Doing Business in Saudi Arabia | Saudi Arabian Social and Business Culture A Saudi Arabian Culture Overview Official name – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Population – 28, 686, 633 note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals* Official Language – Arabic Currency – Saudi riyal (SAR) Capital city – Riyadh GDP – purchasing power parity $582.8 billion* GDP Per Capita - purchasing power parity $20,700* Overview A kingdom founded upon and unified by Islam, Saudi Arabia has fascinated travellers for centuries. From its vast deserts and barren plains emerged the monotheistic religion of Islam, the Arab race, and the country’s distinctive Arab culture. Occupying approximately 80% of the Arabian Peninsula, today this south-west Asian monarchy, rich in Arab and Muslim heritage and characterised by a high degree of cultural homogeneity is home to a plethora of successful, oil-rich cities. A sound knowledge of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and in particular, of the cultural background, is essential to an understanding of the principals which have guided the Kingdom’s business development. Saudi Arabian Culture – Key Concepts and Values Face – In a culture where confrontation and conflict are to be avoided, the concept of face is a fundamental issue of daily life. Dignity and respect are key elements in Saudi Arabian culture and saving face, through the use of compromise, patience and self-control is a means by which to maintain these qualities. Arabian culture utilises the concept of face to solve conflicts and avoid embarrassing or discomforting others. In a business context, preventing loss of face is equally important. For instance, your Saudi Arabian counterparts will not take well to pressure that places them in an uncomfortable position which make them lose face. Islam – In order to comprehend fully the culture of Saudi Arabia one needs to understand the extensive influence of religion on society. The overwhelming majority of the population of Saudi Arabia are Arabs who adhere to the Wahhabi sect of Islam. Islam, which governs every aspect of a Muslim’s life, also permeates every aspect of the Saudi state. As a result, Arabian culture is often described as detail orientated, whereby emphasis is placed on ethics and expected social behaviour such as generosity, respect and solidarity. These are customs and social duties that also infiltrate the Saudi Arabian business world and affect the way Arabs handle business dealings. 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. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Doing Business in Saudi Arabia © Communicaid Group Ltd. 2009
Doing Business in Saudi Arabia 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...
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