Our Students from Bahrain

A night view of Bahrain's Grant Mosque, near the Royal Palace. Photo courtesy of Jacobs - Creative Bees

Family Life in Bahrain

In Bahrain, households usually consist of parents, their children, and sometimes grandparents. In some cases, a household includes even more extended family, like uncles and their families living in the same home. Children do not move out of the home even when they are at college or when they start to work. Typically, children only move out of the family home when they are married. In many Bahraini families, mothers do not work. However, if she does, the father is still responsible for supporting his family. Both parents have equal authority, but in some families most of the authority is with the father. In Bahrain, family members are expected to have time to pursue to their own interests, and family members must respect each other’s desires. Meals are usually eaten together as a family.

Teen Life: If a Bahraini child owns something, it is generally his or her own and not understood to be the shared property of siblings. This includes clothing. When siblings want to borrow something from each other, it is generally understood that they must ask first. In Bahrain, teenagers are expected to interact respectfully with their parents at all times. However, it is fine to be informal with their siblings.

Responsibilities: It is common for families to employ household help in Bahrain. Boys and girls are generally not used to doing many house chores, however they are open to doing taking up responsibilities. Most teenagers in Bahrain rarely cook for themselves, and they typically do not have part-time jobs until they are in Grade 12 or college, because the concept of working while studying does not exist in Bahrain. Parents are expected to give children monthly allowances.

Parental Involvement: Most teenagers in Bahrain are dependent upon their parents. Bahraini parents are in direct contact with schools and monitor their children’s academic progress regularly. Students are expected to be responsible for their academic performance and other school-related issues.

Pets: Nearly all Bahraini homes are pet-free. Bahraini students may initially feel uncomfortable if household pets in the U.S are given “free reign.”

Personal Interactions in Bahrain

Mixed Gender Socializing: Having friends of the opposite sex is not acceptable for most in Bahraini society. Teenagers sometimes socialize in groups, and some- times one-on-one; both ways are considered appropriate and the choice is left up to the individual. Amongst good friends it is common to share money, but not in casual friendships.

Friendships: In Bahrain, the meaning of friendship differs from one individual to another. Amongst good friends it is common and normal to share money. Having friends of the opposite sex is not acceptable for most Bahraini people.

Communication Styles: There are a variety of communication styles across Bahrain. Personal space and direct versus indirect communication varies across Bahraini culture.

Eye Contact: As a sign of respect, children do not tend to make direct eye contact with adults. Instead, they look towards the ground when they are spoken to by adults.

School in Bahrain

Classes: In Bahrain, students are primarily evaluated on homework, quizzes, community service and midterm and final exams. Class participation does not contribute to a student’s grade in the public school system. However, it does in the private school system. In Bahrain, some private schools are co-ed while others are not, and boys and girls are seated apart. In Bahrain, public and Arabic private students remain in the same classroom and teachers rotate to the different rooms. In non-Arabic private schools, students usually take each subject in a different classroom. Students in Bahraini public schools must study six main subjects: Mathematics, Sciences, Social Studies, Islamic Religion, and Arabic and English languages. Both public and private school students are allowed electives.

School Relationships: Students in Bahrain usually use the title “Mr.” or “Ms.,” with the teacher’s first name. Their relationship is friendly, but still formal.

Extracurricular Activities: There are no clubs in public schools in Bahrain. Most parents in Bahrain are not involved in their children’s extracurricular activities.

School Rules and Attire: Cell phones are not allowed in class, and phones should be turned off. Schools in Bahrain do have a dress code, but not necessarily uniforms. “Zero tolerance” policies regarding fighting are applied in most Bahraini schools.

Returning from Exchange: Students from Bahrain do not repeat the year after their return from the YES Program. However, students from public schools may find it hard upon returning to Bahrain to study their main subjects in Arabic as they used to do before their exchange year in the U.S.

Food and Culture in Bahrain

Religion: Most families encourage their children to attend religious services. Usually boys go to the mosque with their fathers every Friday for the congregational prayer.

Holidays: During Ramadan, students fast from dawn until sunset. Eid is a religious and family event. Parents give money to their children as a gift during Eid. Recognized holidays include Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha along with national holidays. Some of these observances are the same as the U.S. holidays, such as Labor Day, Independence Day, etc.

Guest Culture: People in Bahrain will often offer guests food or drink, but it is not considered rude for a guest to politely decline. People in Bahrain are very hospitable, and offering food to guests is a sign to welcome guests at their homes. This is also a sign to show their love and gratitude towards the guests.

Lunch and Diets: People in Bahrain eat “Halal” meat, and some people follow a vegetarian diet. The main meal in Bahrain is lunch, which is when the family gathers; lunch takes place around 2:00 or 3:00 PM. Portions are usually large in restaurants like in the U.S., and it is common for Bahrainis to ask the restaurant to wrap the uneaten food to take it back home. Teenagers in Bahrain either get lunch from home prepared by their mother or they buy food from school with lunch money given to them by their parents.

Personal Hygiene in Bahrain

Bahraini teenagers generally take a quick (5-15 minute) shower once a day and sometimes twice if they are involved in physical activities. In Bahrain, everyone has their own towel, either one or two, to use in the bathroom. Bahraini teenagers are expected to keep their bathrooms clean but not dry after using them. Towels are hung up and hygiene products are put away. It is generally thought to be unclean in Bahrain to wear the same clothes two days in a row. In Bahrain, most teenagers do not change clothes upon entering the house.

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