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If you are planning on doing business with an Arab company, there are some things you need to know about the Arabic business culture. The tips included in this article are useful for traders, exporters, and visitors to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, and all other parts of the Arabian business world.
- The most important thing to remember is to conduct yourself in a conservative and professional manner. The Arab business culture is very private; public displays of friendliness are almost nonexistent. Public joking and laughter is subdued, and arguments between business associates are conducted either in private or in a way that ensures no one else will know about it.
- If you are invited to a business lunch or dinner, you aren't expected to bring a host gift, drinks, or food. If the dinner is being hosted at a private residence, take note of the dining room you enter into. If everyone else has removed their shoes before entering, remove yours as well. When entering offices or guest quarters, it is Arab custom to greet others with the phrase "Assalam alaikum", meaning "peace be with you". Once you're in the room, everyone will stand to greet you and shake your hand. In the Arabian business culture, handshakes are done by starting on your right side.
- Like other parts of their culture, Arabic business is done in a non-confrontational manner. The "save face" concept allows for the solving of conflicts without undue discomfort or embarrassment to anyone; saving someone's dignity is considered a standard part of Arab business ethics.
- You probably already know that in the Arab world, age and gender play a large role in determining a person's responsibilities. Families are almost always headed by the father, and the mother takes on more of a nurturing role. Although the culture of Islam strongly advocate's the woman's role as a caretaker, by no means are you to assume that an Arab woman's role is strictly limited. There are many successful women in the Arab business world, but they work behind the scenes, in accordance with their culture.
- When trying to set up a conference with an Arabian business, you will often get an answer like "Give us a call when you are in the area". Don't take this to mean that the company is not interested in doing business with you; to an Arab, that is just as good as setting a specific time and date. When in a meeting, allow time for small talk before you get down to business.
- When marketing to an Arab business, your advertisements should be very conservative, without an appearance or values that run counter to those of Islam or Arabic business culture. In almost all countries, ads do not directly compare products- rather, they place emphasis on the product's function. For example, when you sell financial advice, say that - don't try to blackball anyone else!
We hope this site will provide you with a good introduction to the ethics and customs within the Arabian business culture. Doing business with Arab companies can be very fruitful indeed, as long as one follows the correct procedures.
Want to know more? Below is a list of more resources, both on our site and on other great sites on the internet. Check them out, and let us know if you have any suggestions for other resources.