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Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

Negotiations & Etiquette for Western Professionals in the Middle East


The mindset of many Middle Easterners is to ensure that a deal/sale gets complete, though often times with a prolonged process. Negotiating is something that permeates all aspects of  society in the Middle East. Whereas in many western countries prices in the market or shopping areas are set and paid in full, in this region everyone negotiates for the price they would like to pay for an item; thus they are universally skilled in daily negotiations.
Negotiations & Etiquette for Western Professionals in the Middle East

by Christen Behzadi

8 months ago


Two things to consider in Islamic & Middle Eastern culture as you begin to understand how a negotiation might be framed. First , interpersonal relationships are of paramount importance and valued highly. At the end of the deal all is expected to be friendly and a new friendship is in place. Second, maximum politeness is always required by culture. Areas of disagreement need to be handled with care during the negotiation process and using standard cultural practices helps immensely.

Interpersonal Relationships:

Interpersonal relationships are the heart and soul of daily life in the Middle East. While you are embarking on a business deal or business negotiation keep this idea that building a relationship gradually over time is expected. As such, friendly gestures such as visits into the home or offering of small gifts during such visits are customary parts of the negotiation process to demonstrate goodwill and development of relationships. You will see how easily your deals progress when you have developed a counterpart who is your friend and mutually considers you their trusted friend too. The cultural training sessions from International Intercultural Consulting Firm will be indispensable in your preparations for relationship building.

One reason why relationships are considered so valuable and important is because in developing countries people rely much more heavily on their personal network of trusted supporters. The first members of these networks in Middle Eastern culture are family members. People do not live universally under circumstances of prosperity, economic security and modern comforts. People often survive because they rely on each other and their families. Many Middle Eastern people rely on each other in a way that more individualistic societies like many Western countries do not. Do not skip the step of aiming to form a relationship with your counterparts. Good cultural etiquette goes a long way in developing these relationships. 

Maximum Politeness:

In the Middle East hospitality is always present whether doing business or enjoying time to explore the country. It is important to understand that even in business negotiations points of conflict or disagreement will likely be handled in an indirect method in order to avoid being rude or offensive. The idea of screaming matches over disagreements, loud or boisterous exchanges or all out name calling will never and I mean never happen in a healthy deal that will close. If you are saying to yourself “but this has happened to me” there has been a real and serious breech of cultural protocol and you should stop reading this and contact International Intercultural Consulting Firm right away.

If you travel to a Middle Eastern country on business your counterparts will without question invite you for a dinner or meal in their home. Be prepared to drink more tea than you could ever imagine. A grand feast will be prepared for your arrival and gladly accept what is being offered. Making a stellar impression in the home of a business associate is a sure way to accelerate your business interests. A friend is the goal, not just a business associate and IIC Firm can help you in that matter.

There are many aspects to understanding how to negotiate successfully with a Middle Eastern counterpart. Understanding cultural norms, courtesies and values will take you a long way in your efforts to establish your company within the marketplace. International Intercultural Consulting Firm is a sure way to prepare yourself culturally for successful business dealings in the region. We look forward to helping your company understand the culture and the tremendous upside of expanding your enterprise into a new marketplace. 



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