Unravelling the Business Etiquette in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's business culture is characterized by a few key aspects that are important for foreigners to understand and respect.


Punctuality is viewed more flexibly in Saudi Arabia, so while your Saudi counterparts may be running late or meetings may start late, as a foreign visitor, it's still important to arrive on time as a sign of respect for your hosts.


Hierarchy plays a significant role in Saudi Arabian society, with a clear system of hierarchy that is strictly followed. Decisions typically come from the top down, with the highest-ranking individuals holding the decision-making power. It's important to address or greet senior members of the delegation first and maintain a courteous and deferential tone throughout your interactions.


Greetings in Saudi Arabia are warm and reflective of the country's Islamic culture. Men generally greet each other with a handshake, along with eye contact and a warm smile. When greeting women, it's important to wait for them to initiate the greeting. Using honorifics while addressing individuals is also common practice, with a simple 'As-Salamu Alaykum' (peace be upon you) being a universally appreciated way to initiate conversations.

Other commonly used greetings include:

  • Good morning – Sabaah al khayr
  • Good evening – Aasaa' al khayr
  • Good night – Tusbih äalaa khayr
  • Nice to meet you – Forsa sa’eda or Tasharrafna
  • My name is... – Ismii...
  • Please – Min fadlik
  • Thank you – Shukran

Business attire in Saudi Arabia follows a formal, conservative dress code influenced by Islamic principles. Men can choose between Western-style suits or the traditional thobe with a head covering, while women should dress modestly, covering their arms, legs, and hair.

Gift-giving is not typically practiced in Saudi business settings, as it can sometimes be interpreted as a bribe. If you do decide to give a gift, it should be done toward the end of business dealings and should avoid items like alcohol, pork products, or knives.

Business meetings in Saudi Arabia are slightly more laid-back, but still formal. Expect long discussions and negotiations, as Saudis take a measured pace. It's important to maintain a calm and respectful demeanor, avoiding raising your voice or using aggressive tactics.

Overall, by understanding and respecting Saudi Arabia's business culture, you can build strong relationships that pave the way for successful business ventures in the country.

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