- Business Meeting
- Public Holidays
Palestine is part of the Eastern Mediterranean, which from a cultural point of view can be placed on the border between Southern Europe and the Middle East. The environment and business practices have similar specifics as in other states of the region, and partly depend on religious belief – in the case of partners of the Muslim faith, significant differences must be expected. Palestinians are rather conservative, they prefer personal meetings and long-term cooperation. Most businessmen are used to an international environment, many have lived or studied for some time in various European countries, especially larger companies routinely cooperate with foreign partners, or have experience with less formal business practices applied in Israel. Given the complicated legal environment, finding an experienced local partner or representative is key to success.
A personal meeting, e.g. as part of a business seminar or other thematically focused event, is ideal for approaching potential business partners. The first remote contact by e-mail or telephone is possible, but in that case it is essential to have a personal recommendation through already established companies or intermediaries, without which the chance of success decreases. It is possible to establish direct contact with local chambers of commerce or business associations, which can be helpful in finding suitable partners. A total of 18 chambers of commerce operate in Palestine (of which 13 are in the West Bank and 5 in the Gaza Strip) and their scope partly replicates the borders of the governorates. They join together in the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (FPCCII), but otherwise operate completely independently. In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, in Palestine,
An appointment can be arranged directly by e-mail or by phone, it is usually possible to arrange an appointment even at the last minute or with only minimal advance notice. The initial meeting will probably take place in the partner’s office, but an invitation to lunch, for example, is no exception. In the later stages, it is not entirely exceptional to be invited home for dinner (or, during Ramadan, an invitation to iftar – the evening meal after breaking the fast). Palestinians like to accept and give small gifts, but you need to pay attention to whether the gift is acceptable (especially regarding alcoholic beverages or some foods for Muslims), and from their side it is often handicrafts. Exchanging business cards at the beginning of the meeting is a matter of course. It is advisable to avoid arranging an appointment on the weekend (ie for Muslims on Friday, for Christians on Sunday) and on holidays (which also vary by religion). In addition to official and religious holidays, there are several important days in Palestine that are not official holidays, but are best avoided due to the increased risk of security complications (eg the anniversary of the establishment of Israel, which falls on 5/15). Negotiations can also be more complicated during Ramadan – if it cannot be avoided, it is advisable not to plan it for early morning or, conversely, later in the afternoon. Palestinian partners usually (but not always) respect the agreed time, but the meeting can drag on. Alcohol consumption during business meetings is not common, and it is excluded for Muslims. During meetings in the office, it is usual to offer water and coffee, or small snacks. It is quite common to smoke at business meetings, even at work lunches. During the Ramadan fast, the business partner must expect that he will not even be offered water.
Palestinians tend to be cordial, friendly and hospitable when dealing with them. Enthusiasm or promises shown during a personal meeting may not yet mean real results, and it is better to make sure of important things several times or to confirm them in writing after the end of the meeting. A hesitant assent or the ever-present “inshallah” (God willing) is more like a polite refusal. When negotiating the price, it’s a good idea to leave enough room for concessions. In the same way, it is necessary to take into account the delay of deadlines, which occurs with iron regularity during the implementation of any projects.
Palestinians also often go to business meetings in less formal clothing (trousers and jackets of different colors, shirts, usually without a tie, ladies often wear pantsuits). For foreigners, however, it is advisable to go to the meeting a bit more formally (in a suit, a tie is not necessary, for ladies it is appropriate to have covered shoulders and trousers or a knee-length skirt). When visiting religiously or otherwise defined areas and communities, it is necessary to observe the locally valid codes of dress, behavior, etc. It is not recommended, for example, to wear short skirts and pants and to have uncovered shoulders, in many places (Gaza, Hebron, Nablus) longer sleeves are more appropriate for women and the upper part of the clothing without a high neckline. The composition of the team is generally not limited. As for the position of women, in Palestine they also hold high managerial positions (e.g. there are several female ministers in the government),
The official language is Arabic, in which official written communication takes place and the media operate in it. Palestinians speak a local Arabic dialect in everyday communication. But English is widespread and commonly used, and negotiations are usually, with exceptions, conducted in English and without the need to have an Arabic interpreter with you. Knowledge of many other languages can also be encountered – knowledge of Hebrew is relatively widespread, as well as French, Spanish, etc. However, it must be taken into account that many legal and contractual documents are only in Arabic (especially official documents when communicating with PNS authorities, e.g. the awarding of tenders, if it does not count on the participation of foreign companies, contracts, also laws are often translated with considerable delay in the case of amendments, etc.), and an interpreter and translator may be needed for any legal acts.
Communication tends to be friendly and informal, after the initial acquaintance it is common to address them by first name. A personal meeting is always ideal, but you can communicate in all ways – by e-mail, by phone, it is very common – after an initial introduction using a more official form of communication – the use of WhatsApp, recently, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferences have become widespread.
There are no widespread communication taboos, but some topics can be sensitive and it is advisable to approach them with caution from the beginning – these topics include, in particular, the relationship to religion and religious commands and prohibitions, Palestinian politics, Israel and its policy towards Palestine. Palestinian importers usually have good relations with their business contacts on the Israeli side, but at the same time have a lot of experience with various obstacles, the cause of which is the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so it is advisable to get at least a basic idea of the situation in advance.
When traveling to the territory, it is necessary to take into account that the security situation can become very complicated very quickly, which can subsequently be reflected in the impaired passability of some areas and at the internal crossings (check-points) between Israel and Palestine, where there is a risk of significant delays or be temporarily completely closed. From time to time, there are also demonstrations in Palestinian cities and violent clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army or Jewish settlers in places where Arab and Jewish settlements touch (the situation in Hebron, where the Jewish settlement is located in close proximity, is particularly complicated in this regard the center of an Arab city), but complications can also occur on the roads used by both sides.
As far as planning a business meeting is concerned, it is advisable to find out in advance what the partner’s religion is, as many other specifics depend on this information (whether it is time off – weekends and holidays, assumed relationship to alcohol, etc.). Similar to other Arab (and not only Arab) countries, local customs and rules related to culture and religion must be respected.
The working week is officially Sunday – Thursday, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. In Christian institutions, the day off is Sunday (or Friday and Sunday). During the month-long Ramadan fast, reduced working hours must be expected, in the non-state sector sometimes an “afternoon siesta”, sales hours are usually from early morning or early morning to late evening.
The PNS recognizes national holidays, which have a fixed date, and religious holidays – Islamic and Christian (dual, Western and Orthodox). In particular, Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar and are therefore flexible, and for some, the date is set by religious authorities just before they start. Not all of these holidays automatically mean a universally extended day off from work.
Holidays officially recognized by PNS: New Year (January 1), International Women’s Day (March 8), Labor Day (May 1), Independence Day (November 15)
Islamic holidays: the night journey of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven (Laylat al-Mi’raj), the fasting month of Ramadan, the holiday of breaking the fast (Id al-Fitr, 3 days after the end of Ramadan), the holiday of the sacrifice (Id al-Adha or the Great Feast, a multi-day holiday corresponding to the date of the pilgrimage to Mecca), the Islamic New Year, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
Christian holidays: New Year, Christmas, Easter (both Western and Orthodox).