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
Saudi Arabia is a globally important country from a number of perspectives. As one of the world’s largest producers of oil, it has a strategic impact on the world’s economy (and only a handful of countries can say that). In addition, as the de facto leader of the Sunni branch of Islam, Saudi has a crucial influence on the rest of the Gulf and beyond into the wider Muslim world.
Saudi Arabia cannot be ignored – it really is that simple. Agree or disagree with the ways things are done in Saudi (any many vehemently disagree without really knowing much about the country) the Kingdom is just too globally significant to be ignored.
Is doing business in Saudi Arabia a good idea for you and your business? If you strip away all of the ‘noise’ which surrounds the country and analyse the fundamentals around demographics, size of the economy, personal wealth and attitude to consumerism, then Saudi starts to look like a great place to do business in. Saudi has a large, increasingly prosperous population which is predominantly youthful and aspirational. They want to buy what you have to sell.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is a notoriously complicated place to do business in and if you are planning on doing business in Saudi Arabia it is absolutely essential that you study the Saudi cultural approach to business before you arrive in-country. You need to understand the role played by religion and kinship in all business dealings within the Kingdom and you need to be able to show respect for these twin pillars of commerce. Do your homework in advance – not when you have already made the mistakes.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Saudi Arabian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: