Oman Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

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

Introduction

Oman is an Arab country where a large number of the population has graduated from foreign universities. The culture of business dealings also corresponds to this. It is necessary to respect the traditional Arab/Muslim customs, the English language is a common means of communication during business negotiations.

Addressing

We recommend asking for a personal meeting and handing over the company’s basic prospectus in Arabic to the partner. Today, there are already a number of professional translation agencies in the Czech Republic that can prepare a basic prospectus in high-quality Arabic at relatively low costs. A more detailed prospectus can then be submitted in English. In the current complex covid era, it is possible to use e-mail, phone or video call for the first contact.

Distribution and sales channels are controlled by local family firms that have built their position and wealth by exclusively representing foreign firms. Currently, exclusivity is no longer required by law, and the requirement for a 51% majority of the local partner in an import or distribution company, or a sales agency, also does not apply.

Business meeting

It is advisable for the partner to have sufficient information about the Czech company and the business plan being discussed in time before the proposed date of the meeting. For subsequent communication, it is advisable to use the phone, and WhatsApp is the most effective. Omanis themselves prefer sending voice messages through this app. If you already have contacts in Oman, it is possible to ask them for an introduction. Muscat is interwoven with networks based on influential families. These informal lines then make it possible to reach meetings. It is appropriate to give a gift to your partner. A suitable gift is mainly Czech crystal or anything that the partner can show off, e.g. a valuable pen, cufflinks (not gifts with hints of religious symbolism or scantily clad women, classical music is a gift only for a partner whom you know will appreciate it ).

In Oman, personal contact is primary. Personal presence is therefore very important when closing a deal. Regular face-to-face meetings are absolutely necessary to gain the trust of the partner and to successfully close the deal. A formal letter is suitable for establishing the first contact. The surest way to get a quick response is to send a voice message via WhatsApp. At the beginning, it is good to address partners by their surname (generally: “name” bin “name of father” al “surname”, i.e. Mr. “surname”) and quickly switch to first names. It is also appropriate to use professional titles (Dr. Prof., Mr. Chairman, etc.). When exchanging business cards, it is advisable to accept the business card with the right hand and study it carefully. It is necessary to avoid the left hand, which is considered unclean. Even though the proceedings will take place in English, it is polite to greet in Arabic, i.e. Salam Alejkum (“peace be upon you”), so let’s respond to such a greeting from a partner with Alejkum Salam. A less formal farewell is Másalama.

In the case of a business lunch or dinner in a restaurant or at home, a typical welcome snack is dark bitter coffee poured into a small cup, sweet tea and sometimes also dates or halwa. It is most polite to have the coffee poured, but not more than three times. The cup is held in the right hand. Similarly, food is only eaten with the right hand if the food is served in the traditional Arabic manner without cutlery (it is usually eaten on the ground). Any drinks are also consumed with the right hand. Meetings It is advisable to head for the morning or evening hours. It is not advisable to extend the negotiation beyond the usual working hours, i.e. 2:30 p.m. On the other hand, the Omani partner is willing to negotiate during dinner in the late hours. Omanis usually do not interrupt the meeting for prayers, but if the partner requests an interruption, it is appropriate to respect it. During the fasting month of Ramadan, all social and work life takes place after dark. In this month, Omanis usually devote themselves to family gatherings, it is better not to direct business negotiations to this month, including the subsequent Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha holidays. In the summer season, business life is reduced to a minimum. Conversely, a partner’s vacation trip to Europe can also be used for a short work meeting.

It should be taken into account that in Arab countries the distance between communicating persons is shorter than in Europe. A long handshake by the host when welcoming is an expression of hospitality. It may also happen that the Omani partner accompanies you with the company and holds your hand. A pronounced expression of friendship is a hug with a short touch on both cheeks. If women are participating in the meeting, it is advisable to wait to see if the woman offers her hand when introducing herself. Otherwise, it is possible to greet a woman by placing the right hand on the heart.

Omani traders are generally pleasant people in person, who discuss relatively informally compared to other countries in the region, and have a well-developed sense of the quality of the offer and the reasonableness of the price. When a partner gets excited about an offer or project, pressure to deliver quickly and start work can be expected. Many Omanis like to get things done as soon as they are mentioned. It is not unusual for a partner to call his contacts during negotiations for additional information or to issue instructions. However, after the end of the meeting, this spontaneity disappears and it is advisable to regularly remind yourself of the subsequent steps. When dealing with a partner, it is customary to first start the conversation with general topics, e.g. about the weather, about sports, about important events in the country or the world. Religion is not an appropriate topic. The “Small Talk” phase is generally longer than in Europe. It is good to approach the meeting positively, refraining from direct criticism and not getting carried away by emotions, there is an immediate “loss of face” and the damage caused is very difficult to repair. Oman has historical ties to Great Britain and the prevalence of English is considerable. If it will be necessary to use an interpreter, the partners will usually indicate this. Negotiations often return to already closed topics in order to negotiate better terms. The informal call phase is located both at the beginning and at the end of the meeting and is longer than we are used to.  A business meeting is first and foremost a social act, and secondarily a business matter. It is therefore not a good idea to pressure the speed of negotiations, the Czech counterpart should adapt to the local pace of negotiations. Although Oman is quite vast, there are no significant differences or differences here.

Oman is a Muslim country, but alcohol is also available in some hotels and restaurants. It is not appropriate to bring up the topic of alcohol, it is better to wait until your partner orders an alcoholic drink. We prefer not to offer alcohol during business meetings. It is good to avoid any criticism of the conditions and way of life in Oman. This is seen as an attack on the proud local culture and tradition. Furthermore, it is not good to criticize religion in any way, it is best to avoid religious and political topics altogether. When it comes to religion, it is appropriate to deny possible atheism. Christianity is understood as a religion of one God and the Book, which is acceptable, atheism is not. Dress etiquette for business meetings is basically no different from the European one, i.e. a suit with a tie, for important meetings or evening occasions a dark suit.

The number of team members depends primarily on the size of the Czech company. Ideally, it should consist of a sales director and at least one technical person who is able to provide detailed information on the technical details of the product. The age and gender composition of the team does not play a major role, but it is still an advantage for more conservative partners (or if we are not sure of their opinions) if they are dealt with by men. In Oman, it is possible to be invited to a partner’s house or farm outside the city. This is part of the broad concept of hospitality inherent in Omani culture. In the same way, it is quite common to be invited to restaurants or private clubs already in the early stages of a business relationship. It is appropriate to give a gift to your partner. A businessman should not be surprised if he gets to know the entire extended family and wider management of the company on such an occasion. On the farm it can then happen, that even the neighbors will come to see the “exotic” visit. It is appropriate to return this favor when visiting the Omani partner in the Czech Republic, it will be appreciated.

Communication

It is a good idea to have an interpreter at the meeting, especially if it is a first meeting and you are not sure of your business partner’s English level. However, knowledge of English is widespread among Omanis. Most of them graduated from schools in the United Kingdom or the USA. Visit Animalerts for more information about Oman culture and traditions.

Communication taboos are mostly other religions, atheism, nudity/obscenity, alcohol, political opinions or criticism of the political conditions in the country, criticism of the Sultan, etc. One should not get angry or raise one’s voice at a meeting, as this loses face in the eyes of Arab partners in the Arab world.

Recommendation

Basic principles when dealing with Omani partners, respecting which will help to promote the business plan:

  • Establish a personal relationship with your partner (find out his hobbies, invite him to the Czech Republic, pay attention to him properly here).
  • Always smile, be polite and pleasant.
  • Don’t complain about the little things.
  • Criticize indirectly and avoid confrontation.
  • Never show anger – there is a risk of losing your partner’s respect.
  • Don’t obviously try to gain an advantage over your partner – you need to be cooperative and work together. One battle won can sometimes lose the war.
  • Take your time. Gradually moving from general things to specific things will help the partner to better understand the proposals. Time must be spent negotiating and getting to know business partners.
  • Expect delays or sudden changes to the program – factor them into the program.
  • Prepare the project well and be specific in your argumentation. Omanis tend to have a good overview of competing projects (manufacturers) and are very pragmatic in valuing benefits.
  • Always calculate with discounts, commissions and delays in payment. Pricing is influenced by local cultural rules, where it is customary to give way with the amount of the total price gradually and always leave room for possible additional concessions.
  • Conscientious follow-up communication is a must.
  • At a later stage, it is good to consider opening a local representative office, preferably in the form of a Joint Venture. Companies capable of providing on-site after-sales service have a greater chance of participating in projects. A local presence is also a sign of solidity and reachability in the eyes of Omanis.

Public Holidays

List of public holidays in 2021:

  • January 1 New Year
  • January 11 (Sultan Haitham’s accession to the throne)
  • March 11 Isra’a Wal Miraj (Muhammad’s Journey and Ascension)
  • May 14 Eid al-Fitr (Feast of the End of Fasting)
  • May 15 Eid al-Fitr
  • May 16 Eid al-Fitr
  • May 17 Eid al-Fitr
  • July 19, Arafah Day
  • July 20 Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
  • July 21 Eid al-Adha
  • July 22 Eid al-Adha
  • July 23 Eid al-Adha (Renaissance Day)
  • August 10 Hijri New Year (Islamic New Year)
  • 19 October Mawlid (Prophet’s Birthday)

Muslim holidays are derived according to local observations of different phases of the moon and the above dates are therefore only approximate. Holiday dates are subject to change and we cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. Also, the number of vacation days is based on expected days off for the private sector. The dates of holidays in other years will be on other days (they are not fixed).

Oman Culture of Business