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Saudi Arabia: Business Etiquette and Cultural Differences
Transcript of Saudi Arabia: Business Etiquette and Cultural Differences
Saudi Arabia: Business Etiquette & Cultural Differences
10 Tips on Arab Culture for Successful Business in the Middle East
Casual vs. Business
Do's & Don'ts
DO shake hands, with your right hand only. (same sex only and do so at the beginning and end of a visit).
DO the 3 kiss greeting (women).
DO ask about their family (As family is a top priority, valued highly, and is the center of Arab culture).
DO take off your shoes before entering a carpeted room.
DO cover up as much of the body as possible, especially women. (Reveling clothing is offensive and considered a sign of disrespect).
Men, DO stand when a woman enters a room.
When served a beverage, DO accept with the RIGHT HAND ONLY! When eating, drinking, offering, or passing use right hand only!
Greetings & Salutations
In Arabic, an individual is addressed by his or her first name, and any title they possess
Saudi custom regarding greetings is rather ritualized. When entering a meeting full of people, a Saudi will greet each person individually with a handshake while standing. The same is expected of visitors.
Learning some appropriate Arabic phrases for such occasions is appreciated.
Dressing for Success
Saudi businesses are unlikely to finalize any serious negotiation without such a face-to-face meeting, as doing business in the Kingdom is still mostly personal.
Proper attire at business meetings is essential, as it is a sign of respect for the person with whom you are meeting.
DON'T bring flowers as a gift (As the recipient may be allergic).
DON'T bring wine or alcoholic beverages as a gift (feelings vary on alcohol).
DON'T admire anything they (the person you are meeting with) maybe wearing or is on display in their homes, as they will feel obligated to give it to you whether they want to or not.
DON'T reject a gift, as they will be offended.
DON'T wear revealing or overly provocative clothing.
DON'T expect women to eat or socialize in the same room as men.
DON'T speak to business women in public unless it is business related.
DON'T hit on, flirt, hug or touch women in private, as this could endanger their safety.
DON'T make/maintain eye contact with a woman.
DON'T ask an Arab man about his wife or other female family members (A simple, How is your family?, will suffice).
Arab Women In Business Attire
The Hand Shake
Most Arabs DO NOT share the American concept of
“personal space” in public situations, and in private
meetings or conversations. It is considered OFFENSIVE
TO STEP OR LEAN AWAY! Women are an exception
to this rule. DO NOT stand close to, stare at, or touch a
Arabs vs. Americans
When conducting business, it is customary to first shake the hand of all males present, taking care not to grip too firmly.
Allocate plenty of time for refreshment before attempting to engage in business. It is important to first establish respect and trust.
Socialization & Trust
Green is the symbolic color of Islam.
Green is also the color of the banners used on the battlefield and the color of the first Islamic flag.
Islam also considers green significant because it is the color of nature.
Green is also a popular color used in art and architecture in Muslim nations.
Green is one of the dominate colors of Arab flags and considered a Pan-Arab color.
Black, red, and white are also very important and common colors. Traditionally these three colors, along with green, are preferred.
Significance of Colors
Saudi Arabian Flag (in symbolic green)
Eye contact is a sign of respect.
Eye contact during discussions is often long and direct. Staring is not necessarily rude, except when gazing at women.
Maintain eye to eye contact with your associate, even when you are talking through a translator.
Do not wear sun glasses even if the meeting is occurring in bright sun light.
Never maintain eye contact or stare at women. Any sort of contact between the opposite sex in public is considered close to obscene.
Time is less rigid. Approach to time is much more relaxed and slower than that in Western cultures.
The Middle East has a very relaxed mentality on the necessity for punctuality, very few wear watches.
Tardiness is not a sign of disrespect and does not warrant an apology unless the tardiness is excessive.
Do not look at a watch or clock during a meeting.
Time: Lateness and Punctuality
Gifts are appropriate particularly if work discussions occur in a home.
All gifts must be wrapped. It is routine to politely refuse gifts at least twice, and do not open a gift in front of the gift-giver.
Gifts may be also be presented publicly to the group at the end of a meeting.
When giving a gift, be sure to avoid alcohol and leather products made of pigskin, which are offensive to Muslims.
As our company embarks on a global joint venture in Saudi Arabia: many of our executives along with receptionists will be working closely with natives of Saudi Arabia, and this training class will begin to familiarize you with what lies ahead.
Use only the right hand when it comes to greetings and giving or receiving things as the left hand is considered the “toileting” hand.
People beckon one another by extending an arm and making a scratching motion with their fingers, palm down. Avoid beckoning someone with a upright finger as it may be considered an insult.
Showing the bottom of the shoe or sandal is very inconsiderate.
Avoid crossing the legs at the knee while seated.
It is customary to remove your shoes before entering a carpeted room. This is often the case in business situations. When in doubt, follow a Saudi counterpart's lead.
The chin flick, where the hand is placed under the chin region and then flicked forward, is used when someone is annoyed or pissed off or disgusted.
For Men – For foreigners, conservative suits and ties are common for initial meetings. Darker colors are the way to go. Jackets are not always a necessity. Business casual attire is becoming more and more acceptable in many industries.
For Women - For foreigners, conservative yet stylish is a good choice. Avoid wearing overly expensive accessories, dresses/skirts cut above the calf, low necklines and sleeveless attire. Sleeves should cover at least to the elbow, up to the wrist tends to be the norm. Pants are generally acceptable.
According to Saudi law, when in public all women must wear a long cloak called an abayya which covers all clothing. In addition they must wear a head scarf which covers the hair completely. Foreign women are expected to obey this law.
Traditional Saudi attire for men includes a thobes, which is a long white body robe, a ghoutrah, which is a head cover and an egaal which is a black head-band .
Jeans and shorts are not worn in business situations.
Do not show the sole of your foot or move the foot to move anything for it is viewed as the lowliest part of the body.
Pointing the middle finger down, with a hand extended out is an insulting gesture.
Tight or revealing clothing baring shoulders, calves, is considered extremely rude and can lead to trouble.
Disrespecting ones family name or tribe is the ultimate from of rudeness.
While many Saudi women hold jobs yet segregation is the norm when it comes to educational, medical, religious and other service institutions.
Women are not allowed to drive or ride bicycles on public roads.
Western business women tend to be accepted but with a great deal of reservation.
It's best to avoid direct eye contact with men. A simple smile can be severely misinterpreted.
Women are expected to be very feminine, and obey male authority.
It is unacceptable in most social circles for women to voice their opinions about many things or question their male guardian’s authority. These roles are generally expected of foreign women as well.