Arab Business culture

L.A. Translation and Interpretation Inc. provides top quality Arabic to English and English to Arabic translation services and interpreters.


Think Conservative

Arabic culture is intrinsically linked to Islam, and the religion’s conservative tenants have definitely seeped into Arabic business practices. However, this means more than just wearing conservative clothing and avoiding profane language. In Arab cultures, it’s considered inappropriate to quarrel or argue in front of others – even a heated exchange with a business colleague should be conducted in private. Similarly, laughter and joking tend to be more toned down in public than they are in private gatherings.

These conservative values should be carried over into any advertising or marketing strategy your company implements in Arabic cultures. Unlike American advertisements, the imagery you use in your Arabic ads should be modest in taste – half-naked women in suggestive positions will only offend your target customer. In addition, ads should focus on the merits of your product, instead of comparing it directly to another product. Concentrate on quality and functionality, as these traits are highly prized in Arab cultures.

Invitations and Introductions

If you have been invited to a meal with your Arabic host, there are several customs you may be expected to observe. Unlike American culture, you aren’t expected to bring a gift of food or drink for your host. When you arrive at the meal, take stock of your surroundings and follow the example of your host. If your guests have removed their shoes, do the same, leaving your shoes in the same area and in the same orientation as your host. Also note the way your hosts are sitting. If there’s more than one person in the room, you’ll likely find that they are seated in a circular fashion so that no one’s back is facing another person. Make sure you do the same.

In addition, you might find it helpful to practice traditional Arabic greetings before attending any meetings with your hosts or clients. The correct greeting upon entering a room is “Alsalamo Alikom”, which translates to “Peace be with you.” The traditional response to this greeting is “Wa’alikom Alsalam.” Handshakes are also exchanged in greeting – just be sure use the right hand, starting with the person who is to the right of the circle or who has approached you first.

Arab Business Culture


Saving Face

One of the major differences between American and Arabic business transactions is the idea of “saving face”. While American business interactions are often peppered with bravado and boasting, business dealings in the Middle East tend to carry a more sensitive and humble tone. Questions and exchanges are often structured in such a way as to minimize discomfort and avoid injuring another person’s dignity by allowing for graceful exits and multiple interpretations of the situation. Although this can take some getting used to, it’s important to practice this concept to avoid making your Arab business partners uncomfortable.