Source: Unsplash by Nasro Azaizia
Algeria is marked by diversity. It is felt when traveling in the country, that each city is a cultural space with its own identity; and that some regions even have their own linguistic particularities.
The family in Algeria
The Algerian calendar is mainly punctuated by religious holidays; by which Algerian people show intense family solidarity. Religious festivals are placed under the sign of family love and promote fraternity and unity.
The family unit is very important in Algeria, families are close-knit, and it is not uncommon for young people to live with their parents until old age (or even indefinitely). When they get married, men invite their wives to live under the family roof. Although most Algerians own their homes, the average occupancy rate is seven people per home; and it is common to see three generations living in the same house.
Marriage in Algeria does not only symbolize the union of two people but also that of two families; parents are, therefore, very often involved in the choosing of spouses. Women marry on average around the age of 20, and men a little later. Future couples meet at university, at events, or in public places. However, nowadays, the internet considerably increases the possibilities of contact.
Within the traditional Algerian couple, the role of the man and the woman are well-defined. The man is in charge of discipline and the income of the family, while the woman takes care of the house and the children. The latter never question parental authority, and instead, take charge of their parents when they grow old.
Polygamy is allowed in Algerian culture. According to the Family Code, it is legal to have several wives; but the first wife must give her signed agreement, and a judge gives her opinion. The husband must be able to provide for them all and act fairly.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Cuisine in Algeria
Traditional Algerian cuisine and French cuisine, often rub shoulders on the table. Couscous or seksul is a basic food product. This steamed semolina is served with chicken or lamb and vegetables. Muslims don’t eat pork or drink alcohol, but they love spices.
We often eat with our fingers, especially when the dishes include a sauce; and then the bread then acts as a spoon. Cutlery is however widely used in Algeria. When one eats with the fingers, it is always with those of the right hand; because the left hand is strictly reserved for bodily hygiene.
Social life in Algeria
Although marked by French influences in the big cities, traditionally, greetings are very warm; and people of the same gender frequently hug each other. First of all, we greet our elderly people out of respect. When addressing strangers or acquaintances, the title and family name are commonly used. However, between friends and relatives, the first name is used.
During a meeting, it is polite to greet each person individually. The most used formulas are “salam ahlikoum” (hello to you) and “Saha” (health); Saha is also used for someone who finishes a meal. The Kabyles use the Berber greetings “azul” (hello) and azul amiss tmuzrha” (hello son of our country). They then say “ar thim lee leeth” (goodbye) when they leave a place (the Arabs say “abka ala khir” or “besslama”).
Although hospitality is a deep tradition, social etiquette is very important. Thus, close friends and family members can visit without warning; on the other hand, acquaintances must wait to be invited. For an acquaintance or a stranger, it is seen as an honor to enter someone’s house.
During a conversation, do not discuss complex topics such as religion or politics, unless it is the host who introduces them. A professional discussion should follow a long general conversation.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
When you are invited to dinner, you have to bring something with you as a present; but it should never be money. During the meal, leave a little on the plate ( even if the dish is succulent), because it means that you have been well received; on the other hand, do not refuse a refreshment or tea, as it is offensive. Don’t forget to take off your shoes before entering a room with a carpeted floor! (as this is also a mark of respect).
Regarding clothing: It is strongly discouraged to wear clothes that can be considered provocative. Therefore, one must avoid miniskirts, shorts, and captivating necklines; and men do not normally wear shorts by themselves at the seaside. The way of dressing in the city and in the countryside differs; and inhabitants of the countryside, often remain faithful to the traditional outfits such as djellaba, gandoura, burnous, caftan, kachabia, chèche, saroual, and haik.
Festivals and public holidays in Algeria
Algerian days off are linked to the Islamic lunar calendar. The main public holidays are New Year’s Day (January 1), Labor Day (May 1), Revolution Day (June 19), National Day (July 5), and Birthday of the Revolution (November 1).
The three major Islamic holidays are Ramadan, the month during which Muslims cannot eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from sunrise until sunset. El Aïd-Essgher, a three-day celebration, takes place at the end of Ramadan; and El Mouled, a day that celebrates the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
In the street: Do not show your love to your wife or husband, by kissing or hugging him, it can be very badly perceived.