Egypt – Relationship Building
With over 87 million inhabitants, Egypt is the largest country in North Africa, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza Strip, Israel, Red Sea, Sudan and Libya. The majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, where the only arable land is found. Arabic is the official language but English or French are widely understood.
Egypt’s economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism. Tourism is one of the most important sectors in Egypt’s economy and employs about 12% of Egypt’s workforce. More than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2008, providing revenues of nearly $11 billion.
Islam is practised by the majority of Egyptians and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Few people will work on a Friday, which is the Muslim holy day. As alcohol is forbidden in Islam, so do not give it as a present. If invited to an Egyptian’s home, take along some sweets, pastries or baked goods. Flowers are only really used at weddings and funerals.
The hierarchical nature of Egyptian society means that status is always an issue. Common titles are doctor (for both a medical doctor and an academic), muhendis (engineer) and sheikh (religious scholar). Most Egyptians should be addressed by their title followed by surname. The common greeting you will hear is “salaam aleikum”, which should be replied to with “waaleikum us salam”.
If you have arranged business meetings in Egypt, confirm the arrangement prior to leaving for Egypt and also upon arrival. When meeting someone for the first time, it is a sign of disrespect to dive straight into talking business. Business and personal lives often overlap and intertwine, so ensure you ask personal questions to get to know the person, and also be willing to discuss your personal circumstances, i.e. children, job, etc. Always wait for the other party to start talking business.
Business meetings may be lengthy but relationship-building is vital. During negotiations, focus on elements such as trust, the personal relationship, mutual benefit, status and of course profitability.
Share your Egyptian business experiences
Sources: Wikipedia, Kwintessential
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