It could be a really excellent sign if you are invited out for a really lavish meal by some potential clients in Saudi Arabia — on the other hand it might merely be a polite way of letting you down gently.
Either way it will be very difficult to tell at the time.
What is certainly true is that it is difficult to get to the point of having a strong enough connection with somebody to be able to do business with them until a certain amount of entertaining has been undertaken. View this process as a vital part of the relationship building cycle.
Traditionally, entertaining was always done in the home in Saudi but nowadays will invariably happen at a restaurant. Restaurants often have two rooms – a family room and a room reserved for men. Single women travellers are often allowed to eat in the family room. Be prepared for large feasts with massive amounts of food – but, of course, no alcohol which is taboo.
Always eat and pass food plates with your right hand as the left hand is considered unclean. (It would be quite insulting to pass food with the left hand.) Food is in fact often eaten with hands.
A service charge is very often included in restaurant bills but an extra 10% sometimes given for good service.
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: