Ramadan and the International Teacher

Ramadan and You 

The Holy Month of Ramadan will start on 18th of June 2015. If you are headed for a job in the Middle East, Central Asia or Southeast Asia it is important to learn about Ramadan and how it may affect you. 

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan represents one of the five pillars of Islam, the others being the testimony of faith, prayer, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in a life time.  It is consider a holy month for Muslims and marks the period in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Phrophet Mohammed. Ramadan happens during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is 10 or 11 days shorter than the solar year so the timing of Ramadan migrates around the seasons. This year it is in June and July. 

Ramadan is a period during which Muslims are expected to strive to a higher level of spirituality, and this is achieved by fasting during the hours of daylight - no eating, drinking, smoking and other pleasurable activities from sunrise to sunset. Even drinking water is not allowed, or any form of chewing. If you are a non-Muslim  in a Muslim country during Ramadan you should not eat, drink or smoke in public places either. Not only because it is inconsiderate, but because, depending on 
your country, it may be illegal. You are free to eat and drink in your own home and at work employers will often provide a special place for you to eat and drink as well. 

If you are in a Muslim country during Ramadan you should dress conservatively avoiding tight or revealing clothing, and be respectful.  Ramadan greetings that are greatly appreciated from non-Muslims are ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (meaning ‘Ramadan is blessed’) and ‘Ramadan Kareem’ (meaning ‘Ramadan is generous’). At sunset, the fast is broken by the Iftar meal, which begins with dates and a thick yoghurt drink to prepare the body for eating, and there is a further meal later in the evening called Ghabgas. Mosques are full for evening prayer and you can feel the collective surge of community spirit and faith. Many hotels and cafes erect colorful tents for the whole month,  and locals and expatriates alike gather to socialize, eat and play a range of traditional games.  Ramadan means lots of evening activity; you will find that the shops are open longer, even beyond midnight. "Ramadan Tents" are erected for donations to the poor and needy, something which is expected of Muslims during this Holy month. 

How might it affect me if I am not yet working on a Muslim country?

As of 2010, over 23% of the world's population were Muslim and countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Nigeria have high numbers of Muslims.  For those working in predominantly Muslim countries, Ramadan means a shorter working day (even for non-Muslims) so you will find that responses from schools and governments will slow down dramatically. For those who have not yet experienced working with or in a Muslim country during Ramadan, think about what happens in your home country during the week between Christmas and New Years and this will help you to understand. It's a time of focus on spirituality and family, so things just move at a slower pace and everyone understands that. 

I am relocating to a new international school job next year and need answers from my school during Ramadan. What can I do? 
Firstly, you need to be patient and do not panic if you don't get an immediate answer. If you can send carefully worded, succinct emails with bulletised, short/sharp questions, you will get a faster and more complete response. With a shorter working day, your school will have a more difficult time keeping up with the volume of responses needed, so doing your own research and finding your own answers is most helpful (check out our Learning Portal). If you got your job through Edvectus then contact your consultant if you have important answers you are not getting that absolutely cannot wait but keep in mind that both schools and governments are working at a slower pace and there is nothing that can be done about it. 

When is Ramadan over? 

Ramadan ends on 16 July with a three day holiday and celebration, called Eid Al Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast. This is time for family celebrations, large gatherings and the giving of money to children. Eid Al Fitr is a public holiday so schools and governments will be closed. If you are planning to travel for the break book in plenty of time. 

Final thoughts
Working abroad allows you to experience new cultures and ways of life. It requires you to be culturally sensitive and flexible in your approach to all things -  professional and personal- and understanding what Ramadan is about and how to act during this period is a great first step.