doing business in saudi arabia


Business meetings are crucial for any company. It can mean the start of a new profitable business partnership, a valuable sale, or the expansion of your network. Knowing how to properly conduct a business meeting is one of the musts of the professional life of any entrepreneur. However, intercultural relations in business are even more of a challenge for any business owner. It is vital to first understand the culture of your business partner or customer. You can only be able to interpret and connect with the words of your partner if you understand their values and beliefs based on their cultural background.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a misunderstood country. Regardless of the fact that it is a deeply religious and culturally conservative country, it has always been more than willing to have close business relationships with foreign partners. Although the potential cultural gap may seem like a challenge, business travelers heading to Saudi Arabia will find the business culture there welcoming. However, it is critical to understand a few cultural norms if they really want to close the deal and stay on good terms with their potential clients and partners.

Saudi Arabia Offers a Friendly Business Environment

Although The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has only recently opened up to non-Muslim tourists, it was always welcoming travelers who visit the country for business purposes. There may be many preconceived notions which might discourage you, but understand that they are simply not true. Saudi businessmen are always focused on growth and development. Therefore, intercultural business relationships with foreign partners are always well received. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has implemented new initiatives to improve the business environment. Business and commercial visas are issued within 24 hours of a mission receiving the request. Also, business visas do not require an invitation letter. Therefore, when preparing for a business meeting with a Saudi Arabian business, worrying that you will not find a welcoming business environment will only stop you from focusing n the purpose of your visit.

Earn the Trust of Your Business Partner

The first thing you should know about Saudi Arabian businessmen is the fact that they prefer doing business with people they can trust. Therefore, you need to make a good first impression. For earning the trust of your partner, you could start your business meeting with a personal introduction to allow your partner to find out more information about you. Your business partner will have a deeper understanding of your business goals and values and your personality. This will trigger more efficient and productive communication and mutual understanding.

Another aspect which will help you make a good first impression is the way you greet your meeting partners. Each person individually should be greeted with a firmly handshake while standing at a reasonable distance and maintaining eye contact. However, if a woman is present at the meeting allow her to offer her hand first. Unless she is offering her hand, you should not attempt to greet her this way.

Setting up the Meeting Time

Time management is probably the most important aspect to understand from the Saudi Arabian business etiquette. The primary reason for its importance is the Islam faith. Weekends are considered holidays in Muslim countries and Friday and Saturday are the days set for communal prayer. Moreover, Saudi businessmen pray five times a day to show respect and faith to Allah. Therefore, scheduling the meeting time might be a little bit of a challenge. As it is considered to be a lack of respect to disturb them while praying or to require them to skip the praying time, fit your schedule around their customs and traditions.

Saudi Arabian businessmen generally have a relaxed approach on time management. Although it is always good to be punctual and avoid making your partner wait for you, Saudi Arabians enjoy their relaxed culture. Therefore, do not lose your patience if your Saudi client or business partner will be late.

The Dress Code of Business Meeting

The Saudi Arabian dress code is relatively stricter than in other countries. One of the golden rules of the business etiquette that you should respect is dressing appropriately for the business meeting. The Arabian dress code is a modest one in accordance with Islamic Law. Therefore, you must dress in a conservative and smart fashion way which ensures that most of the body is covered. Men should respect a formally dress code by wearing suits, ties, and shirts. Women should wear long skirts, sleeves, and cover themselves with an abaya.

Business Language

Although Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, English is also widely spoken. As mentioned before, Saudi Arabia has numerous intercultural business relationships with other several countries. English is used in the business world and it is a compulsory second language in schools. So, doing business in English should not be a challenge. However, it would be a sign of respect for the Arabic culture if you would learn a word or two in the Arabic language. It will impress your partner and prove that you are willing for long-term business relations.

Meeting Management

The most crucial aspect you should know to connect with your Saudi partner is that they prefer business to be done on a personal note. Most business meetings are conducted at a leisurely pace and the first meeting may only focus on small talk about family and health. As it is all about earning trust, do not jump into doing business before discussing family and news first. There are numerous luxury hotels in Saudi Arabia where you can hold your business meeting and enjoy high-class services. The refinement and luxury, the modern technological convenience, and the dedicated staff will make your business meeting a great experience for you and your Saudi partner or client.

Doing business in a different business environment might be challenging. Yet, Saudi Arabian people are well-known as relationship oriented and welcoming to foreigners. Make an effort to engage with the culture and always remain respectful and observant of the Islamic culture all the time. Both you and your business will benefit from long-term business relationships with Saudi business associates.