Doing Business in Arab Countries – What You Should Know

If you want to market, exhibit or host events in other countries, you really DO need to understand their mindset, worldview and culture as much as possible. And this goes much deeper than markers such as demographics.


Differences between national cultures only really become apparent when they are contrasted with other cultures. To highlight the differences, we are looking now at the two greatest cultural differences between Arab countries and Western countries, which are: Power Distance Index (PDI), and Societal Cohesion (also known as Individualism (IDV)).


Power Distance Index (PDI)


Generally speaking, most Arab countries have a very high Power Distance Index (PDI) score while most Western countries score much lower in this category. Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States are all very close in terms of their Power Distance Index rating – all hovering around 35 to 40. In contrast, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all have PDI score of 90 to 95.

What that means is that there is much more distance, separation and hierarchy between those doing the most basic (menial) work and those who are in control of business and government. Just by the admission that there IS a hierarchy makes it clear that those cultures are different from countries, such as the USA, where we claim to have very little social hierarchy. When asked to clarify, most Americans would see themselves as “middle class” or “upper middle class,” even though we know that not everyone falls into that grouping.


Societal Cohesion (also known as Individualism, IDV)


In regard to Individualism, these same Arab countries have a score of 25 on the Individualism index, while the same Western countries have a score between 67 and 91, with the USA being the highest, or most individualized culture.

What should these measures say about exhibiting, marketing, or generally doing business in these countries?


It actually has a tremendous impact on how business is negotiated, awarded, and operated. These things permeate nearly every aspect of life and culture.


In these Arab countries, there will be relatively few decision makers. These are the ones you need convince to buy your product. There isn’t much corporate bureaucracy to get a decision. But, due to the fact that they are more collectivistic, there are very tight-knit social groups and families (strong influencers) which you need to be connected with in order to transact business, or use to get access to the decision makers.

For additional insights, download a copy of our Culture Compass for Arab Countries – a single-page infographic with one-a-kind content – FREE for a limited time. 


We have compressed years of experience and study of Arabic cultures – and have identified 8 KEY INSIGHTS for conducting business in Arab countries, which we think are MOST CRITICAL for you to understand. Download the free Culture Compass for Arab Countries by putting your name and email address in the short form below:

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