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In today's increasingly globalized business world, it's essential for Middle Eastern businesses to be able to conduct business abroad with cultural sensitivity and awareness.

Different countries and cultures have their own unique business etiquette, and understanding and respecting these cultural differences can help a company build successful and lasting relationships with partners and customers in foreign markets. Cultural etiquette is a vital aspect of international business that should not be overlooked. It refers to the way we behave and interact with people in different cultural contexts. The way we conduct ourselves in business can have a significant impact on how well our business relationships are received and whether or not they produce positive outcomes.

Another significant aspect of cultural etiquette in international business is dress code. Dress codes can differ significantly across cultures. For instance, in strictly business corporate cultures like banks, finance and law, business formal dress code is expected, whereas in creative industries cultures, such as advertising, marketing and PR, business casual is acceptable. It is essential to research and learn the dress code expectations of the culture you will be working in before conducting business. Cultural differences in communication can also be a potential stumbling block for Middle Eastern businesses looking to conduct business abroad. In some cultures, such as in Japan, communication is very indirect and may rely heavily on nonverbal cues. In other cultures, such as in the United States, communication is more direct and straight-forward. Understanding these communication differences and adapting one’s own communication style accordingly can help build stronger relationships with foreign partners and customers.

It’s important for Middle Eastern companies to be aware of cultural differences in business negotiation styles. In some cultures, such as those in East Asia, negotiation is seen as a collaborative process that can take a long time to reach a final agreement. In other cultures, such as in the Middle East and North Africa, negotiations may be quicker and more direct. Having an understanding of these DINA EL SELMY 1 cultural differences can help Middle Eastern businesses navigate international business negotiations successfully. Gift-giving is also another area where cultural etiquette is crucial. In business cultures, gift-giving is a normal aspect of business relationships. In these cases, it is important to understand the types of gifts that are appropriate for the culture and occasion, as well as when and how they should be presented. However, according to the code of ethics of some corporate, gift-giving is not acceptable and prohibited. This is due to the risk of compromising the integrity and ethical standards of the company. Accepting gifts may create a perception of undue influence, bribery, or conflict of interest. It may also violate the principle of fairness in competition. The code of ethics of these corporates emphasizes that employees should avoid any situation that may create a conflict of interest or undermine the trust and confidence of stakeholders. Therefore, gift-giving is considered an unacceptable practice in some cultures.

Lastly, understanding a culture’s dining etiquette is another important aspect of cultural etiquette in international business. In some cultures, dining is seen as a formal affair, while in others, it is a more casual event. It is important to understand the cultural practices around dining, including what foods are acceptable, how to conduct oneself at the table, and the appropriate way to pay the bill. In conclusion, conducting business abroad with cultural awareness is essential for Middle Eastern businesses looking to expand their reach into foreign markets. Understanding and respecting cultural differences in business etiquette, communication, and negotiation style can help build lasting relationships and contribute to overall business success.

Image Credit: Tiago Marinho.