Saudi Arabia is a country rich in culture – in a land of differences you can find some of the most amazing animals (like the Oryx), as well as houses made from coral in Jeddah on the coast. The hospitality in Saudi Arabia and indeed in most Middle Eastern countries is hard to beat, so enjoy your stay and you’ll find yourself making friends for life. No matter where you go in Saudi Arabia you will undoubtedly be struck by the differences and often the beauty of your surroundings.
Here are some useful Arabic phrases to help you as you go about life in Saudi Arabia. An important thing to consider in Arabic is that your expressions will change based on the gender of the person with which you are speaking.
1. السلامعليكم(As-sa-lam a-lay-kum)
Meaning: Hello (literally ‘God’s peace upon you’)
This is a general and slightly more formal way to say hello. With friends you can say مرحبا(mar-ha-ban), though generally sticking with this greeting will work well. This said with a hand over the heart can be considered respectful in most Islamic countries.
2. وعليكمالسلام (wa alaykum a salaam)
Meaning: Hello (in response)
Upon hearing the greeting listed in number one, you should respond with this phrase. Smiling is also encouraged when greeting others though if you’re female, be careful about how much eye contact you use, as this can sometimes be misconstrued.
3. كمالسعر (kam al-eh-zayer)
Meaning: How much is this/ what is the price?
This is an important phrase to learn for when you are shopping in any market and a good place to start when you are haggling, which is often encouraged in Saudi Arabia. Don’t be afraid to try and haggle, as it can often be seen as complimentary and a friendly way to engage in simple business. You can always say غالي (ghali) meaning ‘expensive’ to see how flexible the price can be!
4. كيفحالك؟ (kay-fa haloka/ haloki [male/female])
Meaning: How are you?
Often heard amongst friends or acquaintances on the street, a good answer to this phrase is بـخيـر(bi-khair) meaning fine or good.
5. نعم(ah wa) and لا(luh)
Meaning: Yes and No.
Obviously helpful phrases especially when hearing them after asking for lovely kofta or a hookah pipe for some shisha perhaps. It’s also good to know for haggling at the market, which we’ve already prepared you for!
6. مش مشكلة (meesh moosh-kilah)
Meaning: No problem!
Often heard when requesting something at a restaurant or in the market when haggling, this is a fun phrase to know. Essentially if this is said during haggling, then the price or item is agreed upon.
7. لّا (yallah)
Meaning: Let’s go!
This is a slang phrase meaning “Let’s go” and you can find it’s used all over most Arabic speaking nations. You can say this to your friends when you’re ready to move on to the next activity or leave a place.
Meaning: My love; my dearest.
This is a term used between two people in love, and is a sweet phrase for that special someone in your life. This is not often said between friends, which is good to keep in mind.
Meaning: Thank you.
A very handy phrase to use even if this is the only Arabic you know throughout your stay. When said with a smile it will always be greeted with warmth and often it will be waved away as if it was no trouble at all.
10. إنشاءالله (inshallah)
Meaning: God willing.
This is a phrase that you can use a lot when speaking Arabic. You can use it any time you’re talking about future plans, hopes, dreams, or even expectations. Inshallah, it won’t rain today, or inshallah, they have a table to seat us at for dinner. Really anything at all, even if you perceive it as an obvious given fact can be said with an Inshallah, for cultural effect.
If you’re thinking of heading over to Saudi Arabia, or are interested in finding out about your current Arabic skills, why not check your Arabic level with one of our free language level tests?