Nicholas Janitsary on Middle Eastern Business Etiquette
Nicholas Janitsary has more than a decade of experience helping international companies do business in the Middle East. Although the region presents ample opportunities for businesspeople from the U.S., its different social norms and professional rhythms can present challenges. To help, Janitsary has prepared these tips on Middle Eastern business etiquette.
Friendships and personal contacts are critical to achieving business success. Few in the Middle East draw an absolute line between business and personal life, so it is important to express interest in a potential partner’s family and hobbies. Relationships are built during long conversations over coffee or tea and should not be rushed.
In most Middle Eastern cultures, the left hand is considered to be unclean in a professional context. Even if you are left-handed, it is critical to use your right hand for handshakes and other interpersonal contact.
Muslim culture values honor highly, and spoken agreements are treated very seriously. Written contracts remain an important tool for articulating formal agreements, but you will likely be held to everything you say, even casually. It is important to choose words carefully and to mention only what you are sure you can deliver.