Culture in Arab business and how it works
There are many unique aspects to business in the Arab world that often take western business people by surprise. This can lead to situations where western business people make huge mistakes during meetings, for example, and generally offend everyone around the table. This can obviously have serious ramifications when it comes to making sure that the meeting has been successful. It can cause people to become confused and even angry, with the end result being a loss of business. This is unfortunate, and the worst thing is that it can be easily avoided. In this article we would like to focus on a few ways in which this kind of problem can be avoided.
The one thing that really characterises Arab business is religion. Islam is at the front of everything, and everything else, even business, takes a back seat. People who do business in Arab state often come back from there expressing their surprise at how much Islam dominates the business day. Business people will literally stop what they are doing to pray, and every aspect of their working day is built around this. Be ready for this if you are visiting the region to conduct business. It could surprise you too.
The other thing outside religion is family. Family is more important to an Arab businessperson than the business itself, and that is a key fact that you will need to personally address if you attend a business meeting in an Arab state. This is because there is a very good chance that the person you are trying to do business with will talk about their family. They will want to talk to you about it and engage you in full conversation. This could go on for some time too, which is another reason why so many people who go to an Arab country for business reasons find themselves in trouble in meetings.
All about the family
An Arab businessperson would rather sound at least 50-75% of a meeting talking about their family, before they even touch upon the edges of a business conversation. This is common among all Arab business people, and doesn’t change for different industries. It is in the Arab culture. If you want to take part in business deals in the region, make sure you go in with the approach that you are happy to listen for extended periods of time. When the Arab person across the table is ready to talk business, they will let you know. It is nothing to do with you; it is just how they operate.
Finally, if you can learn some of the language, at least at a polite level, it will do you a lot of good. In fact, it is arguable that anyone who doesn’t take the time to learn the language will suffer when it comes to making deals. Arab business people respect westerners who can converse on at least a basic level. Manners are very important to them, and speaking their language shows that you is making a real effort. So that is worth pursuing before you board the plane.