Biz Culture in Saudi Arabia

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How to adjust your business to Saudi Arabian culture?

Why do business with Saudi?
Saudi Arabia is an increasingly important economic and political power. The Saudi organizations are getting larger, multi-faceted, and increased controls, what has been estimated, as a quarter of all the known oil reserves in the world (Ray, 2005). As managers from the Saudi and other cultures continue to interact, an understanding of cultural similarities and differences can facilitate cross-cultural communications and boundary spanning. Recently, Golden and Veiga (2005) developed a cross-cultural boundary spanning model based on five cultural dimensions articulated by Hofstede (1980, 2001), and posited that effective cross-cultural boundary spanning by teams and organizations necessitates an understanding of these dimensions. This report uses a similar framework to understand how international companies could achieve success in Saudi Arabia.

High Context Communication
Saudi Arabia is considered a very high context culture. This means that the message people are trying to convey often relies heavily on other communicative cues such as body language and eye-contact rather than direct words. In this respect, people make assumptions about what is not said. In Saudi Arabian culture particular emphasis is placed on tone of voice, the use of silence, facial cues, and body language. It is vital to be aware of these non-verbal aspects of communication in any business setting in order to avoid misunderstandings. For instance, silence is often used for contemplation and you should not feel obliged to speak during these periods. The historical journey which led to the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was notably one of triumph and misfortune. Prior to the emergence of Islam, the peninsula was divided between various nomadic Arab tribes and subject to invasion from a number of outside cultures. The creation of modern Saudi Arabia dates from 1932 when the late King Abdul Aziz AL-Saud unified the surrounding regions as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To this day the monarchy remains the central institution of the Saudi Arabian Government, governed on the basis of Islamic law (Shari’a). The discovery of oil on March 3rd, 1953 transformed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from a purely trade-based economy to the largest exporter of petroleum in the world. This economical revolution paved the way for a greater industrial base and opened up the country to the business world. For those wishing to do business with Saudi Arabia an understanding of Saudi etiquette and the personal manner in which business is conducted is essential to success. Working practices in Saudi Arabia Generally speaking, business appointments in Saudi Arabia are necessary. However, some Saudi business executives and officials may be reluctant to schedule an appointment until after their visitors have arrived. Appointments should be scheduled in accordance with the five daily prayer times and the religious holidays of Ramadan and Hajj. It is customary to make appointments for times of day rather than precise hours as the relaxed and hospitable nature of Saudi business culture may cause delays in schedule. The Saudi working week begins on Saturday and ends on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are the official days of rest. Office hours tend to be 0900-1300 and 1630-2000 (Ramadan 2000-0100), with some regional variation. The concept of time in Saudi Arabia is considerably different to that of many Western cultures. Time is not an issue; therefore Saudi Arabians are generally unpunctual compared to Western standards. Despite this, it is unusual for meetings to encroach on daily prayers and you will be expected to arrive at appointments on time. Working relationships in Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian business people prefer face-to-face meetings, as doing business in the Kingdom is still mostly done against an intensely personal background. Establishing trust is an essential part of Saudi...
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