The nuances of Arab culture in the Arab business world
The Arab business world is thriving to say the least. This is mostly because there are already plenty of financial resources in the region due to large oil reserves. This means that Arab countries are able to do business on a much larger scale than they have for some time, and this is reflected in the fast-paced world of business that is currently evident in the region. However, if you are planning to do business in the region in the future, you will have to take on board a number of aspects of Arab business etiquette. This article will take you through two of the issues you will need to be aware of.
It is vitally important that you adapt to the Arab way of doing business. Things are simply not done in anything like the same way they are in other parts of the world. Acknowledging this is one thing, but taking it a step further and ensuring that you are able to adapt the new ways of thinking into your own business practice is another. Bear in mind that Arab businesspeople will be expecting to see some clear adaptation in the following aspects.
First of all, business is not generally fast-paced while it is actually taking place. Don’t expect to secure a deal in minutes. Instead, take the time to get to know the people who you plan to do business with. You should be able to converse with Arab businesspeople in the way of small talk, so that you can find out about their families and so on. In fact, not having this basic understanding of how to talk to an Arab person about their family is a real issue. Ensure your language skills are up to speed on this. Arab businesspeople will expect to see someone who can hold a gentle, friendly conversation way before they talk business.
Then there is the saving face aspect. You need to be able to work with Arab people in a sensible way, and this involves understanding what ‘saving face’ actually means. Sometimes, a businessperson in the Arab world may seem to agree with you when in reality they are not. This is because they would rather allow you to save face than to openly confront you. This works both ways too. If you are prone to being confrontational with people, then you can expect a lot of resistance here. In Arab states, it is customary to not be confrontational, but to instead focus on seeing how differences can be patched up outside the meeting room, more discretely. This is the way it is.
So, a slower pace and the need to save face characterise the Arab world and how it does business. Bear this in mind when you are dong business over there, and make sure you have the language skills to be able to talk about your prospect’s family. It goes a long way towards making them feel more comfortable with you.