Click here to add Website to your Favorites List

Saudi Arabia Business Etiquette & Culture

Saudi Arabia etiquette, manners, culture, gift giving, protocol, dress, appearance, behavior, communication, and more           Saudi Arabian etiquette, culture, manners, protocol

Saudi Arabia Introduction

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy in southwestern Asia, and occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is bordered on the north by Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait; on the east by the Persian Gulf and Qatar; on the southeast by the United Arab Emirates and Oman on the south by the Republic of Yemen; and on the west by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. The southeast and southern boundaries are not precisely defined.


Saudi Arabia Fun Fact

If you are not a Muslim, you may not enter Saudi Arabia without an invitation and you may not leave without an exit permit. Visitors to Saudi Arabia are subject to the same rigorous Islamic law as Saudis. It is not uncommon for Westerners to be imprisoned for possessing illegal substances such as alcohol, pornography, pork or narcotics. Thieves still have their hands amputated and capital crimes are punished by public beheadings.

Geert Hofstede Analysis for Saudi Arabia

The Geert Hofstede analysis for Saudi Arabia is almost identical to other Arab countries their Muslim faith plays a large role in the people’s lives. Large power distance and uncertainty avoidance are the predominant characteristics for this region. This indicates that it is expected and accepted that leaders separate themselves from the group and issue complete and specific directives. 

The Geert Hofstede analysis for the Arab World, that includes the countries of Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, demonstrates the Muslim faith plays a significant role in the people’s lives.

Large Power Distance (PDI) (80) and Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) (68) are predominant Hofstede Dimension characteristics for the countries in this region. These societies are more likely to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its citizens. They are also highly rule-oriented with laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty, while inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society.

When these two Dimensions are combined, it creates a situation where leaders have virtually ultimate power and authority, and the rules, laws and regulations developed by those in power reinforce their own leadership and control. It is not unusual for new leadership to arise from armed insurrection – the ultimate power, rather than from diplomatic or democratic change.

The high Power Distance (PDI) ranking is indicative of a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society. These populations have an expectation and acceptance that leaders will separate themselves from the group and this condition is not necessarily subverted upon the population, but rather accepted by the society as their cultural heritage.

The high Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) ranking of 68, indicates the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of these populations is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

The Masculinity index (MAS), the third highest Hofstede Dimension is 52, only slightly higher than the 50.2 average for all the countries included in the Hofstede MAS Dimension. This would indicate that while women in the Arab World are limited in their rights, it may be due more to Muslim religion rather than a cultural paradigm.

The lowest Hofstede Dimension for the Arab World is the Individualism (IDV) ranking at 38, compared to a world average ranking of 64. This translates into a Collectivist society as compared to Individualist culture and is manifested in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', that being a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules.
More Geert Hofstede Details

Written by Stephen Taylor - the Sigma Two Group


Religion in Saudi Arabia


The predominant religion for Egypt is Islam, the practice of the Muslim faith. (see Article)

An Imam explains Islam

Islam is the name of the religion that was founded 1,400 years ago by the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Islam is an Arabic word which means peace, love and complete submission and obedience to God. There is no difference between Islam and Muslims. Islam is the religion that a Muslim follows, just as Christianity is the religion which a Christian follows.

A Muslim is someone who has accepted Islam and lives his whole life according to the teachings of Islam. A true Muslim is one who is loving and caring, promotes peace, and is fully obedient and submissive to the will of God.

Islam demands from its believers that they establish peace in the world, promote love and make such examples of themselves that others, knowing that they are Muslims, feel at peace and harmony in that knowledge. This is the true Islam and what it means to be a Muslim.

The Holy Prophet of Islam has said that a true Muslim is one whose actions and words do not harm his fellow man.

When Muslims greet each other, instead of saying, “good morning” or “hello” they say “Assalamo Alaikum,” which means “May peace be upon you and may God's blessings be with you.” This greeting makes a Muslim aware that he has to spread love and peace wherever he goes.

There are many attributes of God, one being “AsSalam” meaning “the Bestower of peace and love.” Man has been created to fashion himself to the attributes of God and Muslims must try to adopt this attribute of God.

If someone calling himself a Muslim and a follower of the Holy Prophet does not promote peace and love in his actions and does not follow this teaching, he cannot be a true follower of the Holy Prophet.

Muslims pray five times a day, asking God for his love.

They pray, “Oh God! You are Peace and from you, is Peace; Blessed are you, O Lord of Majesty and Bounty.”

Islam is a religion from God for the whole of mankind and the name Islam was given to the Muslims by God himself in the Holy Quran.

“This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.”

The Holy Quran has been sent for the guidance of mankind. It is full of wisdom and commands.

Saudi Arabia Appearance

International Business Dress and Appearance  Never show bare shoulders, stomach, calves and thighs.

International Business Dress and Appearance  Visitors are expected to abide by local standards of modesty however, do not adopt native clothing. Traditional clothes on foreigners may be offensive.

International Business Dress and Appearance  Despite the heat, most of the body must always remain covered.

International Business Dress and Appearance  A jacket and tie are usually required for men at business meetings. Men should wear long pants and a shirt, preferably long-sleeved, buttoned up to the collar. Men should also avoid wearing visible jewelry, particularly around the neck.

International Business Dress and Appearance  Women should always wear modest clothing in public. High necklines sleeves at least to the elbows are expected. Hemlines, if not ankle-length should at least be well below the knee. A look of baggy concealment should be the goal, pants or pant suits are not recommended. It is a good idea to keep a scarf handy, especially if entering a Mosque.


Saudi Arabia Behavior 

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  It is common to remove your shoes before entering a building. Follow the lead of your host.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Alcohol and pork are illegal.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  In the Muslim world, Friday is the day of rest.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  There are several styles of greetings used; it is best to wait for your counterpart to initiate the greeting. Men shake hands with other men. Some men will shake hands with a woman; it is advisable for a businesswoman to wait for a man to offer his hand. A more traditional greeting between men involves grasping each other’s right hand, placing the left hand on the other’s right shoulder and exchanging kisses on each cheek.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  The left hand is considered unclean and reserved for hygiene avoid gestures with the right hand. Do not point at another person and do not eat with the left hand.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Men walking hand in hand is a sign a friendship.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Try not to cross your legs when sitting. Never show the bottom of your feet.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  The "thumbs up" gesture is offensive.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Gifts are not necessary, but appreciated. Avoid admiring an item too much, you host may feel obligated to give it to you. When offered a gift, it is impolite to refuse.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Women in Saudi Arabia are not permitted to drive vehicles.


Saudi Arabia Communications

  Do not discuss the subject of women, not even to inquire about the health of a wife or daughter. The topic of Israel should also be avoided. Sports is an appropriate topic.

  Names are often confusing. It’s best to get the names (in English) of those you will meet, speak to, or correspond with before hand. Find out both their full names and how they are to be addressed in person.

  Communications occur at a slow pace. Do not feel obligated to speak during periods of silence. "Yes" usually means "possibly".

  Your Saudi host may interrupt your meeting or conversation, leave the room and be gone for 15 to 20 minutes for the purpose of his daily prayers.

  At a meeting, the person who asks the most questions is likely to be the least important. The decision maker is likely a silent observer.

  A customary greeting is salaam alaykum. Shaking hands and saying kaif hal ak comes next.


 Saudi Arabia Resources

International Business Center Newsletter
Free subscription click here

Site Resource Page

International Career Center - Information on international careers and jobs

Fact Book on Saudi Arabia

The Hadj: An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca, Michael Wolfe, October 1998



Africa   Argentina   Australia   Brazil   Canada   Chile   China  Colombia   Costa Rica   Ecuador   Egypt   El Salvador   France   Germany   Great Britain   Guatemala  Hong Kong   India   Indonesia  Italy   Japan   Mexico   New Zealand   Panama   Russia   Saudi Arabia   Spain   Taiwan   United Arab Emirates   United States   Venezuela






Geert Hofstede         Free Monthly Newsletter        Resource Page

International Business Center

Check out the FREE services you get when registering your Domain Name through Cheap Domain Name Superstore ! FREE Domain Name LOCKING !
One Year .COMs now only $7.85 plus big savings on transfers!


Unlimited live telephone support ! Get .com  .net  .org  .biz  .us  .ws  .cc  .be  .tv  .jp  .at  .de  +!



Thanks to the UTD Global MBA graduates who work
diligently on collecting the information for this Website.

Page authored by: Patty Butler

© 1998-2019 - all rights reserved