Cultural Competence for Doing Business in The Middle East.
Monday, December 12th, 2016
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Cultural diversity covers respect for another person’s different religion, gender, way of life and more. When doing business in the Middle East, where English is not the primary language, understanding the cultural differences and behaving accordingly is vital – it could mean the failure or success of your business.
Unlike the Western world, where business culture demands that everything is written down in black and white, in the Middle East, there are times when verbal agreements are considered sufficient. This is because the foundation of doing business in the Middle East is honour. Your word is your honour – so don’t promise anything that you cannot supply.
The other key aspect of doing business in the region is the importance of personal and family relationships. In particular, the Middle Eastern culture emphasises respect towards senior people or elders and so, expect to find elders and other family members working in the company or participating in business negotiations.
Your social relationship is very important with your business partners. Don’t expect a business deal to be confirmed overnight. Practice patience and work on building a trusting, friendly relationship with mutual respect for each other. Don’t close a deal too soon – remember that Middle Easterners can drive a hard bargain and are good traders so negotiate as much as you can.
In the Middle East, Islam is considered the primary religion. The five pillars of Islam which cover Shahadah or belief, Salat or five time daily prayers, Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, Zakat or charity to the needy and poor and Sawm or fasting during the Ramadan month are commonly practiced here. Also, Friday is the designated day for long male congregational prayers. So work on arranging meetings that don’t cover these times. Since Islam prohibits eating pork and drinking liquor, don’t present any products containing these items as gifts to your business partners.
Greet your partner by saying “As-salāmu ʿalaykum” which means “peace be upon you.” In return, your partner may say “Waʿalaykumu s-salām”, which means “and upon you too.” If your business partner is a woman, don’t shake her hand first. If she offers her hand, only then should you do so. Also, try not to make any kind of eye contact with her. Whether you’re a man or woman, consider dressing conservatively in a dignified manner when meeting your prospective business partners. A male business partner normally shakes your hand – offer your right hand. Also, he may end up holding it while walking with you – don’t misunderstand such an action, which is common here. During meetings, don’t point your footwear towards your business partners – it is considered rude. Also, accept whatever drink, tea or coffee, that is offered as part of Middle Eastern hospitality. When it comes to passing documents or other things to your business partners, always use your right hand.
For more information about exporting and doing business to the Middle East please call us +97143206673 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org