A Golden Advice
If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high. Look it squarely in the eye, and say, “I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.
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Cultures- Saudi Arabia
The modern Saudi Arabia was founded by king Abd al-aziz in the 20th century. His decedents continue to rule the country till this day.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East. %95 of its land is desert, including Rub’ Al Khali, the biggest mass of sand in the planet.
A publication by the US Bureau of the Census which has been updated in 2010 states that the Saudi population is estimated by 28,686,633 which includes an estimated 5,576,076 none nationals.
Language in Saudi Arabia
Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia. English is widely spread as well and it’s used especially in Business. Among the none- Saudi population, many speak Urdu (official language of Pakistan).
Islam was born in Saudi Arabia and is practised by all Saudis. Saudi Arabia is visited by millions of Muslims around the world every year. The prophet Mohammed is seen as the last of God’s prophet and messenger followed by (Jesus, Moses, and Abraham etc.) The prophet Mohammed brought the last holy book the Quran to the revelation of mankind, as Moses and Jesus brought Torah and Bible. The Quran and the Sunna (Prophet Actions) are used as basis for all guidance in the religion and many fellow it as a way of life.
Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day- at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. You will hear the Mosk Sheikh inviting people for prayer. Everyone is obliged to stop working and head to their prayers. Friday is Muslims holy day, everything is closed that day. Some companies also close Thursday and Friday making the weekend those days.
Each year Muslims are ordered to fast the month of Ramadan from dusk to dawn. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, smoking. None Muslims, in Saudi Arabia are not obliged to fast but should not eat, drink or smoke in public. Schools shut in the month of Ramadan and public companies only work 6 hours per day. Many shops, restaurants and coffee shops open after (Iftar) in the night.
Family and tribal customs
Family is the most important social institution in Saudi Arabia. For Saudis family is where they get their identity and social status from. They form marriage alliances with other tribes whom are close to their habits, interests and Business. Befriended tribes through marriage usually form very strong bonds between them and become extended family members to each other.
The head of the tribe is called Sheikh and he has the good statue between the tribe’s members. The sheikh will be the first person they will seek to sort out any problem they have.
Saudi men are very protective of their families. The father of the house (husband) is the main figure in his home. He is responsible for making more or less all decisions regarding his wife and children and their welfare. Women are very much dependent on their husbands to manage their daily needs (transport, medical appointments, shopping etc.) Unmarried women will be their fathers and brothers responsibility.
If you get invited to visit a Saudi in his house with your family, then be aware that entertaining will be in two separate rooms for both sexes.
Usually invitations for food will be for a big group of people, so be prepared to meet lots of people. Be aware to show respect to elderly people greeting them first.
Saudi’s are sociable and would sit together drinking coffee and eating dates while conversing before meal time. It is impolite to refuse coffee offered to you; it is most polite to accept several cups of coffee. Saudi’s spend a lot of their time in coffeehouses drinking coffee and tea! Never enquire about the health of a Saudi’s wife. Keep the mood light, try and engage in their conversations always answering politely.
Hands are ritually washed before and after meal.
Usually meals are offered sitting cross legged on the floor. Meals are offered in big dishes that everyone shares. Food is usually eaten with fingers, during the meal there will not be much of speaking so guests could enjoy their food. The guest will always be offered food first /
Saudi’s use their right hand for eating, drinking and passing objects to one another. Left hand is considered “unclean”.
If you are a vegetarian you might need to be aware that Saudi dishes are almost always contain big chunks of meat. If a guest is present he will be offered the biggest piece.
If invited to a meal in a resturant, the person initated the invite will be expected to settle the bill. Some Saudi's might argue to pay one, but it will be rude to accept their offer.
Saudi’s are experienced businessmen and have impressive history in trade experience. Most Saudi businessmen have good English spoken skills and have experience doing business with the west. Saudi’s tend to rely heavily on memory than on papers and notes.
Saudi’s will not finalise any business agreement unless they get to know their business partner well, and that usually involves several initial meetings before that can happen. It is important not get things rushed and keep your cool in those meetings. Gaining your Saudi’s partners trust is a crucial step before any business plan is agreed and once is that established things start moving very fast. In Saudi Arabia businessmen still prefer to meet personally and meetings tend to have a light mood enjoying discussions over coffee and tea.
When entering a room you are expected to greet others in the same manner they greet each other; shaking hands with each person individually. Learning a few greeting phrases in Arabic will be appreciated by your Saudi associates.
In the Arab world, it is accustomed to address individuals by their first name, and any title they have. Saudi ministers are always addressed as” your Excellency” and members of the royal family as “your highness”.
Saudi’s are not much aware of personal space as it is here in the west. A Saudi might stand very close to you when speaking and they might also use some body contact to emphasize a point or confirm that you following what they are saying. It is very important not to draw back, as this might be considered to be rejection to what have been said. Saudi’s who have experience with western culture might be inclined to do so.
If you are women expecting to do business in Saudi Arabia, you need to be prepared to the challenge ahead. Saudi culture has gender separation which might make your job a lot harder. A woman might not be permitted to enter the kingdom without a husband, father or brother. Ladies in Saudi need to dress conservatively making sure all her body is covered. It is uncommon for a Saudi man to shake hands with a woman or engage in any conversational body contact.
Respect and trust are valued highly by the Saudi people. Once you've gained their trust, you will be certain to get rewarded and introduced to other potential business associates that will benefit you.