Working and doing business in Saudi Arabia is a fulfilling and rewarding experience that has changed the lives of many expats who lived there.
As with any culture different from your own, you need to be prepared in order to live and work successfully in Saudi Arabia.
Don’t underestimate the importance of relationships. Allow time in the schedule for socializing, and spend time getting to know them. If they invite you for a meal, accept the invitation–also because Arabic food is wonderful and having a meal together is always an enjoyable experience! Try not to be too much in a hurry to get the work done, and let things unfold in their own time. This relationship-building part is just as important as the work you will be doing together, and will be essential for smooth collaboration in the long run.
Be mentally ready for changes, and don’t worry if this happens even at the last minute. Confirmations also may happen in the last minute. Try to go with the flow, trust the process and adopt a flexible mindset.
Be sure that if you have feedback, you give it diplomatically. Don’t embarrass anyone by giving harsh feedback in front of others. Respect the desire to save face and maintain one’s positive image.
Understand that they are not speaking indirectly to avoid the truth, but instead to preserve the relationship. Don’t shock them by saying “no” in a way that’s too direct or strong. Understand the diplomatic conversation style and its benefits.
Discuss work and business face-to-face as much as possible. If you don’t get the info you need by email, phone them or ask for a meeting. Since they enjoy the experience of working with others, offer to do the work together. This will also help build the relationship.
Agree on general principles at the start, and let the details unfold in their own time without pushing too much. Insisting too much may cause business dealings to fail. Focus on building the relationship, exercise patience, and allow yourself to enjoy the process of getting to know them, and all the beauty that the Arabic culture has to offer.
Working or doing business successfully in another country requires a flexible mindset and approach. Keep in mind that your way of working and getting things done in your home country may or may not work in your target culture. Always remember that when working in a different culture, there may be challenges as you understand and adapt. This process is also highly rewarding, and can enrich your life in countless ways.
If you are open, you will surely have a wonderful experience!
Try to learn as much as you can about any new culture, before you travel there!