Syria's Business World

The way that Arabs do business isn't well understood by Westerners, and Syria is no exception. To be successful in business in Syria, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the country's customs and culture. Read on to get some useful tips on doing business with your Syrian counterparts.

* Negotiating a deal with a Syrian delegate can take a long time, as punctuality is not as important there as it is to Westerners. When a Syrian says "yes", they mean that it's a possibility, and a frequent reply is "In shallah, Bokra", which means "God willing, tomorrow". That's different from the Western "time is money" philosophy.

* Syrians are notorious for using indirect speech; some call it "talking in circles". During business negotiations, be prepared to answer questions about your background, family and personal life. Like in so many other Muslim cultures, trust and personal relationships are important to Syrians. They are hospitable people and like to get to know the people they are doing business with.

* Most, if not all, deals are made over a meal. Discussing ideas over tea or coffee is quite common.

* There is enormous emphasis put on custom and tradition. The Syrian society is patriarchal, and men aren't used to taking orders from, or negotiating with a woman. Female business owners are very rare there; Syrian men want to be seen as "providers" and don't want to deal with independent women.

* Syrians are very emotional as a people. When negotiating, they make speeches and decisions from their hearts. The Syrian society is closely knit, so watch what you say about a particular person; you may just be talking to one of their friends or family members.

* Syrian people have trouble admitting that they do not know something, or that they are mistaken. In business, details can be lost due to your Syrian counterpart's fear of being wrong or giving the wrong message. It's also worth considering that Syrians are very individualistic, and don't like to work as part of a team.

* In Syria, the afternoon siesta is sacred, and should not be disturbed unless it's an emergency. When doing business in Syria, do not call between 2 and 5 pm.

Being successful in Syria's business world requires a basic knowledge of Muslim culture as well as that of the country of Syria. A Muslim's society is hierarchical in nature and great emphasis is put on a person's age, experience and title. If you are there on business, be prepared to constantly be judged on what you do (and don't do), and also be prepared to be judged by the title you hold.

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