Working in the Middle East / Saudi Arabia

Culture and Customs

Date Posted: February 7, 2016      

Non-Muslim expatriates working in Saudi Arabia will immediately see that religion is an underlying principle in all aspects of daily life. Religious rituals are to be observed, even in the middle of important business negotiations.

When people use religious language, be respectful of their comments, acknowledge them and do not ignore them. It may regularly happen that people break off a business meeting to pray. All you need to do is to let them know you are free to resume the discussion as soon as they return.

Another important characteristic of doing business in Saudi Arabia is the importance of family ties. This is not a sign of corruption but of a healthy business structure based on trust. It is vital to maintain a wide network of connections and contacts as personal relationships play a significant role in the corporate world in Saudi Arabia.

Entertaining is an important part of Saudi Arabian business culture. You need to invest time in the relationship between you and your business partners. If you are invited to someone’s home, you should bring a small gift to be passed on to the hostess – who it is unlikely you will meet along with small presents for their children. A small gift from your own country is always appreciated. You should also remove your shoes whilst in their house. It is unlikely that you will meet a member of the opposite sex during your visit, as men will entertain in one area of the house and women in another.