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Azerbaijan Customs & Etiquettes

The family forms the basic social structure in Azerbaijan. This goes back to many Azeris' history as rural dwellers where a clan (hoj) would share land and work together to form a tight circle. A hoj would sometimes consist of up to 40 members.

Nowadays the family is a lot smaller – usually a married couple with children and possibly grandparents.

Families still work as an interdependent unit andexpect to receive both financial and emotional support from others.

Gender roles are still fairly traditional in much of Azerbaijan with the man being the bread-winner and woman taking care of the domestic side of things.

Azeris are still a very hierarchical society. Culture, traditions, family and religious affiliation often take precedence over official laws.

When the government has trouble resolving an issue, the president often appeals to the "agh sakkal" (prominent and respected people) to help find a solution. "Agh sakkal" means "white beard".

Azeri culture, due to its rural roots and culturally rich tapestry, has many superstitions.

Examples include:

• a cat crossing your path means bad luck in business;
• salt accidentally spilled means you are about to quarrel. Sprinkle sugar on the salt to counter this;
• leaving scissors with opened blades brings misfortune and even death;
• if you meet a person with empty buckets, you are bound for misfortune;
• if you meet a person with bread and full bags, you will have good luck;
• never hurry to a funeral ceremony;
• do not cross the way the funeral train goes;
• if the first person you meet on your way to work is male, you will have good luck;
• do not lend money or bread at night;
• throwing a bowl of water in the wake of a person who sets off for a business trip or long journey brings the person luck and helps them to return home safe and sound.

Meeting & Greeting

Like most cultures in the area, Azeris like warm and friendly greetings. Men greet each other with a handshake, a kiss on the cheek and "salaam" (literally 'peace' but meaning 'hello'). Women hug and kiss each other once on the left cheek. Azeri women do not generally shake hands among themselves, although many will shake hands with a foreigner.

Males should wait and see if a woman extends her hand (although most will the more religious may not) - if they do shake it lightly.

Always take a moment to ask about family, health and business.

First names are generally used in social situations if the speakers are of similar ages. If you do not know the person well, use their first name followed by an appropriate title. For women, use "hanum" ("woman"). For men, use "bey" ("Mr"). Younger people always initiate greetings with older people.

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