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Is there a special way I should say thank you to this neighbor?

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My neighbor, who immigrated from Algeria, baked us some wonderful bread today. We have recently been introduced to each other because our children met riding bikes. Is there any special way I should say thank you or are there things I should not do? It is not easy to communicate because the mother is just learning English. I want to be culturally appropriate. Would it be appropriate to bake cookies or something for them? I feel hesitant because I don't know about Muslim dietary traditions. I don't want to offend them at all. I do want her to know how much we appreciated and enjoyed the bread!

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I think cookies or bars would be a lovely idea, as would a fresh fruit or vegetable plate. It is in keeping with the "food" theme and is a simple, yet thoughtful return.


A small plant, flowers or a few herb plants that she could grow outdoors now, and indoors during the fall (oregano, miniature pepper, sage, basil, etc.) would also be thoughtful.


She may enjoy shopping in stores that are novel here - compared to those found in Algeria. She may enjoy the address and a map to a local Arab or Spanish specialty food store.


As an aside, anything with jello (as if you would...) or marshmallows (except for the fluff in the jar kind) would be "out" as they contain gelatin. Vanilla has alcohol - so try to find DRIED vanilla beans (expensive) just in case they STRICTLY observe dietary laws.


Enjoy your new friendship!

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Don't use vanilla!


One of my husband's co-workers was Muslim and followed strict dietary rules that included no alcohol of any kind, not even vanilla in cookies. We brought lemon bars to a potluck and he was intensely grateful that there was something he could eat. I made sure to send lemon bars to all the potlucks after that day.

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We have a good friend in Algeria and we work with Muslim refugees on a continual basis. Desserts are a great treat to bring over. Greet her with "Salaam" which is basically Peace in Arabic, the greeting is actually longer than that. "Good-bye" is Maahsalema. Learning a couple of words in her language will really show her that you are interested in having a friendship. I have worked with many Muslim women over the years and so many are isolated in their homes. They may have lots of family around but don't really know their neighbors. If you invite her over, don't be surprised if she needs to check with her dh first or have him come along. Don't extend your hand to him unless he extends his first. Some Muslim men are ok with shaking hands with women but some are not, it really depends how conservative they are. If you are eating a meal together it is polite to only eat with your right hand, the left is for hygiene, KWIM. And for goodness sake, do not expose the bottom of your feet or shoes to them, it is very offensive. Dressing conservatively around your neighbor is a good thing too, no shorts or sleeveless shirts. When I go to visit my Muslim friends I usually have at least capri length pants and shirts that sleeves extend below my elbows. The first Algerian I met was also a vet and he remarked to me (after meeting me and my dh) that his opinion of Americans had changed and I really thank God for that. We have an opportunity to extend hospitality and love to our neighbors in a way that may have a positive impact in more ways than we will know.


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