Egyptian Communication Styles

As in most of the Arabic world, people stand quite close to one another when communicating and many other cultures may feel that their personal space has been invaded.

When this close proximity is coupled with strong same-sex eye contact and large amounts of tactility, many overseas business people can feel extremely uncomfortable. When attempting to build good relationships it is important that these differences in approach to body language do not become a barrier.

Arabic conversation can be very hyperbolic with much use of flowery language and flattery. This is a protocol of the language and is expected. Do not misinterpret this approach as insincerity or a tactic. Try to express yourself in a similar fashion – especially when establishing relationships.

It may sometimes appear that Egyptians are shouting at each other and in the middle of a very heated, acrimonious argument. Remember that emotion is used to convey conviction and that an overly reserved approach could be misconstrued as detachment or even lack of interest.

Egyptians are proud of their country and Egyptian achievements (both ancient and modern.) Egypt’s standing in the world, its history and local sport are all positive topics of conversation. However it is best to avoid discussing political issues or enquiring about female relatives of business acquaintances.

When dealing with government officials, it is important to learn the titles of any contacts as titles are of considerable importance, denoting hierarchy and status. Do not address government officials in a familiar way unless specifically requested to do so.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Egypt

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Egypt. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Egypt and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips