We have to remember that when travelling to other countries we often beyond the protection of our government, therefore, we need to look into the culture and legal differences before we set off. Today, we’ll try to provide you with some tips on avoiding faux pas or even getting arrested when travelling to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is in the top 20 economies of the world, so there are financial opportunities for doing business there, but there are few obstacles in the way. First of all, non-Muslims may not enter Saudi Arabia without an invitation. In most cases you will require a sponsor – a prominent Saudi. Your sponsor will also be in charge of arranging meetings with your prospecting clients.
Once you’re in Saudi Arabia, you will be subject to the same laws as Saudis and it is not uncommon for Western foreigners being arrested for possession of illegal items such as pork, alcohol, pornography or drugs.
In addition, modest dress requirements are applicable to foreign visitors too. Most of the body must remain covered up, even during the hot days. In addition, men are prohibited from wearing neck jewellery and you will be arrested for violating this rule. Women attire is required to be even more concealing and ideally should be baggy.
The Matawain, who are also known as the religious police, can often be found in the streets enforcing the decency rules. They don’t have the power to arrest you, but they are allowed to whip any one who is violating the rules. So, western women whose skirts are too short might get their legs whipped as punishment.
Most of the cultural rules and laws are based on the religious believes, and the branch of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia is called Wahabi. It is known to be rigid and puritanical religion. Saudis pray five times a day, and you can find the prayer times listed in local newspapers. It is very important not to disturb them during their prayers as it would be rude, and it is also a huge insult to walk in front of a praying Muslim.
The language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic and even though most business people will speak English, it is recommended to have your brochures and business cards translated into English.
It is also important to note that Friday is the Muslim holy day, so their business week runs from Saturday through Wednesday. Business hours vary from Western countries too. Because of the heat, many business people work in the evening, so you should expect potential meetings to be held as late as 10pm. However, your Saudi host will do their best to take care of all your needs and will organise all the entertaining within their country.
We hope these few tips are of help, and do get in touch if you need any Arabic translation to be done.