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Tips for business travelers flying to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an important hub for business in the Middle East. Conducting business here is quite different from other parts of the world. If you are visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time for a business trip, it is vital for you to perfect your behavior to impress your Saudi business counterparts over there. Here are some important tips business travelers traveling by Saudi Airlines (الخطوط الجوية السعودية) to conduct a successful business meeting:

Days of work

Days-of-workIt’s best to book hotels in Mecca (حجز فنادق مكة) beforehand, according to the days of business, which are quite different from the Monday to Friday routine you are used to. In Saudi Arabia, the business hours are as follows:

For Businesses: 8.30 to 12.00 then 14.30 to 19.30 Saturday to Wednesday, though some people may work on Thursday. Friday is the day of rest, not Sunday.

For Shops: 8/8.30 to 12:00 then 16.30 to 21.00/22.00 Saturday to Thursday, Friday closed, but some shops may open late in the afternoon.

For Banks: 9.30 am to 16.30 pm.

During Ramadan, opening hours may change. Opening hours also change based on location and climatic conditions.

Book hotels (حجز فنادق) in advance so that you can have a hassle free stay in Saudi Arabia.

Etiquette and business customs

Knowing the correct Saudi etiquette will lead to a smooth business meeting. In Saudi Arabia, you should wait for your Saudi business counterpart to initiate the first greeting. You return the greeting in the same manner to be on the safe side. Westernized Saudis shake hands with men and also western women. Business is conducted at a slower pace and first you are supposed to inquire about the health of uncles, sons, brothers and cousins, but never ask about the female family members.

Topics of conversation

 Topics of conversationConversations are quite enthusiastic with differing pitch, tone, and shouting is counted as being interested and sincere. Do not be aloof, reserved, shy or quiet.

Stick to neutral subjects like soccer (called ‘football’), camel/horse racing, falconry etc. Always praise and never criticize – praise the amazing Saudi landmarks, the delicious cuisine, and historic architecture. Periodically ask about the happiness and health of family – brothers, uncles, sons and cousins.

Avoid all talk of politics, Israel, accidents, illness, bad luck or death. Also, do not talk about anything which can cause embarrassment or ‘loss of face’.

Always remember to use the right hand while eating, gesturing and touching, as left hand is not considered clean in Arabic culture. While talking, do not use point at people or things, and never use the thumbs up gesture as it is considered offensive.

How to conduct yourself in business meetings

Keep plenty of visiting cards with you as these are distributed liberally to all present in the meeting. Saudis are persistent negotiators, make appeals and personalized arguments and expect you also to do the same. You should dress well, accept favors gracefully and extend favors too. Being accommodating in business is a plus sign.

Also, making eye contact is crucial when you speak, so remove sunglasses in business meetings.

Remember all the tips above and you will sail through your business negotiations in Saudi Arabia!

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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Dr Prem Jagyasi (c)

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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