- Business Meeting
- Public Holidays
Compared to the Czech Republic, cultural and business negotiations have some specifics that must be kept in mind. There are both European and some Middle Eastern elements in Armenian culture and attitude. Customs and approaches from Europe, the Middle East and the post-Soviet space intertwine here. In particular, the perception of time and time management are different, the approach to meeting deadlines is much more relaxed and, as a rule, accuracy and punctuality are not so important. The Armenian business environment is more conservative. Personal relationships play a huge role in business. Armenians try to avoid ambiguity and uncertainty, people do not readily accept change and risk. The language is also specific, because Armenian forms a separate group in the Indo-European language family (it is not similar to other languages) and also uses its own script. In the business environment, most partners speak English and/or Russian.
The address Mr./Ms. (phonetically “paron”, “tikin”) is most often used in Armenia. Middle-aged and older business partners and persons in a higher position can be addressed by their first name and patronymic, as in Russia, and at the same time call them (“Armen Ashotovič, You…”). The younger generation usually has no problem – after mutual agreement – switching to calling by their first name and ticking.
Meetings can be arranged during regular working hours (usually starting later than in the Czech Republic), sometimes even after working hours. They usually take place in the partner’s office. It is better to always count on the possible delay of the Armenian counterpart. For younger counterparts, western business culture prevails, meetings are usually held during lunch or normal working hours. Appropriate information material about past successful projects will help to increase credibility. On the business card, it is a good idea to include a mobile phone number connected to a communication application such as Viber or WhatsApp, which can be contacted in urgent cases. As for gifts, Armenian partners will appreciate even a modest gift related to the Czech Republic. Large, luxurious or personal gifts are not usually expected from European partners.
In Armenia, with the exception of public holidays and major Christian holidays, meetings can be scheduled for practically any day of the week, including weekends. Standard working hours are from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, some companies also work on Saturdays. Working hours generally start later in the morning. It always depends on the agreement, but in general it is more appropriate to schedule meetings, for example, from 10:00 onwards or, even better, in the afternoon or evening hours.
Similar to other countries in the region, a hierarchical management structure prevails, in which everyone has their place depending on their position. Negotiations are usually led by the highest official. The power gap is very strong in Armenia, responsibility and decision-making powers are unevenly distributed. Personal relationships also play a big role in companies. Armenian partners may also take long pauses during the speech, digress to other topics or engage in philosophical reflections. In such situations, it is advisable to actively listen, or to express agreement in a suitable form (e.g. nod, brief comment of approval).
Armenian businessmen are known and relied on for their business skills. Get ready to defend your own interests and stand up for yourself. It is normal to politely decline an offer if the reasons and arguments are explained. The Armenian side will almost certainly want to reach a consensual solution during the negotiations, the Czech partners should be able to react flexibly and have some room for maneuver. Armenian partners will appreciate and value special offers, discounts or other benefits prepared specifically for them.
Armenia is generally very proud of its Christian culture and its long history. If one does not engage in criticism of these topics, from a cultural-religious point of view, no significant areas of friction should arise. The local market is quite small, so often everyone knows everyone very well within each industry. Sometimes it can be difficult to conduct negotiations with several competing companies so that it does not become known. On the other hand, it can sometimes be useful, because an easier connection, for example between companies and authorities, can speed up some processes.
It is necessary to prepare for a different perception of time, which is more southern European than central European. The Armenian counterpart may be punctual and punctual on first contact (out of politeness), but generally does not play much on punctuality. There may also be various delays and delays. However, there is no evil intention or striving for dominance behind it, just other cultural customs. Communication by e-mail requires more patience, it may happen that you wait a longer time (several days) for a response. In such a case, it is possible to call, draw attention to the sent e-mail, explain the urgency of the matter and ask for a quick response.
The opening of the meeting is usually rather formal, it can be carried only in an austere spirit. Over the course of the meeting, the style and mood usually changes, and with subsequent meetings the atmosphere becomes friendlier, more pleasant and more flexible. Expressing strong emotions is not common. Sometimes the Armenian side may include compliments to the counterpart in order to secure a better offer or to reach an agreement more easily. Among the younger generation, it is better to expect a Western/European way of doing things. Acting too friendly can look suspicious and discourage potential business partners.
Armenia is a relatively small and compact country, the main difference is between the capital Yerevan and the other regions. Outside of Yerevan, more friendliness and openness is more likely, but also slightly less knowledge of languages with a preference for Russian.
After the end of the main part of the meeting, a toast may follow. The partner will probably offer famous Armenian brandy (“cognac”), or an invitation to a dinner or a reception with traditional Armenian cuisine. In this case, local Armenian wine, brandy is usually served, and in the restaurant you can also choose beer with your meal. In a more friendly atmosphere, vodka may be offered. It is not common to drink too much alcohol (over the limit), but the whole evening can stretch well into the night due to a series of celebratory toasts. It is also good to have at least a short speech prepared.
Choose clothes normally as in the Czech Republic, taking into account the weather (hard winters and hot summers). Armenian men usually wear a suit to meetings. Women at meetings also prefer more formal clothing, often more expressive make-up, nails and jewelry than here (significant interventions from the field of plastic surgery are also common). In some sectors, the counterpart may prefer smart casual clothes.
The hierarchy will be clearly stated during the negotiations. Regardless of the number of participating employees, as a rule, the director will lead the meeting on behalf of the other party, while other employees will express their views after being invited, for example, on individual areas under discussion. In terms of gender balance, male dominance is more common in Armenia, but there are also a number of women in leadership positions. The age and gender composition of the team does not play a crucial role, nor does there exist an ideal number of team members.
Families and homes are highly private matters in Armenia, so getting invited home is rather special. As an expression of trust and closeness, an invitation to a restaurant for a big dinner or reception with Armenian specialties is more common. The Armenian partner may also suggest a sightseeing trip to one of the many local cultural monuments (a number of popular places are also located near Yerevan). When invited home, it is advisable to bring attention with you to the visit, for example in the form of a box of chocolates and a bottle of alcohol (a similar gift is usually expected on a similar occasion).
Armenians are often very educated people. Depending on experience, sector and age, they will usually speak Russian, English, or both languages well (in this case, the language of the meeting depends on mutual agreement). Russian is universally understandable, at least passively, Armenian businessmen usually speak Russian very well and dealing in Russian is comfortable for them. Young people in particular often prefer English, and for personal or principled reasons they will want to conduct meetings in English. It is common to ask questions at first and agree on a variant that suits both parties. If the Armenian partner does not speak English, the services of an interpreter into at least Russian can be used. Other foreign languages are less common, but due to the large Armenian diaspora in many countries of the world, you can come across speakers of various, even less widespread, languages. Visit Animalerts for more information about Armenia culture and traditions.
A good knowledge of English is usually common in foreign (especially Western) companies, banks, law offices, companies from the IT sector or companies focused on trade with countries outside the so-called post-Soviet space. Companies focused on Russia and the post-Soviet space tend to use Russian as their working language. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by a superior knowledge of a foreign language even where you would not expect it.
An unpleasant topic that must be avoided at all costs is previous business experience with counterparts from Azerbaijan or Turkey. Whatever your experience with these countries is, this topic will evoke at least mistrust, at worst, strong negative emotions on the Armenian side. It is not appropriate to comment on the country’s foreign policy, specifically its relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, especially in light of the recent heated phase of the armed conflict.
The middle and older generations are more likely to prefer face-to-face interaction. Both telephone and e-mail communication (or a combination of both) will suit the younger generation of businessmen. For greater flexibility, it is also possible to use mobile communication applications (especially Viber, WhatsApp, or Telegram), which are popular and commonly used for business meetings.
In general, prepare for the presence of a double culture (both European style and rather Middle Eastern style – depending on the specific sector and the age of the representative of the opposing party). This entails certain complications, especially in the different approach to time and deadlines, so patience, discretion and consideration are needed. In some aspects of life, the bureaucratic heritage of the USSR still cannot be denied in Armenia, so it is advisable to have documents, stamps, all kinds of confirmations in order. Considerable formality is common around business documentation and signatures (including, for example, verification by a notary). It may happen that the other party will not be able to answer the questions or requests and will be limited to the communication that something is not working. Sometimes, however, there may be no objective reason behind it – for example, it’s just not appropriate to express uncertainty. In similar cases, you need to arm yourself with patience, try to better explain the essence of the problem and actively propose alternative solutions. In general, the Czech Republic is perceived positively in Armenia, Czech companies and products have a good reputation here and can also benefit from a Western/European brand, which is perceived as a sign of quality.
- 1. and 2. 1. New Year
- 1. Christmas
- 1. Army Day (male version of the National Army Day)
- 3. Women’s Day (MDŽ)
Easter (on the same date as in the Czech Republic)
- 4. Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Genocide (nationwide mourning, commemorative events taking place all over the country)
- 5. Labor Day
- 5. Day of Victory and Peace
- 5. Republic Day (commemoration of the establishment of the first Armenian Republic in 1918)
- 7. Constitution Day
- 9. Independence Day (independence from the USSR in 1991)
- 12. New Year’s Eve