Qatar's Business World
Qatar is of course a Muslim country, but about 80% of its inhabitants are from other countries. Many Western companies do business in Qatar, so business etiquette can depend on the company you're associating with. This guide will give some basic information needed to be successful in Qatar's business world.
For a foreigner to do business in Qatar, they will need a local representative unless their company has established a local office. It's a good idea to have a local agent anyway; enlisting local help is a good way to establish connections in a place where networking is essential.
In Qatar, Arabic is the national language, but many business transactions are done in English. There, business negotiations can take time, so be prepared to make more than one visit to the country. Like in so many other Muslim countries, business and personal relationships are built on a foundation of reciprocity and trust.
When setting an appointment for a business meeting, take care not to schedule too far ahead of time. In Qatar, schedules can change on very short notice; normally, business hours are 8 am to 12 noon and again from 4 pm to 7 pm on Saturday to Thursday. You should always make a good effort to arrive on time, but be patient because your Qatari colleagues may be late.
Qatar is a conservative Muslim country, so dress appropriately. Both women and men should dress in a modest manner, making sure that the majority of the body is covered up (for women, skirts should fall below the knee, and jackets/blouses should cover the entire arm). Men commonly greet one another with a handshake, and when handshakes are being exchanged, start with the most senior of your Qatari contacts. If doing business with a Qatari woman, don't try to shake her hand unless she extends hers first. Here, it's common practice to address a person by their fist name along with either a professional or personal title such as Sheikh or Haji.
Like in so many other Middle Eastern countries, personal and business life are intertwined. The Qatari people put great emphasis on establishing a personal relationship with their business contacts. Meetings can at first glance appear chaotic, but all meetings are peppered with "small talk", and are frequently interrupted by friendly visits.
Like other Arab peoples, Qataris are good conversationalists and meetings can take a while. Above all, be patient and courteous, avoiding aggressive or pushy sales tactics. To a Qatari, a verbal commitment is even more important than a signed contract, so be ready to deliver on promises.
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