Business Card Etiquette in the Middle East

Business Card Etiquette in the Middle EastBusiness Card Etiquette in the Middle East

There are many differences between Arab Nations and the western cultures of Europe and the US. The dividing line between personal life and business is much less clear, and face to face meetings in business are required to build report and trust. Business cards are a natural part of these face to face meetings. An understanding of business card etiquette in the Middle East can help you forge stronger relationships and increase your chances of business success around the world.

Business Card Etiquette in the Middle East

  • Have plenty of business cards on hand, with one side in English and the other side in Arabic.
  • Arabic is read from right to left, and your Arab counterpart’s eyes will naturally be drawn to the right side of your card. Place your company logo with that in mind.
  • Carry multiple copies of business cards and any other printed materials. Many times, the person you are meeting with is not that actual decision maker and materials may need to be shared at many levels.
  • Handshakes often accompany the exchange of business cards. Handshakes in Arab nations tend to be longer in duration than many westerners are accustomed to. Allow the other person to withdraw their hand first, to avoid offending your Arab counterpart.
  • If you are a woman, doing business in an Arab country, wait for your male counterparts to initiate a handshake. In particularly strict areas, a handshake might be considered inappropriate, and you risk offending your business colleagues by attempting to shake hands first.
  • If you are a male, doing business with a group where Arab females are present, wait for the woman to initiate the handshake as she may not wish to shake hands out of religious observance.

When traveling to the Middle East for business, it is important to remember that there are many differences in culture and take your cues from those around you. Each country in the Middle East has different rules about visitors, especially females, and it pays to give attention to these details. By remaining alerted to the customs around you, you have a better chance of conducting business in a way that is both productive and avoids embarrassment for yourself and your Arab colleagues.

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