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Business Etiquette In Kuwait

Knowledge is power. Cultivating that power comes in the form of learning. In this world of global trade, the slightest cultural differences can cause major problems. Harmonizing with those from different cultures while maintaining your own personal mannerisms will keep you and your business out of trouble. If you plan on doing business in Kuwait, knowing the local business etiquette is a must.

Meetings, Greetings, and Conversations

Meeting someone from Kuwait is different from meeting someone from America. Here, people are greeted by handshakes, not hugs. An air kiss on the cheek as one would give a close friend is a good way to begin the conversation. In Kuwait, the way you shake someone’s hand depends on the status of your relationship with that person.

The upper hand should lead the lower hand, unless you are shaking with women who are older than you. It is proper etiquette to shake hands with everyone in your party, or just the men, in business situations.

When greeting someone for the first time, it is best to give your name and a pleasantry. A simple “nice to meet you”, will suffice. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked any combination of the following questions:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How do you like Kuwait?
  3. How old are you?
  4. How much money do you make?

If you have been invited to a Kuwaiti’s home as a guest, hand over a package wrapped in cloth and have the gift presented to your host. When entering and leaving a home, it is best to bring a small bouquet of flowers to your hostess. Just like how to shake hands, it is necessary to remove your shoes at the door. If you are having business interactions with Kuwaiti officials, it is a good idea to make sure everything is in writing. The Arabic language is read from right to left. The most important thing in a memo that you give to a Kuwaiti is to make sure the whole letter is written in Arabic, not just bilingual English.

Dress For Success

It is against business etiquette to wear casual clothing. Wear black suits for men and long skirts and jackets for women. Be conservative. Faux pearls are acceptable, but not bright colors. Men should wear ties and carry a briefcase. Women should carry a small handbag. Avoid using Bibles to make a point about their business. It implies that you do not trust the person you’re talking to to see things your way. It is also considered rude to put your hands in your pockets, or to cross your arms.

Superstitions are a big part of daily life in Kuwait. If invited to a Kuwaiti home, you may be asked to bring an orange flower for good luck. Never bring a single frond of aloe at any time. For women, emeralds are good luck. If a container of dates comes your way, don’t grab one until it is handed to you. Wait for your host to offer it to you. It is common knowledge that a good knock on wood will protect you from misfortune. Avoid uttering the words, “Don’t get me pregnant”, when speaking to a Kuwaiti. It is up to the Kuwaiti to protect you from such things: they do not want people to think they have a loose woman working for them.

Arabic Greetings

Since the business etiquette of Kuwaiti people is mainly rooted in the Arabic culture, it should be necessary to know the following phrases:

  • Hello : kifachak
  • Goodbye : tira?fa
  • Thank you : a?fachak
  • I’m sorry/Excuse me : i?sir

Business Cards

Business cards are very important in America. When giving cards, place them in the other person’s hand with your first finger and thumb. Women are usually to be given cards with both hands. It is acceptable to give business cards to anyone that you meet. It is not advisable to give out too many cards, though. You do not want to appear to be overzealous.

Handshakes

A handshake is customary in Arabic business etiquette. When shaking hands with Kuwaitis, be prepared to touch their elbow with your right hand. This is the Kuwaiti way of showing more respect to the other person. The higher-ranking Kuwaiti will bow his or her head slightly, while the lower-ranking Kuwaiti will bow his or her head vigorously. Always bow your head when shaking hands with Kuwaitis. It would not be unthinkable to find someone bowing to you.

Invitations

Kuwaiti business etiquette is very different from American business etiquette, as well. An invitation should be taken in the Kuwaiti home. If you do decide to take some employees with you, they should wait in a separate room until the business has concluded and then leave together. It is not necessary to provide gifts when inviting Kuwaiti people to your home.

Dining Etiquette

When planning a Kuwaiti dinner, you should have it up to three days in advance. Kuwaitis do not want to be caught unprepared with such an important event. You should make sure that the skin of the chicken is eaten off, or perhaps the pork is taken out of otherwise mouth-watering dishes. It is simple to tell Kuwaitis that you don’t eat pork.

Kuwaitis make a show of always eating everything that they have been served. No matter how bad the food may be, you should try to eat everything. It is considered impolite to ask for a doggy bag. If you find that the food has appeared to have been in the microwave for too long, make sure to thank your host.

When you are finished with your meal, it is permissible to inquire if you may go to the bathroom.

Dating Etiquette

Dating in Kuwait may be the biggest change from what is expected in America. Kuwaiti business etiquette states that a man should never ask a woman out; he should wait for the woman to ask him out. Kuwaiti men often go to great effort to escort Kuwaiti women during business outings. It is also important to make sure that the woman is not related to one of your Kuwaiti contacts.

Post-Dinner Acceptance

When you have been invited to a Kuwaiti home, you will probably be asked to stay for a cup of coffee after your meal. This is your cue that there is more to come. It is standard business etiquette for the Kuwaiti to insist on a cup of coffee. When finished, insist that you must leave. This will ensure that the Kuwaiti will continue listening to what you have to say.

Other Meeting Considerations

Meetings in Kuwait last no more than one hour. The longer the meeting, the higher the risk of offending your Kuwaiti contact. The Kuwaiti business etiquette indicates that you should offer your host a coffee. Coffee is normally accompanied by some sort of sweet, like dates. Once this meeting has been offered and accepted, it is best for your Kuwaiti contact to drink the coffee in a timely manner. Refill requests usually come less than five minutes after the coffee has been served.

Breaking the Ice

So, you’ve met your Kuwaiti counterparts. You have exchanged some pleasantries and you are ready to get down to business. In order to help you with this area of business etiquette, here are some tips from people with experience in such matters:

  1. Do not discuss politics or religion.
  2. The best way to break the ice is business, but not in a business manner. Ask about the Kuwaiti’s family. The Kuwaiti will then ask about yours.
  3. If family is not an option, then ask about Kuwait. It is a way to speak about passion of Kuwaitis.
  4. If nothing else, discuss the weather. Knowing that it is shining with brilliant rays of sunshine is always a good way to impress your Kuwaiti business partners.
  5. If your Kuwaiti business partner allows you to buy them a few drinks, make sure that you do. It will allow you both to have a more comfortable business relationship in the future.

Arabic Greetings also are proper for business formalities.

Business Card Etiquette

Business cards are very important in America. When giving cards, place them in the other person’s hand with your first finger and thumb. Women are usually to be given cards with both hands. It is acceptable to give business cards to anyone that you meet. It is not advisable to give out too many cards, though. You do not want to appear to be overzealous.

Handshakes

A handshake is customary in Arabic business etiquette. When shaking hands with Kuwaitis, be prepared to touch their elbow with your right hand. This is the Kuwaiti way of showing more respect to the other person. The higher-ranking Kuwaiti will bow his or her head slightly, while the lower-ranking Kuwaiti will bow his or her head vigorously. Always bow your head when shaking hands with Kuwaitis. It would not be unthinkable to find someone bowing to you.

Invitations

Kuwaiti business etiquette is very different from American business etiquette, as well. An invitation should be taken in the Kuwaiti home. If you do decide to take some employees with you, they should wait in a separate room until the business has concluded and then leave together. It is not necessary to provide gifts when inviting Kuwaiti people to your home.

Dining Etiquette

When planning a Kuwaiti dinner, you should have it up to three days in advance. Kuwaitis do not want to be caught unprepared with such an important event. You should make sure that the skin of the chicken is eaten off, or perhaps the pork is taken out of otherwise mouth-watering dishes. It is simple to tell Kuwaitis that you don’t eat pork.

Kuwaitis make a show of always eating everything that they have been served. No matter how bad the food may be, you should try to eat everything. It is considered impolite to ask for a doggy bag. If you find that the food has appeared to have been in the microwave for too long, make sure to thank your host.

When you are finished with your meal, it is permissible to inquire if you may go to the bathroom.

Dating Etiquette

Dating in Kuwait may be the biggest change from what is expected in America. Kuwaiti business etiquette states that a man should never ask a woman out; he should wait for the woman to ask him out

 

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