public places, and the relations to women. Learn the forms of address on meeting people and use them.

Understand that bargaining when making a purchase is customary. It is part of the social life of these people. They do not trade just for the money, but to meet with people, learn their ways, practice their own skills and