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In the age of global business intercultural insensitivity is not only foolish it is expensive.

Craig Storti


Arabia for Executives

Islam – so close, so strange: Arabia for Managers

Whoever works in the Arab Region needs to have time and patience. A contract will not be concluded in a hurry and certainly not with anybody. One should not be surprised if the business partner comes half an hour later to the agreed meeting.

The first rule therefore is that one cannot expect that business simply runs as it does in Germany. In other words: Get to the point relatively quickly. One has to take a good deal of time in order to establish a personal relationship with business partners.

Establishing personal relationships is important...

...but please not with the wife of your business partner, because she is absolutely taboo. When you meet for the first time, do not rush towards her with your hand stretched out, rather wait and watch how she behaves. If she does not hold out her own hand in greeting, then smile and simply nod your head: This will be quite sufficient! If she is absent, the German businessperson should not ask his Arab partner how she is doing! On the other hand, asking about the family is perfectly acceptable, since family is very important in Arab and Islamic societies. Do tell something about your own family, or even better: Take them all with you! "It is a great advantage if you go to the arab-islamic countries with your family, because there, children are not considered as a nuisance or poverty factor as it is unfortunately the case here in Germany, rather they seen as wealth and as something wonderful. This is why: The more, the better" explains Zeina Matar, a Lebanese born consultant who advises companies doing business in the Orient.

Women do not have it so hard...

This surprises many Germans: Women do not have it so hard, as it is often claimed. A German businesswoman can be just as accepted and taken seriously as a man, providing she sticks to some rules: Decent clothing, no figure-hugging spaghetti tops, no mini-skirts, not too often cross the legs, and most importantly convey a clear message "I am here to do business, I demand respect and I am behaving accordingly." This means for instance that a woman should not accept dinner invitations. At least not when she is alone, since that could be misinterpreted by the male business partner.

Generally speaking the following applies: If you show your business partner that you are taking him seriously and that you respect his culture, then small errors are quickly forgiven, says Zeina Matar who adds that Arabs have a sense of humor with which one can achieve a great deal, then laughing is in any case a door opener.

Stephanie Dötzer, (C) SWR 2007
The SWR is a member of the ARD

SWR1 Radio podcast: Arabia for Executives (in German)  

Attracting Arab Tourists To The Northern Black Forest

Pforzheim – On December 10, 2008 the Chamber of Commerce of the Northern Black Forest organized an information event entitled "From the Arab Gulf States to the Musterländle". Baden-Württemberg hoteliers and tourist experts gained knowledge about what Arab guests most appreciate about Germany, and about the best way of winning them over.

In her lecture, Dr. Matar stressed the importance of intercultural competence for successful interaction with Arab guests, giving some practical advice.

Heiner Kunold made this report for the program "All that is important..." SWR4 Baden Radio, January 10, 2008.

A Window for a Different Glance

Stuttgart, August 16, 2008. For her contribution Nafidha li-ru'ya ukhra (A Window for a Different Glance) in Thaqafa wa-mujtama' (Culture and Society) Ruba Anabtawi of Deutsche Welle reported about the workshop "Successfully Living and Working In Germany and in Islamic Countries" held August 12-14, 2008 at IFA in Stuttgart in an interview with Dr. Zeina Matar.

Mrs. Matar expressed her satisfaction about the open, positive atmosphere of the seminar, the tolerance and mutual respect of the participants. She said, that in spite of issues and stumbling blocks, the workshop had brought together young Germans and Muslims exemplarily. Rapprochement can only be achieved gradually, with every step reducing disparities between them.