Cultural Challenges When Doing Business in the Middle East

You’re thinking or have already made a decision, that you are doing business with the Middle East or Northern Africa? Finland and the Middle East have absolutely different cultures and approaches to people and in order to have positive business experience and make deals in the Middle East, you need to learn more how to do business in the Middle East and how to establish connection with Middle Easterners.

5 Tips When Doing Business in the Middle East

Business doesn’t come first, does it?

Famous saying “Business comes first” might not be true when doing business in the Middle East. Your business partner would typically want to know you better in order to trust you. Same applies to you, to make a successful deal, you need to be closer to your business partner. What if you’re a business woman doing business in the Middle East? You would have warmer relationships with your business partner’s wife. In Finland we are used to split bills when meeting, but Middle Easterners and Northern Africans are famous for hospitality, generally whoever is hosting that person pays.

Family is the cornerstone of life

In order to do a business with Middle Easterner you have to know him as a person, and to know him as a person you need to know his family. It is common that families in the Middle East are larger compared to the Finnish ones.  Some Middle Easterners that do not have much experience with Europeans might have negative prejudice that Europeans have cold relationships with their families, so in order to gain trust of your business partner, prove him wrong!

5 Tips When Doing Business in the Middle East


Middle Eastern handshake is soft and gentle. In Europe we say by the handshake “I am strong, you can trust me”, but in the Middle East it means “I am hospitable, you can trust me”. Handshake might last longer and to show his gratitude, a Middle easterner would typically touch his heart, when greeting. A business woman might decide not to shake a hand of a businessman, instead she touches her heart. Greetings vary on the region where your business partners are.


Religion is an important part of life of a Middle Easterner. Even though the majority of population is Muslim, there are millions of Christians and Jews in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Islam recognises Christianity and Judaism. Generally Middle Easterners have warm relationships with other religions but what could confuse a Middle Easterner is not believing in God at all.

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5 Tips When Doing Business in the Middle East

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