Business Practices in Saudi Arabia

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The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture

Knowledge of Saudi etiquette and the personal manner in which they conduct their business is imperative for starting any commercial venture in the country.

Age plays a very important role in Saudi society and one must show respect to elders at all times.

Though Saudis tend to be comparatively relaxed about punctuality they never allow meetings to encroach on their time of prayer. Hence, one should arrive at right time for meetings.

As business in Saudi Arabia is still based on personal reference, establishing trust can be the starting point.
First Contact
Appointments are necessary and should be made several weeks in advance followed by verbal confirmation a couple of days ahead of the meeting.
Address your Saudi Arabian counterparts with the appropriate titles Doctor, Shaikh (chief), Mohandas (engineer), and Ustadh (professor), followed by his or her first name.

Arabs traditionally use the right hand for all public functions, including shaking hands, eating, drinking and passing objects to another person

How to Present Yourself
Arabs prefer addressing people by their first names.
Business Relations
It is important to develop a degree of trust and familiarity before starting a business relationship. Thus face-to-face meetings and leisure meetings play an important role. Though the modern Saudi Arabia has adopted many of the business methods and styles of the West, but differences remain. Considerable time may be spent exchanging courtesies, and several visits may be needed to establish a business relationship.
Gift giving is appreciated but is not necessary. Gifts are generally exchanged only between close friends and are seen as rather personal in nature.
Business Communication
During a business meeting, people use body language and eye-contact rather than direct words. During the conversation people make assumptions about what is not said. Particular emphasis is placed on tone of voice, the use of silence, and facial cues. It is vital to be aware of these non-verbal aspects of communication in any business setting in order to avoid misunderstandings. For instance, silence is often used for contemplation and one should not feel obliged to speak during these periods.
Dress Code

Dress code is monitored by the regional police who are responsible for the enforcement of modest dress in accordance with Islamic law

Visitors to Saudi are expected to dress in a conservative, smart fashion.

Men should wear suits and ties for business meetings, despite the heat. Women should wear business suits with full length skirt and scarf. Visitors should not wear traditional Saudi attire.

Most Saudi locals wear cultural dress. Broadly the ensemble consists of three items: Body garment, Head Scarf and Head Rope.
Visiting Cards
Business cards are common but not essential to business culture. If business cards are to be taken, it is advisable that you have the information printed in both English and Arabic.
For Further Information
Executive Planet
US Commercial Service – Doing Business in Saudi Arabia

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