Iraq Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

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

Introduction

Time passes differently in the Arab world than we are used to in European conditions. Anyone who wants to do business here has to adapt to the local pace. Anyone who thinks that he would drop by Iraq only for a visit to quickly discuss the terms of the contract will be disappointed. Energy and speed of decision-making, considered advantages in our latitudes, are not popular in Iraq and can sometimes be considered aggressiveness. Conversely, a patient, experienced, older and more mature person can often establish better contacts with their Arab counterparts. Locals value punctual partners, even though they are definitely not punctual themselves, and tardiness is tolerated among them. The length of negotiations can sometimes be somewhat exhausting for traders from Europe, so it is good to prepare for such a situation in advance.

  • Programingplease: Yearbook 2010 of nation Iraq, including population, politics, and abbreviations.

Addressing

Establishing any business relations with Iraqi partners (unless they themselves approach Czech companies) is practically impossible to do from a desk/via the Internet in the office. There is no public database of companies here. There are at most unverified lists with very misleading and/or broken data and contacts. Without a representative of a Czech company personally meeting a potential partner, either in Iraq or on the occasion of a visit to an international fair or exhibition in a third country (or in Iraq itself), he will practically not get access to any relevant contacts, telephone numbers or working email addresses.

To find potential business partners, the economic department of the ZÚ is ready to assist Czech exporters with regard to the systematically built network of local entities.

The next step is to approach targeted companies by phone and subsequently send them promotional materials by e-mail. The language of communication is English, it is advisable to have promotional materials prepared in English (Arabic is an advantage) at a professional level. The inclusion of references from Arab countries is very well received. The first message should contain not only the reason why you are contacting him, what form of cooperation you offer, but also how your service will benefit him.

Business meeting

Starting a business meeting with a quick and matter-of-fact approach to the topic is definitely not common and could even be considered impolite. A casual introductory conversation is almost the rule, although its length is in no way prescribed. A few sentences or even a greeting, a few phrases in their language, can improve the atmosphere of the meeting. It is necessary to follow intuition, feeling or gained experience. There may even be situations in newly formed business connections where this part of the meeting is longer than the actual meeting.

The working language is English, but it must be taken into account that its level is often very weak, especially in the state sector. In such a case, it turns out to be an advantage if the short-term services of an interpreter can also be used. Looking ahead, it is expedient to find the right local partner who will aspire to the position of agent of a foreign supplier.

Feel free to choose a jacket and tie as appropriate clothing. European style clothing is acceptable everywhere. Especially for women, it is important to respect local morals and not dress provocatively. However, European women are not subject to the same demands as local women. Discreet clothing and hair covered with a scarf is recommended. A woman is respected as a partner in political or business negotiations. It is good to find out in advance with whom the negotiation will take place. Sunni Iraqis and Kurds tend to be more open, while Shiites tend to be more conservative and in some cases may even refuse to deal with women. It is therefore good to be prepared for various eventualities.

Iraqis are hospitable. It is appropriate to repay their hospitality. Gifts to business partners, such as cut Czech glass, is the right choice. A book on cultural monuments should not contain religious symbols or phenomena. Alcohol is not allowed. Do not mention dogs or pets as a topic of conversation, because in Islam a dog is considered an unclean animal. Due to the dominant position of men in Iraqi society, such a situation is also reflected in the filling of important managerial positions, so the representatives of local companies at business meetings will almost always be men. The composition of the delegation of Czech entities needs to be adapted to this. A man should also lead the meeting, but the presence of a woman in the team is not a problem.

Before reaching a final agreement on the wording of the contract, repeated meetings must be expected. If the initial impressions in the eyes of the incoming mission move in the desired direction, then it is appropriate to invite the Iraqi partners to visit the headquarters and possibly selected operations of the Czech supplier. Meetings rarely start before ten o’clock in the morning and an afternoon recess is observed. You can then meet your partners again in the late afternoon and evening hours. However, it is usually necessary to contact employees of state organizations by one o’clock in the afternoon, after which they tend to be difficult to reach. This must be taken into account when preparing the meeting schedule. Punctuality is not common with partners from the private sector, but a considerable amount of patience is an advantage when dealing with representatives of state organizations. A common phenomenon is that even higher-ranking representatives of the state sector do not have business cards, but the same is true for many representatives of the private sector. To a certain extent, this fact is influenced by the unstable, difficult-to-predict situation for years or concerns about personal safety.

Communication

E-mail has already become a fairly common means of written communication, but WhatsApp surpasses it in business communication – from social networks.

Due to the fact that there is currently no system of descriptive numbers and street names in Iraq, a system of 5 local mailboxes is introduced in the postal system. When sending courier parcels (DHL is the most common), the name and telephone number of the recipient are accompanied by the city/district and an important point of reference (hotel, significant building or large square in the vicinity, etc.).  Visit Animalerts for more information about Iraq culture and traditions.

In e-mail communication, the address must be addressed to and with a presentation letter (max. one A4 page), containing what you offer to a local potential partner, what certificates you have, what your position is on the Czech market, what references you have in recent years/territories (references from deliveries to the Arab world open imaginary doors), how can you differentiate yourself from the competition, what other business and financial conditions do you apply with your foreign partners, you need to attach your own presentation of products/services in an attachment size of around 1MB (due to the limited capacity of mailboxes). In Iraq, it is common for government officials (including senior officials) to use private email addresses on official business cards – so don’t be surprised.

When communicating during a face-to-face meeting, it is not usual for the conversation during a business meeting to focus on a given topic right from the start. At the beginning of a conversation with local partners, it is polite to ask about the family, children, their age, etc. However, it is not polite to ask questions about wives or spouses and political and religious commentary should be avoided. The necessary printed materials in English or Arabic must be prepared for the meeting. The acting representative should have relevant decision-making competences, clear answers are expected right on the spot.

Recommendation

As in any other Muslim country, it is recommended to follow local customs in Iraq.

During Ramadan, do not eat, drink, or smoke in public, and certainly not in internal buildings in the presence of Muslims. In principle, meetings during Ramadan are not recommended unless there is a serious reason. In the matter of religious faith, even staunch atheists are advised to show tolerance towards believers and not engage in excessive defense of their own worldview positions.

Arm yourself with a sufficient amount of patience in business negotiations, often previously agreed matters undergo modifications or even more fundamental changes and you need to prepare for repeated meetings. The success of entrepreneurs and businessmen interested in penetrating the Iraqi market is based to a large extent on the quality of the chosen partner, about whom sufficient credible references should be obtained in time, verification of the information provided, and possibly also recommendations, preferably from local and foreign sources, regarding his business practices and solvency. In any case, the future partner should himself want to demonstrate a good orientation in the field, status/position on the local market incl. references already in his initial letter of introduction (in English) and preferably also by mentioning the working website of his company.

Public Holidays

The biggest Islamic holiday is the fasting month of Ramadan, which in 2023 falls on March 22 to April 20, i.e. a period of limited working hours and reduced performance due to fasting from sunrise to sunset. Other official public holidays are:

New Year (January 1)

Iraqi Army Day (January 6)

Nowruz (holiday of the coming of spring – March 21)

Labor Day (May 1)

Eid al Fitr (holidays after the end of Ramadan (May 20-23, 2023)

Republic Day (July 14)

Eid-al-Adha (Feasts of Sacrifice 9-13 July 2022, 28 June-2 July 2023)

Islamic New Year (July 29-30, 2022, July 18-19, 2023)

Ashura (Muslim/Shia holiday – Imam Hussein August 18)

Independence Day (October 3)

Birth of Prophet Muhammad (October 7-8, 2022, September 27-28, 2023)

Victory Day (anniversary over ISIS December 10)

1st Christmas holiday (officially from 2018 – December 25)

Iraq Culture of Business