Business Practices in Egypt

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The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
The traditional culture greatly influences businessmen's values.  For example, the hierarchy within a group is strictly respected and business relationships are hardly differentiated from private relationships.  The relationship between the sexes is distant, but very close between members of the same sex.  Business dinners are of great importance.  Punctuality, on the other hand, is approximative.
First Contact
The best way to contact someone for the first time is to write an e-mail, then call.  Personal contact is important and business men resort to the use of secretaries in a less organised manner than in Europe.  In order to get something from someone, try to address yourself directly to the person by getting his mobile telephone number or his personal e-mail address, rather than going through the secretary, who would have bureaucratic reflexes and would not grant sufficient importance to your request.
Shaking hands and exchanging welcoming and polite words without becoming too formal is the norm.  Saying hello in Arabic would please your interlocutor.
How to Present Yourself
Using a title, then Mister followed by Surname and name.
Business Relations
The distinction between professional and friendly relationships is sometimes held and seen as no different.  Treating business affairs in a personal way is completely normal.
Gifts are an important factor in Egyptian society.  It is never viewed as corruption.  One can offer what is usually offered traditionally to a man (watch, beautiful knife or chocolates), however, no alcohol nor products made from pork - the country being primarily Muslim.
Business Communication
Relationships between members of the same sex are close and the fact of business partners who do not know or hardly know each other hugging each other is not unusual.  Making jokes and comments not relating to business during a business meeting is common.  In order to negotiate better, it is better not to go about it in a direct manner, but get to the subject, leave it and come back to it, etc.  Bargaining is an intergral part of the culture, one should even avoid accepting a proposition without bargaining as it is viewed as a sign of weakness in the eyes of Egyptians. Most Egyptian business men speak English, French or both.  However, it is polite to greet, thank and say good-bye in Arabic. Smoking is permitted everywhere in Egypt.  If you smoke, accept the cigarette that is being offered and offer as well.
Dress Code
The business dress code is very western: Normal suit and tie, even though for some Egyptians, military or traditional outfits, depending on their association, is also acceptable.
It is expected that one dresses respectfully (this is for women), but you try to emulate the local fashion.
Showing ones heels is considered as an insult, therefore sitting cross-legged should be avoided.
Visiting Cards
Exchanging cards is generally done at the beginning of the meeting, during introductions.  For someone who is not based in Egypt, a card written in English will suffice.  Nobody expects a foreigner to have one in Arabic.  For someone based in Egypt, one side in English, and the other in Arabic.
For Further Information
Cyborlink, Website giving information on business etiquette.
World Biz , Website giving information on business etiquette.
Businessculture, Website on Egyptian business culture.

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