Qatar is a small country located in the Middle East, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the Persian Gulf to the north, east, and west. Islam is the dominant religion in Qatar, and the country’s legal system is based on Islamic law, which is known as Sharia. Qatar’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years due to its large reserves of natural gas and oil, as well as its efforts to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment. The country’s business culture is heavily influenced by its Islamic and Arab heritage, as well as its growing international outlook. Before starting a business in Qatar, it is important to have a good understanding of the business culture in Qatar. This will help you to build strong relationships with clients and partners, navigate cultural differences, and avoid any cultural misunderstandings that could impact your business. Here are some key aspects of business culture in Qatar:
- Relationship-building is important: In Qatar, building personal relationships and trust is an important part of conducting business. Business relationships are often built on personal connections, and it is common for people to take the time to get to know each other on a personal level before engaging in business discussions. This helps to establish a level of trust and familiarity that is important in Qatari business culture. Additionally, maintaining personal relationships is often seen as more important than the specific details of a business deal, and it is not uncommon for business discussions to be postponed in favor of socializing or discussing personal matters.
- Etiquette is important: Etiquette is highly valued in Qatari business culture, and it is important to show respect to colleagues and partners by adhering to social norms and customs. For example, dressing modestly is highly recommended, especially for women, as Qatar is a conservative Muslim country. Men should wear suits and ties for formal occasions, while women should dress modestly, covering their arms and legs, and wearing a headscarf in some situations.
- Hierarchy is respected: Qatar is a hierarchical society, and this is reflected in the workplace. It is important to show respect to those in positions of authority, such as managers, supervisors, or business owners, and to defer to their decisions. The decision-making process in Qatari business culture is often hierarchical, and decisions are often made at the highest levels of an organization. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of rank and social status when interacting with others in a business setting.
- Time is flexible: In Qatar, there is often a more relaxed approach to time, and punctuality is not always as strictly observed as it is in some Western cultures. Meetings and appointments may start later than scheduled, and it is important to be patient and flexible. This approach to time is often influenced by the culture’s emphasis on building personal relationships and taking the time to socialize and get to know each other. It is not uncommon for meetings to begin with small talk and for business discussions to be interspersed with socializing.
- Business is conducted in Arabic: While many Qataris do speak English, Arabic is the official language of Qatar, and business is often conducted in Arabic, particularly in government and official settings. Therefore, it is important to have at least a basic understanding of Arabic or to work with a translator if you do not speak the language. Even if you are working with an Arabic-speaking business partner who also speaks English, it is still a good idea to show respect for their language and culture by learning some basic Arabic phrases and customs. This can help to build rapport and demonstrate a willingness to engage with local culture.
- Gift-giving is common: Gift-giving is a common practice in Qatar, and it is often seen as a way to show appreciation and build relationships. However, it is important to understand local customs and traditions when giving gifts in order to avoid any cultural misunderstandings. When giving gifts in Qatar, it is important to choose something that is thoughtful and of high quality. Common gift ideas include items such as traditional Qatari clothing or jewellery, high-end chocolates or sweets, or small souvenirs that reflect your home country.
- Women in business: Women are increasingly entering the workforce in Qatar, but there are still some cultural barriers to overcome. In particular, it is important to dress conservatively and be respectful of local customs when working in Qatar, especially as a woman. In Qatar, conservative dress is the norm, particularly for women. It is important to dress modestly and cover the shoulders, arms, and legs, with clothing that is not form-fitting. This is particularly important in government and official settings, as well as in more conservative industries.
Overall, Understanding the cultural norms of Qatar is essential for success in the Qatari business world. Building strong relationships based on mutual respect and trust is key to doing business in Qatar, and following the appropriate etiquette and showing respect for local customs is important. Qatar is a society that places great value on relationships, and this is reflected in the business culture. It is important to take the time to get to know people on a personal level and build trust over time. Respect and etiquette are also highly valued, and it is important to show respect for colleagues and partners, follow social norms such as dressing modestly, and greet others with a handshake. By understanding and respecting these cultural norms, you can build strong relationships and position your business for success in the Qatari business world.