Therefore, Americans seeking to do business with Saudi nationals would be well advised to research their prospective Saudi counterparts thoroughly but to make preparations to travel to Saudi Arabia first before actually initiating contact with Saudi business people. Doing so and calling after arriving in Saudi Arabia instead of initiating contact from abroad demonstrates awareness of and respect for Saudi business customs right off the bat and in a way that should be noticed by Saudis, especially those who might be familiar with the fact that the norm in the U.S. is simply to call first or email to arrange the first meeting.
Saudis seeking to do business with American firms should understand that in the U.S., it might be inappropriate to travel to the location of a business first and then make initial contact expecting that the meeting will necessarily be planned during their stay. That is because in Saudi Arabia, business people contacted by foreigners after their arrival in the Kingdom realize immediately that the foreigner is making an effort to conform to Saudi business cultural norms.
Conversely, in the U.S. In general and especially in the less formal business environment in many organizations and regions of the Midwest, Saudis should anticipate that their business counterparts will not necessarily realize why Saudis have first travelled to their city before making contact. Even if it does not seem presumptuous to the American, their unawareness of the custom might result in their failure to make time to accommodate the request for the appointment. That is not likely to happen in Saudi Arabia, precisely because Saudis understand that foreigners who wait until arriving in the Kingdom have gone out of their way to conform to Saudi cultural norms.
Therefore, Americans should plan to travel to the Kingdom first and then make their initial contact whereas Saudis should realize that making contact from abroad first would be more consistent with American cultural norms and would probably result in a much greater likelihood that their initial meeting plans will be accommodated by Americans. In that respect, this may be even more important for Saudis approaching business partners in the Midwest simply because they are somewhat less likely to be as aware of foreign business etiquette as business people from the East Coast and West Coast.
In the U.S., business people shake hands irrespective of gender. That is not true among Saudis and other individuals from Middle Eastern nations (Harris, & Moran, 2007). Saudi men women who are not married or related to one another generally do not ever touch one another, even in formal business gestures such as handshakes. On the other hand, Saudi male nationals typically kiss one another on the cheeks, whereas this is definitely not the case in the U.S. In general or in the Midwest in particular. Therefore, it would be beneficial for Americans doing business with Saudi national to understand that kissing on the check is a social norm.
American business people need not necessarily participate in that ritual, although it may be appropriate to do so when business is taking place in the Saudi Kingdom. Meanwhile, American businessmen should understand this norm so that they are prepared and not offended or otherwise caught off-guard by a kiss on the cheek from a male Saudi business person. Likewise, Saudis doing business in the U.S. should realize that this custom may be completely foreign to Americans and even more so in the Midwest.
Saudis also have very different expectations when it comes to the rituals involving exchanging business cards (Harris, & Moran, 2007). In the U.S., business cards are usually exchanged either at some point during the first meeting or as it is coming to its conclusion. Americans do not necessarily take the time to carefully red one another's cards at the point of exchange and their cards are usually printed only on one side and only in English. In Saudi Arabia, business cards are usually exchanged immediately and the recipients usually take the time to read one another's cards more carefully immediately upon their exchange. Saudi business cards are usually two-sided with English (or other foreign language) on one side and Arabic on the other side.
Americans should understand that if they hand a Saudi national a business card that does not provide an Arabic translation that might be seen as a sign of ignorance of Saudi business practices or disrespect. Naturally, this transgression is more likely to be considered negatively by Americans seeking to do business with Saudis than by American business people approached by Saudis.
Americans should also understand that they should demonstrate interest in their counterparts' business cards and take the time to read them and ask relevant questions instead of just putting them in their folders or pockets without really looking at them as if frequently the case among Americans when they exchange business cards. Saudis should realize that if an American business person does not demonstrate an interest in reading a business associate's business card that is not an indication of lack of interest or respect but merely a function of ordinary social practices in American business.
Possibly one of the most important differences in Saudi and American business culture is that Americans do business (especially initial business) only in the office whereas Saudis typically conduct initial meetings in their homes (Hughes & Chesters, 2003). In the Midwest, Americans are somewhat more likely to invite business counterparts to informal meetings outside of the office, but rarely on first meeting and rarely in their homes, at least initially. However, this raises several issues that Americans should be aware of before they travel to the Saudi Kingdom for business.
In Saudi Arabia, it is considered impolite to discuss business during the first meeting, even when it is understood by both parties that the reason for the meeting in the first place is business-related (Hughes & Chesters, 2003). This, in particular, is a completely foreign concept to Americans who are used to talking business either immediately or at least at some point during the first meeting. Therefore, Americans doing business in Saudi Arabia must understand that the ideal response to being invited to the home of a Saudi national, even for a business meeting, is not to bring up business at any time during that meeting unless the host does so first.
Likewise, Saudis seeking to do business with Americans should understand why it is (at worst) nothing more than innocent ignorance of Saudi customs if an American makes the mistake of violating that expectation on Saudi soil. Saudis should also understand that when they are in the U.S., they should probably expect any first meeting to be in the office or at a formal lunch and that in both cases, the focus of the meeting will turn to business almost immediately.
Moreover, when meeting Saudis at their homes, Americans should realize that there is a common trend of people bringing gifts to the family they are visiting. The gifts could be anything else away from alcohol unless one is absolutely sure that they partake of alcohol, flowers would not make a male host any happy but women would consider it and it is of significance to note that gifts are not opened upon receiving them so Americans should not be offended if their hosts simply place their gifts aside and they should not rip open any gift presented to them unless or until invited to do so by their hosts. Americans should also understand that Saudi hosts are likely to entertain their business guests in restaurants and international hotels and after knowing them for some time. Furthermore, the entertainment is noted to be of the same sex generally and in case there is a mix of gender, there will be separate rooms for each gender.
Americans should understand that whenever entering the home of a Saudi, there is a tradition of removing shoes at the door before entrance and a conservative dressing code. They value banality though this is not very crucial. The elders feel respected when they are greeted first. However, male guests are not expected to speak directly to any female members of their Saudi host's families unless introduced and invited to do so. Even then, they should never offer a handshake or initiate any physical contact that is not first initiated (if at all) by the Saudis (Kwintessential, 2012). Likewise, Americans should avoid staring at any Saudi females and should never make any comments about their physical attractiveness (Kwintessential, 2012).
The Saudis are generally people who do not observe the same social rules pertaining to personal space as Americans and will stand quite close to others when talking about serious issues. Therefore, Americans should be prepared for this and should try to consciously avoid reflexively stepping backward to maintain what would usually be considered an appropriate interpersonal distance in the U.S. because that could be perceived as a rejection by…