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Doing Business in the Middle East

Before doing business in the Middle East it is imperative to learn about areas such as business culture, business etiquette, meeting protocol and negotiation techniques. It is also wise to bear in mind the great diversity within the region, however, a common religion, language and culture make the highlighting of general traits and features for the region valid. Business runs on very different tracks to business in the West. Doing business revolves much more around personal relationships, trust and honor.
It is therefore crucial that business relationships are built on mutual friendship and trust.

 

Family Values

The family and tribe are the basis of the social structure. The Middle East culture takes family responsibilities quite seriously. The individual derives a social network and assistance in times of need from the family.

Business Women

Women are publicly active in most Middle East countries. Many women are not completely veiled; however, they still dress conservatively. Women are highly educated and are well represented in all of the major professions, as well as various women's societies and organizations.

Islam

Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day. Friday is the Muslim holy day. During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Expatriates must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public.

The Spoken Word

The Middle Eastern culture places more value on someone's word as opposed to a written agreement. A person's word is connected to their honor. Be sure to promise only things you can deliver.
Failure to do so will result in loss of honor.

Using Titles

Titles are important. Use the honorific Mister and any academic or political title and the first name. Do not use only the first name until expressly invited to drop the titles.

 

Gift Giving Etiquette

Gifts are not the norm as in many other countries.
If you are invited to a house bring something small as a thank you. Do not give alcohol, unless you are sure. Gifts are given with two hands. Gifts are not opened when received.

Relationships and Communication

Businessmen prefer to work with people they know and trust and will spend a great deal of time on getting-to-know-you part of relationship building. You must be patient. Impatience may deleteriously affect future business dealings. Communication is also quite formal and follows a hierarchical structure.

Business Negotiation Etiquette

Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business. Decisions are made slowly. Do not try to rush the process. Do not use high-pressure sales tactics. Business is hierarchical. Decisions are made by the highest-ranking person. If you change the lead negotiator, negotiations will start over. Proposals and contracts should be kept simple.

Business Meeting Etiquette

Greetings are given with a sense of enthusiasm and delight at meeting you or seeing you again. Smiling and direct eye contacts are crucial. Men shake hands and kiss each other on the cheek. When Arabs greet each other they take their time and converse about general things. Appointments are necessary and should be made several weeks in advance if at all possible. Morning meetings are generally preferred. Arrive at meetings promptly. Business meetings start after prolonged inquiries about health, family.

Dining Etiquette

If you are invited to a house; try to arrive at the invited time. Punctuality is appreciated. Show respect for the elders by greeting them first. Dress conservatively. Accept the offer of Arabian coffee and dates. Do not discuss business at a social occasion. There will be a great deal of socializing and small talk before the meal is served. It is considered good manners to reciprocate any hospitality you receive. Eat only with the right hand. Try a bit of everything that is served. Part of hospitality and generosity is for the host to shower guests with abundance.

Dress Etiquette

Men should wear lightweight, good quality, conservative suits, at least to the initial meeting. Dress well if you want to make a good impression. Women should avoid giving offense by wearing un-conservative clothing.

Business Cards

Business cards are given to everyone you meet. Have one side of your card translated into Arabic. Be sure to check the translation carefully as there is often confusion with the order of western names. Present and receive business cards with two hands.

 

 

 

 

 

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