After the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia is the second reference market for Italy in the gulf area.

Italian companies exported 4 million euros in 2012, 4.5 million in 2013, 4.8 million in 2014, 5,1 million in 2015. Data on 2016 show a decrease for Italian export (-18% and almost 4,2 million euros).

Doing business in Saudi Arabia can be a highly lucrative venture for Western businesspeople if they can handle the culture differences. Let’s read some etiquette and behavior to do business with Saudi Arabians.

Trust, first feeling

To do business in Saudi Arabia it is important to know that kingdom has adopted many of the business styles common in the West. They like and respect western businesspeople and actually want to do business with them.

Because of that, to do business with a Saudi businessperson, it’s necessary to establish a trust relation so that he will feel comfortable and safe to discuss serious business matters. They prefer to have a negotiation with those they know and trust.

Consequently, expect to make a number of personal visits to advance this process. Knowledge and understanding of the essential concepts of Islam will help to establish a foundation upon which trust can be built.

Gender Considerations

In Saudi Arabia, the public interaction between men and women are limited, even in business settings. Handshakes are normal between men, but it is better to let the other man initiate this. A warm, firm handshake is preferred. Once people become more familiar with you, they may greet you with air-kisses.

You should dress formally, suit, shirt and tie if you are a man without jewelery. For western woman is better that they wear smart, modest business attire covered.

Body Language

Don’t show the sole of your foot to someone, it’s unlucky, and also rude. Don’t point. Don’t wave your hands around - and especially don’t gesture with your left hand.


It is good to have new technology because Saudis are impressed by that, and are interested in the latest gadgets. Talk to them about their own BlackBerry or iPhone too.


The society is extremely bureaucratic. Most decisions require several layers of approval. It takes several visits to accomplish simple tasks, therefore Decisions are made slowly. They are tough negotiators and demand patience, all the decisions are made by the boss or who have the highest position.


Business meetings should always be arranged a few weeks in advance and if possible scheduled in the morning. Punctuality from foreign visitors is expected although it is considered acceptable, in keeping with the Saudi’s flexible view of time, keeping them waiting, might cause the cancellation of the meetings.

Until the relationship and trust have developed, meetings are often not private and regular interruptions can occur.

Business cards

Business cards are not essential, they can be given to all contacts and, if given, they should have one side translated into Arabic.

Don’t do it

- Don’t take photos of people without permission;

- Don’t refuse coffee, tea and dates and don’t ask alcohol drinks;

- Avoid asking specifically about a Saudi businessman’s female relatives;

- Don’t say anything critical regarding the royal family, Islam or a person’s family;

- Foreigners should not wear any local dress during a business meeting as it would look bizarre.

Fonte: a cura di Exportiamo, di Morvarid Mahmoodabadi,


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