Do’s and Don’ts of Doing Business with GCC Nations
Conducting business with entrepreneurs in the Middle East is quite ticklish compared to Western and Asian nations. There are many prohibitions and sensitive concerns because of their religion and culture. Arabs may excuse minor political and social blunders but it is still important to be careful so as not to endanger your business deals. Here are the dos and don’ts when you transact business with five countries in the Arab world.
À Be aware of prominent Islamic traditions and holidays like Eid al Fitr and Ramadan. Show your concern for family but refrain from mentioning female members.
À Expand your collection of polite conversation like sports (football) and mobile gadgets.
À Your feet should always be flat on the floor without exposing the underside of your shoes and feet.
À Do not show any lack of respect for the Islam religion.
À Never cross your legs since this is considered an insult to Saudis.
À Do not turn down any offers of hospitality but do not show too much admiration since this may mean that they will feel duty-bound to you.
À Avoid talking about political issues particularly those concerning armed conflicts in the Middle East.
À Refrain from assuming that Westernized Saudis and Westerners hold similar values. Traditional mores may still prevail.
United Arab Emirates
The Do’s and Don’ts are similar to Saudi Arabia. Here are some additional tips:
À Wear modest clothes like business suit for men and loose clothes for women. Women’s heads must be covered at all times.
À Address all nationals by their first names.
À During business meetings, drink the coffee or tea that is offered to you by the host but not more than what is offered. Shake your cup while giving it back to the server once you had enough to drink.
À Women should not wear revealing tops and short skirts.
À Do not ask about the wellbeing of female relatives or any personal matters like your host’s wife.
Kuwaitis are extremely friendly to their guests but can be private and very conformist as well.
À Shake hands with your hosts but only with the same gender. Kissing cheeks is a common practice among good pals.
À You can ask about the person’s health and family while in the process of greeting.
À Check if your host is wearing shoes. Otherwise, remove your own shoes.
À Refusing offers of drinks or food is considered a form of rudeness. Your host may think that it is an act of rebuff.
À Do not hold meetings during the months of July and August which is summer in Kuwait. This is the time when most Kuwaitis go to other countries for vacation.
Qatar is called an open country so business transactions are not too strict. The Do’s and Don’ts are just like in other major countries of Saudi Arabia.
À Be very polite if you engage in conversation with Qatar nationals.
À Dress modestly since it is a Muslim nation with conservative rules in dressing.
À Do not stare at other people even if you wish to admire their clothing. Polite behavior is mandatory.
À Do not ask for directions from women if you are male. Always remember that Arab women are private individuals in public venues.
There are no dress restrictions in Bahrain but this does not mean that you should not wear reserved apparel. Spend time to talk about general subject matter with Bahrainis before you get down to serious business. Likewise, drinking coffee (Arabic) is a representation of confidence and harmony. The Don’ts are similar to other Saudi Arabian nations.
The bottom line is to be careful and always consider that you are in a region where norms are stringent and religion is a priority.