CLIMATE Mild, wet winters with hot dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer Temperatures can soar upto 40°C Only light showers of rain
RELIGION Muslims 99%, Christian and Jewish 1% Islam Islam is practised by the majority and to a certain extent still governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Islam emanated from what is today Saudi Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is seen as the last of God's emissaries and Prophet Muhammad brought the last book, the Quran. The Quran and the actions of the Prophet are used as the basis for all guidance in the religion. Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day - at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Friday is the Muslim holy day. They usually keep everything closed. Many companies also close on Thursday, making the weekend Thursday and Friday. During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Expatriates are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public.
THE FAMILY The family is the most important unit of their social system and defines social relations The individual is always subordinate to the family or group The family comes above all else Most cherished possession is their honour and dignity, which reflects not only on themselves but on all members of their extended family. They will go out of their way to preserve their personal honour If someone does something shameful, they may be hated by society, or even worse by their family Families tend to be large and the extended family is quite close
MEETING & GREETING Greet each other with lengthy affairs. Handshake - obliged to ask about family, work, the house, the weather, etc. This is all part of cementing a relationship and showing concern for others. You may see people continue to hold hands after the initial handshake is a sign of warmth Friends and family will also exchange kisses on the check. When meeting women initially nod and wait to see if a hand is extended. Avoid prolonged eye contact with women and do not ask personal question. Note that religious men may not shake your hands - this is not a sign of disrespect but quite the opposite. At parties or other social gatherings your hosts will introduce you, usually starting with the women and then moving on to the men in a rough approximation of age order, oldest to youngest. Greet and say good-bye to each person individually. Men and women would not greet each other in public from outside the family. The most common greeting is "Aalaamualaikum" ("Peace be with you") to which one would respond with “waalaikumsalam” (“and Peace be with you”).
NAMES AND TITLES The use of titles in important due to the hierarchical nature of the society. When introduced to someone, try to call them by their professional, or academic title and their surname.
GEERT HOFSTEDE™ CULTURAL DIMENSIONS Large Power Distance (PDI) (80) and Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) (68) are predominant Hofstede Dimension characteristic. These societies are more likely to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its citizens. They are also highly rule-oriented with laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty, while inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society. When these two Dimensions are combined, it creates a situation where leaders have virtually ultimate power and authority, and the rules, laws and regulations developed by those in power reinforce their own leadership and control.
GIFT GIVING ETIQUETTE Gift giving is used to cement relationships. The gesture of giving is more important than the gift. When invited home, bring pastries, fruit, nuts, figs, dates, candy, flowers or a small gift from your home country If a man must give a gift to a woman, he should say that it is from his wife, mother, sister, or some other lady relation. Roses or tulips make good gifts. Violets as they symbolize sadness. Children will always appreciate sweets! Do not bring alcohol unless you are sure they partake. Gifts are not usually opened when received. Give gifts with the right or both hands.
DINING AND EATING ETIQUETTE Don't bring alcohol Remove shoes at the door Men and women will be seated separetly Dress modestly (especially women) When you enter a room with people always greet the eldest first. The move around the room from your right greeting people individually. Polite for a woman to offer to help the hostess with the preparation / clearing. Most likely be declined, but the offer will be appreciated. Check to see if your spouse is included in the invitation. Some conservative may not entertain mixed-sex groups. Talk before starting the meal
Food is usually eaten by hand. Try and wash your hands before and after. A washing basin will be brought to the table before the meal is served. Hold your hands over the basin while water is poured over them. Dry your hands on the towel provided. (sometimes perfumed water) There are several ways of dining such as sitting at low couches around a big table or meal on mats on the floor around a low table. Only use the right hand for eating and for passing dishes Food is served from a communal bowl. Do not begin eating until the host blesses the food or begins to eat. Leave food on your plate or it will be filled up again.
BUSINESS CULTURE There is no formal ritual surrounding business cards. It may be a good idea to have them translated into French or Arabic. Always use the right hand to give and receive. Appointments are necessary and should be made as far in advance as possible and confirmed a day or two before the meeting. It is best to avoid scheduling meetings during Ramadan. Remember Fridays are a Muslim holiday so most companies will be closed. Try to arrive at meetings on time and also be prepared to wait. They are accustomed to dealing with international companies - strive to arrive on time, although it is often difficult for them to do so in such a relationship driven culture They an open-door policy, even during meetings. This means you may experience frequent interruptions. Others may even wander into the room and start a different discussion. You may join in, but do not try to bring the topic back to the original discussion until the new person leaves. French and Arabic are generally the language of business, although some companies use English.
BUSINESS CULTURE Who you know is more important than what you know, so it is important to network and cultivate a number of contacts who may then assist you in working your way through Expect to be served mint tea whenever you meet someone, as this demonstrates hospitality. Women should wear elegant business suits, dresses or pantsuits. Women must be careful to cover themselves appropriately. Skirts and dresses should cover the knee and sleeves should cover most of the arm. Avoid wearing expensive accessories. Decisions are made slowly. Do not try to rush the process, as it would be interpreted as an insult. They will most likely judge you on appearances, dress and present yourself well.