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Overview Located in the centre of Eurasia on the Silk Road and bordering several important Middle Eastern states, Iran has been influenced by many different cultures and traditions throughout history. Despite these different influences, Iran remains a conservative Muslim theocracy. Today, Iran is the second biggest oil producer in the world and attracts a lot of international investment. Any organisation wishing to conduct business successfully with Iran needs to understand and consider the mixture of traditional and modern influences which impact Iranian business and social culture. Iranian Culture – Key Concepts and Values Islam – Approximately 98% of the Iranian population is Muslim and adheres to the Shi'a branch of Islam making it the only Shi’ite theocracy in the world. Iran is a conservative society where Islamic traditions and values play an important role in everyday life. These traditions also affect business, so it is important to be aware of them when doing business with your Iranian colleagues. Indirect Communication – Iranians tend to have a very indirect communication style and rely heavily on nonverbal cues and figurative forms of speech. This is a means of saving face when communicating and maintaining individual honour. This aspect of Iranian culture has to be carefully considered when doing business, because a direct refusal, for example, can be interpreted as rude and impolite. Hospitality – As in many other Middle Eastern countries, hospitality is a key value in Iranian culture. Showing generosity and displaying welcoming behaviour is used as a way to measure a person’s reputation and character. It is essential to accept hospitality always when offered. Otherwise, it can be interpreted as a severe loss of honour for the person you are doing business with. Doing Business in Iran After the 1978 Islamic Revolution, Iran became an Islamic theocracy with a theocratic constitution. Iranians are heavily influenced by the traditional Islamic beliefs and practices
Doing Business in Iran
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which impact everyday life and business. In an attempt to strengthen the economy, the Iranian government started opening up the country to the free market and foreign investors in the 1990s. However, this transition is still ongoing and can make doing business in Iran a challenge. Having a comprehensive understanding of Iranian cultural traditions and underlying influences that affect business in Iran today is essential. Iranian Business Part 1 - Working in Iran (Pre-departure) o Working practices in Iran • The working week in Iran begins on Saturday and ends on Thursday. Friday is a Muslim holy day for Iranians which should be respected when scheduling meetings. Working hours tend to be from 9am to 5pm. Be aware of Muslim holidays like Ramadan and schedule business meetings around them. Iranians have a flexible attitude towards time. Therefore, foreigners should not expect meetings to always start and end on time; even though Iranians will expect punctuality from them. Being patient and including some extra time in your schedule can help business relationships. Muslims will pray five times a day. This routine may interrupt business schedules so consider this when making business appointments with your Iranian colleagues.
Structure and hierarchy in Iranian companies • In Iran most companies have a top down hierarchy. Decisions are made by directors and initiative and input from employees is not always...