Top Tips For Doing Business In The Middle East

Doing Business In The Middle East

Culture and habits

Understanding the Arabic culture can unlock a world of trade and negotiations for businesses looking to export good to the Middle East. Having spent several months working out in the field with Arabic retailers, distributors and brands owners, we have gained key insights into the cultural habits of this region. Tied into Arabic culture are a number of religious and traditional customs that influence the way business is conducted. Below are some culture related top tips which may serve you well when developing business in this region:

Embrace Flexibility

Would you like to set off on a business trip to the Middle East with all your meetings lined up and a set agenda?

Maybe so but in all reality, this is not going to go to plan!

There will be changes in schedules, even at the very last minute due to something urgent cropping up or maybe your client requested to see you for an hour or two but then spontaneously invites you to lunch or dinner, which would be rude to decline but then throws your timings for the next meeting into disarray.

Arab attitude to time is very flexible and polychronic, meaning they don’t view it as linear but more cyclical.

To succeed in this region you therefore have to go with an open attitude towards timings, insert some slack into your schedule if you can and be prepared to adapt in a positive manner.

Working week


Understand Hierarchy

Lines of authority and hierarchy are widely upheld in this region and therefore it is important to work out the levels of seniority of those you are dealing with and give the appropriate respect, including the use of titles and decision making status. It is important to follow the hierarchical structure and to gain permission prior to engaging or proposing business relations

Getting things done in the Middle East takes longer. Fact.

This is because higher value is placed on the relationships by those from this region than the task itself, which is very different from our British achievement driven culture.

Therefore you have to accept that if you want to do business here, it will take time.

It took over 6 months to get our first client order across the line in Jordan. A trusting relationship had to be developed and this doesn’t happen overnight, particularly when a lot of the Arab world don’t like email as a form of communication.

Phone calls, face to face, Skype calls and WhatsApp are a much more effective and preferred way of communication.

Furthermore as part of this relationship building you have to develop an openness to talking about your life beyond the professional dimension to include family, personal interests, hobbies etc so learn to accept this and see it as part of the relationship building process.

Business Meeting Dubai Food

If you would like to discuss how we can help you with exporting food, drink or supplements to the Middle East, please complete the contact form below and we will come back to you.

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