Renting out an apartment is a complex mixture of social dynamics, barter, charisma and language. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries where selling, buying and renting is written in the genetic code of the culture. Today, a future prospect of a tenant was provided to us by the man that washes our car, along with many others to make a living; a Bengali middle aged man trying to make a living. The man wishing to rent was a Pakistani family man. As per normal, I extended my hand to shake theirs, only to be returned with a limp hand and a surprised look on their face. I felt as if I had made a mistake shaking hands with them, as if the culture calls for something other than a hand shake in these situations. While showing them around the apartment I realized that I hadn’t made a mistake, rather an act of kindness in their eyes. After finishing, I shook hands with them once again, this time however, the future tenant had a firm handshake, while the broker was still surprised by the act. After a talk with my father about what I had seen, it was made apparent to me, that Saudi’s in general do not shake hands with expats, seeing them as lesser men. This came as no shock to me, but it made it no less disgusting. I’m happy knowing I showed a man that he is no lesser than I am because of my country of birth, or my birth parents. It makes sense knowing that people who do not touch, are bound to have a gap in their understanding of each other. I must add that this is not racism, maybe not even culturalism, rather classism at it’s best. It’s a truly sad thought, knowing that in 2014 we still maintain the mentality someone can be better than another person simply because of their heritage and amounts of money they are capable of making due to their racial and geographical background.
Tl;dr Saudi’s don’t shake hands with expats, they’re better than that.