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Business Etiquettes in Saudi Arabia


You will need a Saudi sponsor (wakeel) to enter the country. The sponsor acts as an intermediary and arranges appointments with appropriate individuals.

Saudis do not require as much personal space as most western cultures. As such, they will stand close to you while conversing and you may feel as if your personal space has been violated.

Saudis prefer to work with people they know and trust and will spend a great deal of time on the getting-to-know-you part of relationship building. Hence, be patient.

Since Saudis will most likely judge you on appearances, dress and present yourself well.

Business Meeting

Appointments are necessary and should be made several weeks to one month in advance if at all possible. When meeting with government officials, a firm date will not be settled upon until you are physically in the country. Try to schedule meetings in the morning.

You should arrive at meetings on time, although it is an accepted custom to keep foreigners waiting. It is not uncommon to have a meeting cancelled once you arrive.

Meetings are generally not private until after a relationship of trust has been developed. This means you may expect frequent interruptions. Others may wander into the room and start a different discussion. You may join in, but do not try to bring the topic back to the original discussion until the new person leaves.

Business meetings start after prolonged inquiries about health, family, etc. Never inquire about a Saudi's wife.

Business Negotiation

Decisions are made slowly; so do not try to rush the process. Saudi society is extremely bureaucratic. Most decisions require several layers of approval and it takes several visits to accomplish simple tasks. Saudis are tough negotiators. Business is hierarchical and decisions are made by the highest-ranking person.

Repeat your main points since it will be interpreted as meaning you are telling the truth. Do not use high-pressure tactics. Decisions are easily overturned.

When discussing price, Saudis will often make an initial offer that is extremely low when they are buying. Conversely, when they are selling, their initial offer will be extremely high.

You may need to compromise on a point if someone's dignity is at stake.

There is a tendency to avoid giving bad news and to give effusive acceptances, which may only mean 'perhaps'.

Business Dressing

Most Saudis wear long white thobes. You would be expected to wear a suit. Dress well if you want to make a good impression.

Business women should make certain that their collarbones and knees are covered and that their clothes are not form-fitting.

Business Cards

Business cards are given to everyone you meet, although it may be an idea to be selective if you have few in your possession.

Have one side of your card translated into Arabic. Be sure to check the translation carefully as there is often confusion with the order of western names.




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