Bahrain – meaning ‘two seas’ is an archipelago, made up of 33 islands in the Gulf sea. Bahrain has capitalized on petroleum processing and refining and has transformed itself into an international banking centre. Bahrain has more than 15% of the worlds proven gas reserves.
Qatar has ambitions to become a global energy giant.
Not only does the region offer varying landscapes – from built up cities, to barren deserts with 700 km of coastline, the Middle East benefits from hot summer months (April to September) with temperatures ranging from 50 Degrees Celsius and warm sunny days with average temperatures of 26 Degrees Celsius throughout November and March. It is no surprise it is a popular destination for travellers and holiday makers.
The sun shines almost every day in the Middle East. Summers can be extremely hot with temperatures reaching up to 50ºC. The winters are idyllic.
Dubai and Bahrain have the most ‘Westernised’ culture, and alcohol is served in the many hotel bars and restaurants. Abu Dhabi is more conservative but still a dynamic, exciting and cosmopolitan place to live and work. Saudi Arabia is a ‘dry’ country. Expats live on compounds, which are mini-towns with schools, restaurants and social / leisure clubs.
There is no income tax and the GCC is broadly free of other taxes. The UAE is an expensive place to live. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are less costly.
An employment visa and a residency visa are required, which in most cases will be taken care of by your employer.
Healthcare provision in the Middleast are ususally of a very high standard. Healthcare organisations benefit from state of the art equipment. Some of the worlds leading specialists are brought to share their knowledge and expertise.
Other Living factors
There is a low crime rate in most of the countries even within the major cities. Airports are highly accessible with good international connections. Habitants benefit from a tax free lifestyle.
People in the Middle East have a more flexible attitude towards time and do not always start or finish at the scheduled time. Punctuality is expected of foreigners, however, even though your Middle Eastern counterparts may not be as punctual. The Middle East is predominantly Muslim and for this reason, time must be allocated during the working day for prayer. This may interrupt the daily business schedule so you should consider this when making business appointments.
Working practices in the Middle East
The roles of men and women are far more defined in the Arab culture. Interaction between sexes is still frowned upon in certain areas. However, when working or doing business in the Middle East, it is not uncommon to come across women.
Arabs do not separate professional and personal life. Doing business revolves much more around personal relationships, family ties, trust and honour than is common in other western countries. There is a tendency to put personal matters above all else. It is, therefore, crucial that business relationships are built on friendship and trust.
Meetings & Negotiations
The key to working in the Middle East is to build a relationship with the person and the only way to do this is by meeting up face to face. It is often normal to make an appointment days before you wish to meet and to ensure that you have confirmed it verbally by telephone. Initial meetings are all about building relationships. Building trust and establishing compatibility are key requisites for working in the Middle East. One should engage in conversation and try to get to know the 'person' you are doing business or working with. It is important to note, that there will normally be several meetings in order to build the trust and relationship so do not expect immediate results from an initial meeting and be sure to follow up on your return to arrange further meetings and keep up correspondence.
The Gulf is an exciting place to stretch yourself, develop your career and make money.
Dubai for example is fast turning itself into a world financial hub, with global corporates, a thriving construction industry and a hot climate.
The experience of working in the Middleast is a diverse, challenging and ultimately fascinating environment. When you produce your list of pros and cons for making a critical career move, being able to cite an international region on your curriculum vitae is bound to be of benefit to your career.
Personal relationships are highly valued in Middle Eastern cultures. People take a sincere interest in others and spend a lot of time getting to know each other.
People in the Middle East tend to mix their business and personal life and therefore use personal relationships to further business interests. In Middle Eastern culture, refusing requests made by other friends is often considered rude.
An emphasis is placed on networking so it is essential to develop relationships personally and professionally before doing business with counterparts in the Middle East. Rules and regulations can be bent while doing business in the Middle East if one has contacts in the right places.
Middle Eastern Culture - Key Concepts and Values
The Middle Eastern culture places more value on someone's word as opposed to a written agreement. A person's word is connected to their honour. Contracts are viewed as memorandums of understanding rather than binding, fixed agreements. Be sure to promise only things you can deliver. Failure to do so will result in loss of honour. The Arabs do not separate professional and personal life. Doing business revolves much more around personal relationships, family ties, trust and honour. There is a tendency to prioritise personal matters above all else. It is therefore crucial that business relationships are built on mutual friendship and trust.The majority of their communication is done face to face, so meetings are the best way to sell your product and a reason why exhibitions are so popular in this region.
Business practices in the Middle East
The exchanging of business cards is practised in much of the Middle East . If you are given a business card, it is customary to accept it using your right hand, study it carefully and place it somewhere respectful, for example, on the table in front of you or in a card holder. In Arab countries, it is polite to have one side written in English with the reverse side in Arabic. In Israel , business cards are usually engraved rather than printed. Generally speaking, business meetings in the Middle East are somewhat unstructured and open to variation. Middle Eastern people take a more relaxed approach to start times, topics for discussion and length of meetings. In addition, it is not uncommon for others to walk in and out of the meeting or for your Middle Eastern associates to take phone calls during business discussions.
Business dress in the Middle East is modest. For businesswomen it is wise and even necessary in some countries to dress conservatively from head to toe in order to be accepted by business counterparts. While dress varies among countries, many women in the Middle East wear head scarves or veils, but it is not usually required of foreign women. In Israel, business casual dress is acceptable most of the time. Middle Eastern Etiquette (Do's and Don'ts)
You should be aware that Middle Eastern people tend to use a closer physical proximity when communicating than Westerners. Though you may not be comfortable with this close distance, it can be perceived as impolite if you back up. DO show respect towards your Middle Eastern business associates by taking a sensitive approach to appropriate behaviour and cultural gestures. Using the left hand to pass something, drinking alcohol or eating pork while in the presence of your Middle Eastern colleagues should be avoided. Do dress suitably and in a conservative manner. This is especially important for businesswomen, who must wear modest clothing that covers the arms and legs in particular. A headscarf is also advisable.
Don't criticise your Middle Eastern counterparts in front of other business colleagues, as this may cause a loss of face and harm the individual's sense of honour. Dont schedule business meetings during the holy month of Ramadan if at all possible as business activity tends to be reduced. Ramadan is a major Islamic tradition that includes fasting for an entire month. Although foreigners are not required to fast, it is considered impolite to eat or drink in front of others during this time.
Don't give the “thumbs up” sign while in the Middle East as this is considered to be an offensive gesture. Don't inquire too much about a male colleague's wife or female relatives. To a traditional Arab male, this is not considered a topic for public conversation but rather a private matter and as such could be taken offensively. It is polite to inquire about family as long as they are not female.