Iran Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Iran currently represents one of the few major world economies that remain largely outside the globalized market. For this reason, Iran will represent a great opportunity for foreign companies and investors in the future. However, due to its many cultural and political specificities, trade with Iran requires a great deal of patience. Acquainting foreign business partners with the environment and entering the local market can be greatly facilitated by a high-quality local sales representative, which foreign companies should arrange at an early stage of contacts with Iran.

Addressing

The employees of the trade and economic section of the Czech Embassy in Tehran can help with the first approach to business partners or the search for suitable contacts.

If you are interested in a long-term presence on the Iranian market, due to the persistent language barrier (most business partners in Iran speak only Persian) and other cultural specifics that may not be obvious to our people, it is advisable to arrange for a proven and trustworthy local representative. The latter can help with orientation in the local market, among other things thanks to knowledge of the often complicated socio-economic ties.

Business meeting

Personal contact with business partners is very important in Iranian culture. E-mail or telephone communication can replace it only temporarily. In direct negotiations, Iranians pay attention to the hierarchy, therefore the highest representatives of the companies are usually the first to speak, who then manage the negotiations in their course. Especially during the first contact, it is advisable to welcome your partner by handing over at least a symbolic gift. Iranians follow this procedure and expect it from their counterparts as well. In Iran, it is common to offer additional gifts and treats, or even invitations to homes. In accordance with Iranian culture, these offers must be politely and modestly declined. They can only be accepted after several insistences. E.g. an invitation home is usually not taken seriously until the third time. Also, the refusal offered by Iranians will be understood as serious only after several repetitions.

Negotiations are usually conducted in a very polite spirit. However, it is also necessary to take into account that the first meeting may touch the real essence of the matter only superficially or even not at all. Excessive emotionality cannot be ruled out either. As a rule, an agreement cannot be reached at the first meeting. The Iranians have a habit of making sure during repeated meetings about the individual provisions of the agreement until they are completely sure that the partner is serious. It is therefore absolutely necessary to arm yourself with patience when dealing with Iranians, not to lose your temper and to be polite and pleasant. Aggressive actions and insistence are perceived as impoliteness and rudeness, they are completely excluded in Iranian business culture and usually lead to an immediate termination of negotiations and contacts.

  • PaulSourcing: Tips and recommendations for doing business with Iran. Also includes country basic data and information for entering the its market.

The negotiating team can be different in size on both sides. During negotiations with partners from the West, Iranians are also used to meetings attended by only one representative from the foreign company’s side. The Iranian side, on the other hand, is usually represented by two or more persons. Iranians are also very fond of “business trips”, so they are very happy to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in negotiations abroad. Negotiations with the participation of female managers or sales representatives are usually no problem for Iranians. However, if such meetings are to take place in Iran, then the woman must dress in accordance with Islamic injunctions (see below). An advantage in negotiations can be both a higher position in the company and an older age.

Great attention should also be paid to clothing. Men in Iran usually wear suits, even when performing completely routine activities. Ties are not customary in Iran, so even a partner from abroad does not have to wear one. Men are not allowed to wear shorts, and short-sleeved shirts are also not appropriate. Women should wear loose clothing that covers body curves, especially the neck, cleavage and hips. Sleeves should be wrist-length or at least below the elbow, and pants and skirts should be ankle-length as much as possible. Women should also have their hair covered with a scarf, which is usually draped with one loose end over the shoulder, the other end flowing over the chest to the waist. If the Iranian business partner allows it at the beginning of the negotiations, the woman can put the headscarf down.

Alcohol, pork and pork products are completely banned in Iran. If a foreign company would like to treat or gift Iranian partners with one of these, it is necessary to first carefully ask whether this offer will offend.

Communication

During personal negotiations, one cannot rely on the fact that the Iranian business partner will be able to speak any foreign language, incl. English. It is therefore a good idea to check this fact in advance. However, it is not necessary to travel to Iran with an interpreter, if necessary, it is not a problem to arrange an interpreter locally. Visit Animalerts for more information about Iran culture and traditions.

It is essential to avoid commenting on Muslim religious customs and duties. Even a mere neutral statement of difference can be understood as criticism. The same applies to a certain extent to political topics, which can only be cautiously introduced if the partner gives a clear impulse to do so.

The hospitality of Iranians is famous. Agreements reached over lunch are traditionally given great importance and are seen as binding. It is always advisable to return the invitation. During meetings, especially in state institutions, Iranians can leave for prayers at a designated time. Then the guests have to wait for them. During the fasting month of Ramadan, it is forbidden to eat, drink and smoke in public during the day, the vast majority of restaurants and cafes are closed, the exceptions are usually restaurants when traveling (outside the city) and some fast food.

Iranians prefer personal contact. However, e-mail communication or teleconferencing, e.g. via the Zoom platform, has become a necessity and a common form of communication for Iranian companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, even in the case of concluding final orders.

Recommendation

Iranians are traditionally very shrewd and capable negotiators. Each meeting therefore requires careful preparation, which Czech companies should not underestimate.

In the course of negotiations, one must be patient and not be discouraged by partial failure. It is important to keep in constant contact with your partner.

During business negotiations, it is necessary to take into account that the complex bureaucratic system and regulations will cause frequent delays and delays. Time is of no particular importance to Iranians. Therefore, you cannot fully rely on the exact observance of deadlines, fulfillment of agreements or meeting times.

If the situation permits, Iranians prefer face-to-face meetings over correspondence.

It is an advantage to find a proven representative in Iran at an early stage of business cooperation who understands the local system.

Especially in the poorer parts of Iran, it can be difficult to find a quality hotel. When booking accommodation, it is definitely a good idea to try to get recommendations and read reviews on the internet (Google translate from Farsi to English works quite reliably). It is always more advantageous to pay in Iran with the local currency, rials, than, for example, euros. In this way, frequent surcharges for foreigners can be avoided.

Outside of Tehran and other large and tourist-popular cities, it is best to avoid Western-looking foods. It is also always necessary to make sure of the quality of the water and drink only that which is definitely drinkable, or buy bottled water.

If a representative of a Czech company plans to spend a long time in Iran (more than a week), then it is better to get an Iranian SIM card. The foreign phone number must be registered within a month at the latest, otherwise the phone will lose signal. This complication can occur even within a few days after arriving in the country. Android systems work more reliably than iOS in Iran. Iranian SIM cards often do not work on Apple and Sony phones. For unlimited access to the Internet, it is advisable to install a VPN on your laptop and also on your mobile phones before you fly to Iran. Without it, many websites are blocked. Downloading and installing a VPN directly in Iran is almost impossible. The Google Play Store works to a limited extent without a VPN, the AppStore does not work at all.

Public Holidays

The Iranian calendar has been used since the 20s of the 20th century. governed by the Hijra solar calendar (the departure of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca in AD 622). It is based on the extremely accurate old Zoroastrian solar calendar. In addition, the New Year, Norúz in Persian, begins with the celebration of the new solar year and the spring holidays. Its beginning usually falls on our 20th or 21st March. On March 21, 2022, the year 1401 began in Iran, which will end again in March of our year 2023. However, most Iranians, especially in cities, work with both calendars, i.e. both the Iranian and the European calendars. In addition, the Arabic calendar also plays an important role in Iran due to religious holidays. Therefore, Iranians, especially religious ones, normally follow three calendars at once.

Iranians celebrate many holidays throughout the year: Islamic religious holidays, significant days associated with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, personal anniversaries of important figures in Shia Islam, some original Zoroastrian holidays. Many of these holidays are movable. The most important ones last several days in a row, e.g. Norúz is celebrated for two weeks. During the holidays, most people do not work, so life in Iran almost comes to a standstill. Working hours are shorter during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The Iranian calendar can be easily found on the Internet. In most cases, however, it does not include all holidays and it is not clear from it which days the working day falls on. Therefore, it is better to purchase a regular calendar directly in Iran, or to consult a local sales representative/intermediary about holidays.

Iran Culture of Business