Saudi Arabia flag Saudi Arabia: Business Environment

Business Practices in Saudi Arabia

Opening hours and bank holidays

General Information
Export.gov, US Commercial Service – Doing Business in Saudi Arabia
Communicaid
Services for business, Global Affairs Canada
Commisceo Global, Saudi Arabian business culture as per Commisceo Global
Opening Hours and Days
The Saudi working week begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the official days of rest, but in certain cases Saturday might be considered as a working day. Office hours tend to be from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. during Ramadan), with some regional variation.
 
 
 

Public Holidays

Islamic New Year Determined by the Islamic Calendar
Ashura Determined by the Islamic Calendar
Prophet's Birthday Determined by the Islamic Calendar
National Day 23rd September
Eid Al Fitr Determined by the Islamic Calendar
Eid Al Adha Determined by the Islamic Calendar
 
Holiday Compensation
Muslim Holidays that occur on Friday are generally observed on the following Saturday. For more information on public holidays, consult this website.
 

Periods When Companies Usually Close

Eid al-Fitr holidays

Observed at the end of the holy month of Ramadan (month of fasting). The dates vary and are governed by the Islamic lunar calendar.

Eid al-Adha holidays

Observed when pilgrims arrive from around the world to perform the Hajj. The dates vary and are governed by the Islamic lunar calendar.

 

Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Saudi Arabian business culture is largely influenced by the collectivist nature of Saudi society. The most important social unit is the group, a close family, extended family, or extended relationships, to which loyalty and respect is due. Thus, Saudi Arabians will prefer doing business with those they know and trust.

Social status, which depends, inter alia, on age and gender, plays a critical role in Saudi society, including in business relations. Most businesses are vertically hierarchical, with decision-making concentrated at the senior level of an organisation. The Saudi society is extremely bureaucratic, and most decisions require several layers of approval.

Saudi Arabians are generally relationship oriented and, as trust is a fundamental principle, it is important to take sufficient time and effort to build a personal relation before starting a business relationship. This can mean attending several initial meetings where no substantive business is discussed and sharing meals.

First Contact
Saudi Arabians may prefer doing business with people they know and trust, thus it is essential to know a key person in an organisation and to receive a personal introduction. Appointments should be made several weeks in advance, followed by verbal confirmation a couple of days ahead of the meeting. When meeting with government officials, a firm date will not be settled upon until you are physically in the country. The religious holidays of Ramadan and Hajj and the daily prayer breaks should be taken into consideration when scheduling business meetings. One must also remember that Saudi Arabia’s weekend is Thursday and Friday.
Time Management
Saudi Arabians are generally polychronic, which means that they value time as flexible and fluid. They have a relaxed approach of punctuality, but never allow meetings to encroach on their time of prayer. Meeting times are usually set as times of day rather than fixed hours, for example in the morning, afternoon or evening. It is not uncommon to have a meeting cancelled at the last minute, and agendas and due dates are not strictly respected.
Greetings and Titles
You should greet each person individually with a handshake while standing at a reasonable distance and maintaining eye contact. You will notice that Saudi Arabians’ conversational distance is quite similar to that of Latin Americans and Southern Europeans. It is fundamental to use the right hand for all public functions, as the left hand is considered dirty. You must address your Saudi Arabian counterparts with appropriate titles such as Doctor, Shaikh (chief), Mohandas (engineer), and Ustadh (professor), followed by his or her first name. Saudis generally prefer addressing their counterparts by their first names but it is advisable to wait until you are invited to do so.
Gift Policy
Gift giving is appreciated but is not necessary in a business setting. They are generally exchanged between close friends because they are seen as rather personal in nature. Gifts must be given with the right hand.
Dress Code
The Saudi Arabian dress code is monitored by the regional police, who are responsible for the enforcement of a modest dress-code in accordance with Islamic law. You must dress in a conservative, smart fashion, ensuring that most of the body is covered. Women should wear long skirts, sleeves at elbow length or longer and necklines that are not revealing.
Business Cards
In Saudi Arabia, business cards are common but not essential to business culture. They must be given by the right hand and should not be thrown to your interlocutors if you are across a large table. LinkedIn is an increasingly popular way to stay in touch in the region.
Meetings Management
As it is essential for Saudi Arabians to know and trust their partner, meetings are conducted at a leisurely pace, and the first meeting may consist entirely of small talk, which may include prolonged enquiries about your health, family, etc. You should wait to talk about your business until your business partner brings it up.

During the presentation, it is advised not to be dazzlingly technical. You should keep the formal part of the presentation brief, backed up with points and graphics. It is highly advisable to have your documents translated into Arabic and to use well-produced and slick material, as Saudi Arabians are very brand-conscious. Saudis are tough negotiators and demand patience, thus it is important not to rush the process.

Saudis often use body language and eye contact rather than direct words. Particular emphasis is placed on tone of voice, the use of silence, and facial cues. People make assumptions about what is not said. As silence is often used for contemplation, you should not feel obliged to speak during these periods. Some Saudis will decline an offer at least one time out of politeness.

Coffee and tea are usually served during meetings. Business meals are important means to get to know each other. It is customary for the person who issued the invitation to pick up the bill.

Sources for Further Information
Enterprise Ireland The Saudi Saudi Arabia Blog Proven

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Latest Update: June 2022

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