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Traditional values in Saudi Arabia are adapted into legal structures. This has helped preserve Saudi Arabia’s old heritage. Non-Muslims are not allowed to practice their faith while in Saudi Arabia. In Canada, people from different parts of the world practice their religion, in specified sacred places. The Canadian society is a mixture of several main cultures and many subcultures. That’s why there exist a lot of differences in the behavior and social values between these two countries.
Society in Saudi Arabia and Canada
The first point concerns the rights of the women. Saudi women have fewer freedoms, for example, they are forbidden from riding a bicycle or driving a car. In Canada, women and men have equal rights. There is increased freedom for women. Unlike in many Western countries, including Canada, they are not portrayed in sexual explicit terms in advertisements.
Secondly, there is a ban in Saudi Arabia on the freedom of expression. The movie industry in Canada is well developed and is thriving. It has provided employment and is a source of entertainment. In Saudi Arabia, movie theaters were banned in 1980s. The ban is being liberalized today with the aim of developing the Saudi cinema. Certain television shows and films are permitted with censorship. Novels, magazines, music CDs, comic books, video games, computer software and other forms of entertainment can be easily censored for immorality.
The government in Saudi Arabia has more powers compared to the Canadian government. Legal societies rarely influence government policy. Labor unions and political parties are prohibited. However, secretive political parties exist. The freedom of the press is greatly reduced in Saudi Arabia. Public expression of opinion and freedom of the press are prohibited. The likelihood of an uneducated Saudi being informed of issues of both the Arab world and the whole world is low. News stories, personal expression acts and public speeches are monitored to avoid conflict with Islamic values. The royal family and government officials are expected to treat issues with sensitivity to avoid undermining societal values. In addition, casual public discussion of policy is discouraged unless the policy tends to promote dissent, immorality and disloyalty. In Canada, the freedom of the press and personal expression are recognized, provided that they do not undermine national security interests.
In these two countries there is a prohibition on some kinds of music and musical instruments. In Saudi Arabia, music and dances are common and they are part of an ancient tradition. National dances include the Al Ardha, the mizmar dance, the Dabka, the belly dance and the sword dance. Popular traditional music includes the Samri which incorporates poetry into music. Drums are important traditional instruments while guitars are prohibited. Dances are performed in various occasions such as weddings. Songs that are sung along music instruments are not allowed. In Canada, there are no traditional dances. There are clubs where people can be entertained.
The mode of dressing in Saudi Arabia is more conservative than in Canada. Saudi men are expected to wear thobes. In public places, Saudi women are required to wear an abayah, a veil and a scarf that covers her hair. They also wear fashionable clothing beneath the cloak. Women dress conservatively in the presence of men. Foreign men are expected to wear shirts covering the upper torso and long trousers. Foreign women are expected to wear skirts that have hemlines below the knee. Sleeves should be neckline modest and at least elbow length. Shorts, bathing suits, tank tops and low necks are not recommended. In addition, jeans should not be tight. In Canada, conservative dressing is not emphasized in social places. However, dressing should be done in a way that private parts are covered, as stipulated in the constitution.
There are some kinds of sports which are not allowed in Saudi Arabia. Soccer is Saudi Arabia’s national sport though there are other sports such as basketball and car racing. Sports involving killing, such as wrestling, are prohibited. In Canada, there is a variety of sports including soccer, wrestling, basketball, golf and car racing.
There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day while Friday is designated as the holy day. Other strict religious practices include the observance of the holy month of Ramadan. Religious events and expressions in Canada reveal diversity. Many Canadians are Christians, and their holy day is Sunday.
In Saudi, Arabia, the family and the clan form the basis of social structure. There are extended families. In Canada, the family is a special unit in the social structure and tends to be small. In Saudi Arabia, etiquette is mostly emphasized in private places. For example, gifts are expected when one visits a Saudi house. Etiquette in Canada is emphasized in public places, for example, in the manner of greetings.
To sum up, when comparing these two countries, one should admit that there are a lot of differences between Canada and Saudi Arabia. Each of them has its own traditions, way of life, social peculiarities but both of them are interesting in their own way.
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