Arab · Culture · Life in America · Middle East

The Arabic guide to living in the US–The Law (Part 1/2)

Disclaimer: Since this post is about culture differences between Arabs and Americans some people from either culture may feel offended by some issues discussed here. The purpose of this post is to educate and inform Arabs of the culture and way of life in the US. Therefore, this post means to offend no one. I would like to hear your opinion if you feel some issues discussed are not entirely true.

Part I: In Arabia

In general, Arabs are not the best nation when it comes to following orders. We just don’t like to be told what to do. We fail miserably when it comes to following orders that come from a higher authority. For example, we don’t like it when we are told to stand in a queue whether it is in the bank or the post office. Also, we don’t lean toward abiding to traffic laws. We don’t stop at stop signs and we stop or park where the sign says no parking or no loading. Double parking is the norm not the odd.

I have to explain though (for non-Arabs) why we do this. Simply, because in most Arab countries citizens don’t elect their governments and usually these governments are known to be corrupt. And since we don’t have a say of how the country is run we don’t respect the government and we don’t like to follow what they tell us to do, unless of course we are forced to. Hence, the rebellious attitude against some laws, as long as it is possible to break. Since the ruling of the Othman followed by the English/French and even later after the WWII we can hardly remember a presidential or a prime minster election. In the last 40 years elections in the Arab world is limited (except for Lebanon and maybe Sudan and Mauritania) to voting for the parliament and the municipality president.

Part II: In America

In the US, since people have a say of how their country is run they have a sense of responsibility in following what their government tells them to do. They believe the government’s sole objective is serving the citizens and working for the sake of the country. They can disagree with the government on how it handles certain issues and can openly disagree with their president. All this made the Americans feel proud of their country and its constitution. They feel responsible in being punctual and following orders and regulations placed by their government.

Since humans are anarchic or can easily be chaotic in certain situations laws need to be forced. This is why police officers in the US are respected and feared at the same time. They have power granted to them by an elected government. As soon as a police officer identifies himself to the citizen he will be in charge. The citizen needs to follow the police officer orders or else bad consequences may occur. The charges could range from “failure to obey police officer” to “resisting arrest.”

In Jordan, if a police officer stops you for a traffic violation you step out of your vehicle and try to argue with him and if needed you may pat on his shoulder or hold his arm in a friendly way hoping to convince him to give you a warning instead of a ticket. Here, nothing like this can happen. You should not step out of your vehicle unless you were told so and never ever touch a police officer.

Part III: Stories

This post is already long so I will stop here.

In the next post I will continue this post (The Law). I will talk about the two most critical issues related to this topic: 1) Arabs think of the US as a country with one law not as many states, each has its own law. 2) Not knowing the law is not an excuse for breaking it. I will also give some examples and true stories happened to Arabs.


5 thoughts on “The Arabic guide to living in the US–The Law (Part 1/2)

  1. I am so very impressed with what you have written because you seem to have captured very well the essence of the American penchant for following the law …and the unwritten reason why. You must be very observant.


  2. I’m eager to read more in this series as I love learning about Arabs and it’s fun to read posts by one comparing and contrasting things! Interesting post! Thanks for sharing!


    1. Unfortunately, the series is going very slow. Hopefully, to speed things up soon. Although, I am targeting Arabs in this series but I think it would be also helpful to Americans to understand Arabs’ perspective in living in the US.


      1. Yes,I enjoy learning about Arab perspectives so I am happy you are sharing even if your series goes slowly. No rush. Just whenever you have something to share, right? 🙂 Thanks again.


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