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Today we are celebrating the Arabic Language International Day. Arabic is 8th most spoken language on earth, and it is also the official language in more than 20 countries, most of the located in the Arabian Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, and the Maghreb. So, we are going to take the opportunity to offer some advice on how to do business in the Arab countries or with Arab businessmen.Even there can be some differences among the Arab countries themselves, experts warn, more than anything, to be cautious and polite. It is advisory to show attentiveness and respect to your interlocutor but it is also important to observe him, so you can avoid offending him. There you have some clues on how to deal with these situations:First, as everybody knows, Western women will find some difficulties when meeting Arab people, as in the Arab World direct contact between both sexes is usually prevented. Arab Men normally salute each other with a hug and kisses on the cheeks or nose, but when greeting foreigners they use to give just a handshake. On the other hand, if you are a Western woman, you must wait for them to offer their hands. If not, just wave avoiding touching them. For the same reason, if you are a Western man, you must salute Arab women avoiding physical contact. You must also show respect to the elders. Polite behaviours such as letting them to walk on the right side of the group are appreciated.One of the icebreakers would be to start a conversation as a preamble to business talk. It will allow you to create some friendly atmosphere. It is recommended to chat about health and welfare, avoiding comments on wives or female relatives. Your host may also expect you to start the business discussion, so you could begin by using short concise sentences. When talking on business, keep in mind that a “yes” is not enough to seal a deal: your interlocutor may say “yes” several times as a way of meaning “I’m listening“.Language can also be helpful; if you can, take with you some information translated into Arabic, so you can show respect for their language.In a meeting, it is civil to offer drinks and hot beverages, so you should accept anything they offer and show your gratitude. Do not use your left hand to take things, it is considered to be impure.Religion is also a major issue. If you are a man invited to visit a mosque, avoid wearing shorts and make sure tour shoulders are covered. If a woman, avoid miniskirts and “revealing” clothes. Your hair must be covered with a veil when entering the mosque. This dress code is also applicable to business, except for women’s hair: in business it is no compulsory to cover it.Regarding food and alcohol, it is polite not to serve alcohol when hosting a gathering for Arab guests. The same applies to pork. Anyway, you should warm your guests is you are serving pork or pig meat.

  “There is as much difference between us and ourselves as there is between us and others”

Montaigne

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