Saudi Arabia's Business World

Saudi Arabia is a kingdom established on an Islamic foundation, and it has been a tourist destination for centuries. From the desert landscape has come the religion of Islam, the Arab people, and the Arab culture. The country occupies about eighty percent of the Arabian Peninsula, and today it is a monarchy rich in Muslim heritage. Saudi Arabia is home to many oil-rich cities, and to do business successfully, it is necessary to understand the principles and cultural background that have guided business development in the Kingdom.

One of the most important concepts in Saudi Arabia's business world is the concept of "face". The Arab culture is one of avoidance of confrontation, so this concept permeates every aspect of daily life. Respect and dignity are very important, and saving face through patience and compromise is a way to keep those two qualities. In business, saving face is very important; for example, Saudi colleagues will not respond well to pressure that puts them in an awkward position.

In order to understand the culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you first need to understand Islam's deep-reaching influence on society. The majority of the population of Saudi Arabia are Arabs, of the Wahhabi Islamic sect. Islam is relevant in every aspect of a Muslim person's life, and it is there in every part of the Kingdom. The Arab culture as a whole is very detail-oriented, and emphasis is put on ethics and social norms such as solidarity, respect and generosity. The social duties and customs of Islam are prevalent, affecting the way that Saudis do business.

The business culture of Saudi Arabia is very high-context; the people often use body language and eye contact to convey a message rather than direct communication through speech. In Saudi business, the tone of voice, facial cueing, silence and body language are very important, and it is absolutely essential that those doing business in the Kingdom are aware of these non-verbal communication methods.

When oil was discovered on March 3, 1953, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was changed from a trade economy to the largest single petroleum exporter in the world. The economic shift eased the way for a larger industrial sector, and opened the Kingdom to foreign investment. If you want to do business in Saudi Arabia, an understanding of business and personal etiquette is essential.

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