By Western standards, meetings in Saudi Arabia can seem unusual affairs with many of the commonplace procedures and processes being ignored.
Firstly, when meeting someone for the first time, do not be surprised to find yourself ushered into a room with several other people who you have never met and do not know. It is likely that the other people present do not know each other either. Your contact is then likely to give you some undivided attention before returning to a conversation he was having with someone else prior to your arrival. You might then be expected to sit in the room for a considerable period of time before your turn comes around again.
This process can be very frustrating for the task-oriented, time-dominated Westerner. Meetings can drag on for hours with little, if anything, being achieved. Indeed, because of this process it can be difficult to schedule more than one or two meetings per day.
Secondly, as relationships are all-important, many meetings can be spent in a seemingly endless round of ‘getting to know you’ sessions. It would be highly unusual to go into a meeting with a formal agenda and a designated chairman. Discussions can, therefore, appear disjointed with several people speaking at the same time.
Try not to show annoyance or disapproval if meetings do not proceed along western patterns. Your ability to interact effectively in the eyes of your Saudi contacts will, in large measure, determine their opinion of you.
It is not obligatory to give gifts when visiting a Saudi – either at the office or at home – but gifts can be helpful in the relationship building process. When offering a gift, it is likely that the gift will not be opened in front of the giver.
When giving gifts be conscious of Muslim sensitivities and avoid the following:
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
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 Saudi Arabia. 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 Saudi Arabia 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: