Business Etiquette in the Arab World

arab business etiquette

If you want to start expanding your business across the Arab world, it is vital to get familiar with Arab business etiquette beforehand. There are many different items that you should take into consideration that can be helpful when you are building a business in this lovely part of the world.

Different Arab Cultures

The Arab culture is filled with rich traditions and cultures that affect every portion of the day to day life of the people living in the country. If you are looking to communicate with Arab people effectively, you will need to understand these customs and traditions as well.

arabic seo - tina rizk - arabic translation

One of the first items that you need to know is the proper way to address or greet the people that you come in contact with. While most other countries would expect a kind Hello or How are you, the Arab world still prefer a more formal greeting, such as ‘As salaam valikum’. When seated, remember not to show the soles of your shoes to an Arab, as it is regarded as a sign of disrespect.

It is advised to get an idea about their attire as well because it can be very offensive to the culture if you are not dressed appropriately. When they become offended, it is less likely that they will be willing to conduct business with you.

If you plan to conduct business in Saudi Arabia, you should keep in mind that special permission is required by the government to enter and leave the country. Westerners are also subject to the same laws as residents as well. You will frequently be offered tea. This is an important feature of Saudi hospitality.

In Jordan, Business dress should be modest and conservative. It is better to err on the side of modesty than to be seen as pushing the boundaries of morality. In transacting business or during conversation, Jordanians generally make eye contact while talking. An avoidance of eye contact makes others feel uncomfortable toward you and they may question your integrity.

When setting up a meeting in UAE, you should remember that the lobbies of hotels are preferred as a venue. You will also need to have all documents translated into Arabic as a courtesy as well.

In Kuwait, you will find that most people do not like to conduct business with those that they do not know well. This may mean that you will be required to attend many meetings before the business associate is comfortable enough with you to start doing business with you.

In Lebanon, Arabic French and English are highly spoken among people.  Negotiating in Lebanon tends to proceed at a leisurely pace. It would be a tactical error to press hard for a quick decision. Go with the flow. Decisions take time, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

When meeting someone for the first time in Egypt, never dive straight into business. This would be a sign of disrespect. Ensure you ask personal questions so you get to know the person, and also be willing to discuss your personal circumstances, i.e. children, job, etc. Always wait for the other party to start talking business.

Oman is very formal and you should expect a very formal business meeting as well. Although English is spoken, a business partner will be expected to know and use a few important Arabic phrases throughout the meeting as well. Punctuality is also crucial so make sure you are not late for a meeting in this country.

In Qatar, you should never ask a member of the opposite sex to meet in a closed room alone because it is considered offensive. It is very important to have both genders present so that an offense does not occur.

In Bahrain, it is best to smile and have direct eye contact with a business associate. At times a simple kiss on the cheek is also appropriate, but it is best to allow them to make the move first.


One of the most important things that you should remember when beginning business in an Arab country is to make sure that all the documents that you are providing to meeting attendees have been translated from English, French or native language into Arabic. While is it common for English to be spoken, Arabic is still important to the people and they will expect documents to be written in their native language.

There are many reasons that you should learn the business etiquette before entering an Arabic country. Knowing this will help you to make sure you are following the rules and regulations that have been set in place by the government and will help ensure that your business will be a success. It is highly advised that you follow the above tips when you begin your business in one of these countries.