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:
This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture.
Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working. We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.
This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Saudi Arabia only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.
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