Kuwait is one of the lucky countries abundant in oil, so there are plenty of financial benefits of doing business in Kuwait. However, as their culture is so much different from the Western cultures, we’ll try to cover few tips that might helps on your next visit.
Arabic is the official language spoken in Kuwait. There are several versions of Arabic in the world, but the Arabic language spoken in Kuwait is shared by most people of the Arab peninsula. It is also mutually intelligible with Arabic spoken in Egypt and Palestine.
English is often used in business meetings, but it is expected that at least your business cards are translated into Arabic. Business cards should always be presented with the Arabic side facing up, and using your right hand. Left hand is considered unclean, so avoid using it at all times. Translation of marketing collateral is also advised and will increase your chances of securing the business deals. Multilingual voice overs are a good addition too.
Most importantly, Kuwaiti standards of indecency are different from the ones in the Western countries, so dressing modestly is required at all times. Despite of the desert heat in Kuwait, most body parts are expected to be covered up. However, do not adopt native clothing – this would most certainly be perceived as offensive and inappropriate.
With regards to meetings, very often there will be several people taking part, and it’s important to note that the most senior people will speak very little if at all. They will most likely just observe the meeting, and the person asking you most of the questions will be least important in the decision making process. Also, the appointments are not private, which means that the meeting will most certainly be interrupted by telephone calls and people wandering in and out of meetings. As a result of these interruptions, you might be asked to give your presentation several times. It is important to do it gracefully and not get irritated by being asked to repeat yourself. Therefore, it might be a good alternative to hold meetings in lobbies of international hotels, there might be fewer interruptions there.
The negotiation pace is slower than in Western countries, and there might be moments of silence during the meeting, and you shouldn’t feel obliged to fill in every period of silence. Also, coffee is served towards the end of the meeting, and it is often a sign that the meeting is nearing the end.
Kuwaitis are known for their hospitality and will take care of all the entertaining. If you are invited to their house try avoiding admiring things too effusively, a Kuwaiti will feel obligated to give it to you and it is impolite to refuse a gift. If you’d like to bring them a gift, don’t take alcohol as it is illegal. Best gifts are gold pens, business card cases or cigarette lighters, and it’s best to engrave them too.
Hopefully our few tips will help with your Kuwait business opportunities, and do get in touch if you ever require any Arabic translation or interpreting.