Egyptian business values are quite influenced by traditional culture – influenced by Islam, family and fatalism. Honour is one of the elements that are most valued. Other important elements in their etiquette, include loyalty, education and modesty.
- Primary Contact: It is important that you announce your meeting and reconfirm it at least a week prior to the event. The best way to establish contact is by phone call or email. You should avoid setting up meetings on a Friday as it is their day off, as well as you should avoid setting up meetings during Ramadan.
- Punctuality: Deadlines as well as business meeting times are usually approximate. Therefore, Egyptians don’t put an incredible emphasis on punctuality.
- Greetings: Saying ‘hello’ in Arabic, would usually be a pleaser for your counterpart and would be considered quite respectful, especially if the meeting is taking place in their country. Shaking hands and exchanging welcoming words, without being incredibly formal, is considered to be the norm.
- Gifting: Gifts are an important part of Egyptian business culture, as well as their culture in general. In business, it is almost never considered corruption and moreover, it is considered an act of respect to bring and exchange gifts. When receiving or handing a gift, make sure you always do it with your right hand or with both hands, but never with your left hand.
- Dress-Code: The business dress code is formal and quite conservative: men should be wearing suits and ties at all times in a business environment, while women should wear dresses or skirts that cover the knees and long sleeves.
- Business Cards: Exchanging business cards is typically done at the beginning of a business meeting. It is advised that you have your business card translated on one side in Arabic and the other in English.
- Business Meetings: Before starting to collaborate with another party, it is quite important that you become a little more personal with them. This means that you should generally be interested in their personal and family life (which is acceptable to ask about). During meetings, small talk at the beginning of a meeting are appreciated, while political subjects and views are usually approached.
In conclusion, the distinction between personal and professional relationships is sometimes held with quite a high barrier, however, a professional relationship can easily develop into a personal one, as this is considered to be quite normal in the Egyptian business culture.