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Tag: trust

March 8, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Five Don'ts in Middle Eastern Business

DON’T try to get something until you have given something first. This goes for physical items as much as it does for favours, ideas and so on.

DON’T be pushy when it comes to a business deal. Arabs don’t respond well to pushy executives and such tactics force a complete shut down of the system.

DON’T mix humour and business. By this I mean don’t suddenly tell a joke in the middle of negotiations. In the Middle East there’s a clear demarkation about being serious or jovial, and the two don’t usually get mixed up as they do in the West, particularly as they do in North America, where business is sometimes less gravely serious as it is in Europe.

DON’T order alcohol or (god forbid) pork, when at a meal with an Arab executive, unless you know them very well, and are certain they are not offended.

DON’T fail to reciprocate a gift with another gift. If even the most token gift is presented to you, send something back — and ALWAYS of the same approximate cost. Gift giving is part of an ancient etiquette in the East, and is something that’s regarded as important to help form a basis of trust.

March 7, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Five Do's in Middle Eastern Business

DO take the time to learn the full name and appropriate titles of the person or people you are planning on doing business with. Names and titles are regarded as very important in the Arab world, and they ought to be given in full where possible.

DO ask after a business acquaintance’s children, but NEVER his wife. In the Arab world the common greeting is ‘How is your family?’ Children are regarded as safe ground. It’s an idea to take something for the children if invited to a home.

DO as much research on a business acquaintance and the firm you are interested in advance, and always ensure you do not spend time discussing matters with a superior which might be regarded as below his station. In the Arab world appropriate etiquette is for people of the same level to deal with a matter. So it would be incorrect for a man of a high position to discuss matters of a trivial nature, and vice versa.

DO bear in mind the matter of face and face-saving when negotiating. An Arab business counterpart may not say ‘no’, especially if you are his guest. Remember this and if worried, don’t force the issue. Every years millions of potential business agreements hit the wall, and Western executives fly home without a clear answer, because they don’t know how to read the signs.

DO  be totally transparent in a business negotiation. Nothing is held in the East with higher contempt as something that appears shady. Arab businessmen don’t appreciate legalese jargon or dodgy clauses in contracts any more than their Western counterparts.

March 6, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Business Tactics

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the lobby of a grand, sprawling hotel in the Arabian Gulf. You know how it is… as you’re sitting there, half dreaming, half alert, you scan the other clusters of tables and chairs. And I was doing just that when, quite suddenly, an Arab wearing a chequered kafir and agal headdress jumped to his feet and stormed away. His face flushed with rage, he left three European businessmen wondering what exactly was going on. I’d been half-listening to the conversation and, from where I was sitting, it was quite obvious why the outburst occurred. You see, there’s almost no era of life more affected by the East-West gap than business, and the fragile etiquette that governs it. The Europeans were acting very politely, that is they thought they were but, in the Arab context, they were giving a terribly wrong message. I’ll maybe take the opportunity of highlighting a few useful tips on doing business in the Arab world in coming days. But, before that, the three blunders I had myself witnessed in the hotel lobby: The first was when one of the Europeans (thinking he was being courteous) persisted in quizzing the Arab counterpart about his wife, asking (for Arab society anyway) very private information, which included questions on whether the woman had given birth to a new child naturally or by Caesarian. The second was when the most senior member of the foreign party served himself tea and cake before his guest and then leaned back with the sole of his leather shoe pointing at that guest. And the third was then, in a terribly miscalculated and misadvised display of his less than basic Arabic language, the youngest European spat out this line: ‘You are all gentle dogs from the desert, and as such are part of my own dog!’ The sentence was the breaking point, the one in which the Arab business counterpart departed abruptly, leaving the Europeans blank-faced. The sentence caused me to smile, because for the English throat there is a difficulty in differentiating the pronunciation of the Arabic Q (as in Qalb = heart) and the K (as in the world Kalb = dog). He had actually been trying to say something like: ‘You are all gentle hearts from the desert, and as such are part of my own heart!’ Perhaps the real lesson here is never to attempt poetry in a language you can’t speak.