Culturally Sensitive – Business in the Arab World

I am starting to get excited about leaving tomorrow to Muscat, Oman where I will spend a few days doing business there.  I have been to the region a few times before, but before traveling to a destination, I should refresh myself to be culturally sensitive and to be aware of how I present myself.

There are a few things I should remind myself before leaving!

1. When being introduced to people it is usually OK to shake the mans hand but you should always wait to see if a hand is extended from the woman to shake your hand. – When shaking the hand, don’t be surprised if it is a long shake and you feel like your arm is going to fall off! This is friendly etiquette.

2. It is somewhat rude to have extended eye contact with woman.

3. If you see two men holding hands, it does not mean anything nor hold any connotations.  In the culture it is OK for two men to hold hands and show their friendship. –

4. Prayer time – Muslims pray five  times per day. Be understanding, be patient and most of all be considerate of their beliefs and rituals.  – Sometimes you may also be invited to go with them and observe. This is a great opportunity to learn and understand them as people.

5. What time is it? – Unlike business in the west, I have found that sometimes they are not the best clock watchers – if you have a meeting at 9am, your meeting might not be until 3pm. I know at home, when we say 9am, we mean 9am. So it requires patience and understanding, you will get done what you need to get done…even if it takes some extra time!

6. Business revolves around relationships. Do they trust you, who do you know that they know,  honor. – When I am there, I try to build a connection and show people who I am. I display trust, honesty and integrity. I believe being upfront, honest and open is of utmost importance.

7. Accommodate – If you need to accommodate a situation, whether it be payment terms or changing something up for them. They usually will not forget and when you need something in return they will gladly do it for you.

8. Negotiating – Arabs were originally traders, therefore they are extremely good at negotiating! Be friendly, be honest and do what you can do but be sure you always build a win-win situation for all parties involved!

9. Pressure – Do not put high pressure on parties, relax take your time and find a good mutual balance.

10. Patience, patience, patience – Decisions and sales move slow. There seems to be a lot of bureaucracy which seems to make everything seem like its taking forever!

11. Honesty, Your word is not forgotten – If you say something, be sure to follow through on it. – Your word is as good or better than a written contract.

Most of these things are very standard things to know when doing business, but there are a few things that are emphasized more in the Arab culture. Some things are done slightly different. So when there it is extremely important to be accept, understand and be extremely patient.

The Arab culture is extremely wonderful and I am very much looking forward to learning more about their culture and values as a whole.




Ps. If you have any tips, suggestions or if something should be added please let me know!

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