Entering Arab Speaking Markets – Best Practices

Even though modern-day Middle Eastern countries have received a lot of Western exposure especially to business practices the significant difference still is between separating personal from professional lives. In the Arab world, professional and personal lives are one and the same which means that your business partner and even employees are friends and family.

Now for businesses stepping into the Middle Eastern market, there are a couple of ground rules that need to be followed. We will examine these so-called best practices in this article.

All Communication is Face to Face

While western business people tend to organize their business around the internet, and text messages the same isn’t the case in the Middle East where face to face meetings are preferred. Meeting in person allows them to trust you and engage in small talk to figure out if they can do business with you in the long and or short term. That’s why for a western business person it is essential for them to be in the Middle East to do business there regardless of how reputed or savvy they may be back home.

Familiarize yourself with the rule of “Wasta”

Doing business in the Middle East means you need to know your way around wasta. “Wasta,” is all about knowing people and doing them favors which in turn means you can get favors too. That means having high-powered friends, contacts and other people in positions that can make your life easy will, in fact, help with many aspects of your business. All you need is to do them a favor in return.

Also, never outright turn down a request to do someone a favor. Instead, even if you can’t make it look as though you’ve tried your best. Your enthusiasm and effort will be remembered, repaid and appreciated. When your time comes, you can leverage that “wasta.”

Business Language Matters

Sure! Middle Eastern contacts, business partners and employees will recognize you are a westerner and will not expect you speak to them in Arabic. In most Middle Eastern countries English is widely understood and spoken. However, the official language is Arabic for the most part. So, your marketing, sales and other material oriented to the region needs to be in Arabic.

All sales and marketing need to be done in Arabic so it would be a good idea to have native Arabic speakers handling the phones. Plus, if content needs to be translated make sure it is translated in the Middle Eastern context. What that means is for instance if you have a sentence in English that says “We are Perfection” don’t bother having its equivalent in Arabic since in Islam only God can be perfect. So, translators who are familiar with the region and local sensitivities should be hired for the job.

The same goes for drafting legal agreements and other aspects of doing business. Having translators and interpreters can help make doing business a lot easier in the Middle East which also happens to be a booming market.