What you need to know about doing business in the Middle East

May 8, 2023

What you need to know about doing business in the Middle East

May 8, 2023

The Middle East is a region with huge potential and attracts companies from all over the world, trying to set foot into these fast-growing markets. However, doing business with different cultures can be intimidating. The regulations, language and business customs differ from the way of doing business in your home country or region. To increase your chances of success, let’s have a look at what you need to know before starting your business journey to the Middle East. 

Familiarize yourself with the business culture and ethics

When doing business in any foreign country you must have some background in their culture and ethical manners. Although many customs do not differ greatly from that of Western culture, making a wrong gesture or comment could potentially hinder months of work and building relationships. When greeting in the Middle East, handshakes are common among men. However, between men and women, it is advised to wait and see if a hand is offered. If not, then do not insist to shake hands. An alternative way of a proper and respectful greeting is to simply offer a smile and put your right hand on your heart.

Build strong relationships and be patient

Business in the middle east

“Seamless Exhibition” 2019 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre

Business relationships in the Middle East are driven by personal relationships, trust and honour. Arabs are more likely to do business with you if you built a relationship based on mutual friendship and trust. You will need to invest your time and effort into these relationships to earn your reputation. Be patient. Once this relationship is established, you will notice that business will move faster.

Be flexible and on time

Expect the unexpected. The Middle East has always been a region where political and economic situations can change rapidly. Sometimes even overnight. These volatile circumstances require maximum flexibility, you must be able to respond fast. Do not be surprised that a confirmed meeting is changed last minute, or the meeting starts later than agreed. However, this does not mean you should show up late yourselves. As a sign of respect, make sure you arrive on time.

Adopt a more indirect, yet personal approach

Unlike in some European countries, in the Middle East, they tend to be more indirect. Especially during negotiations, Arabs may include unrelated stories or use words with double meanings. Don’t let this discourage you, this is part of their way of building the relationship. Just make sure you take your time to be understood. Positive body language like nodding or smiling does not automatically mean that they agree with you, these are signs of respect and politeness.

Nothing beats a personal visit when trying to do business in the Middle East. You can try to call, email, or connect to LinkedIn, but being close to your potential business partner will increase your chances of a successful relationship.

Learn some Arabic

In the Middle East they are very proud of their language, therefore learning a few words or sentences will be very much appreciated and shows respect towards their language and culture. It will make you stand out from other foreign business relations they have.

Embrace the Arabic culture

Last, but not least. Arabs are hospitable and warm-hearted people. Embrace their culture and business customs and your effort will be rewarded. Once you built a valuable, trustworthy relationship and closed a good deal, you will always be favoured.


Ready to do business in the Middle East? Let us help you build that bridge! 


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