Algeria Customs & Etiquette Brief

Aug 24, 2015

ALGERIA / Al Jumhuriyah al Jaza' i r i yah ad Dimuqratiyah ash

Country Overview:

  • Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia
  • Size: 2,381,741 sq km
  • Population: 39,542,166 (July 2015 est.) Capital: Algiers
  • Export-commodities: petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products (97%)
  • Import-commodities: capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
  • Currency: Algerian Dinars (DZD)
  • Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1%
  • Religion: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%
  • Government type: Republic
  • Chief of State: President Abdelaziz BOUTEFLIKA (since 28 April 1999)
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister Abdelmalek SELLAL (since 28 April 2014)
  • Language: Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects

Meetings and Negotiations

  • The most common form of greeting is a light handshake. Between people that have met before, a handshake and a kiss on the cheek is appropriate.
  • There is no formal ritual surrounding business cards. It is not common for Algerians to carry them.
  • Always use your right hand to give and receive.
  • Appointments are necessary and should be made far in advance and confirmed a day in advance.
  • Avoid making appointments during Ramadan.
  • There is an open door policy during meetings, which allows people to wander in and out of the meeting without being considered rude.
  • Remember to use titles when addressing people.
  • The concept of honor is greatly valued by Algerians, therefore it is important to not criticize or insult them in public.
  • Algerians tend to stand very closely when speaking, do not step away.

Business Attire

  • Men: wear a suit and a tie
  • Women: wear a long dress or skirt that covers the legs at least below the knee. Women should avoid wearing revealing clothes.


  • Wagging an index finger at someone is considered rude as is pointing with your index finger. It‘s better to point with the whole hand.
  • Touching is acceptable if you know the person otherwise, touching is reserved for family and good friends.
  • It is common to see members of the same gender holding hands or walking arm in arm in public.
  • However, public displays of affection between opposite genders is usually looked down upon heavily in most areas.
  • Algerians may avoid smoking, eating, or drinking in public places during the time of Ramadan.

Gift Giving

  • Gifts are a huge part of the Algerian culture, and are viewed as way to cement relationships.
  • The gesture of giving a gift is valued more than the gift itself.
  • Gifts are typically not opened when they are first received.
  • Appropriate Gifts: flowers (tulips and roses), sweets, pastries, fruits
  • Gifts to Avoid: violets, alcohol


  • Algerians tend to be somewhat direct in their communication style but are not confrontational.
  • One should never criticize another publicly as it can cause shame on oneself and one’s family. In these cases an indirect style is more appropriate.
  • Eye contact is a sign of respect and one should certainly make eye contact when being introduced. However, overly direct eye contact should be avoided.
  • Algerians are generally quite close to each other when speaking. A bit less than an arm’s length is normal.
  • Topics to Discuss: Good initial topics of conversation include sports, family, Algerian music, food, and culture.
  • Topics to Avoid: Avoid talking about politics, sexuality, and religious issues until a stronger bond has been established, and even then tread lightly.

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