Tunisia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

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

Introduction

Hierarchy plays an important role in Tunisian labor relations, affecting both the level of communication and the decision-making process. Although Tunisia is part of the Mediterranean region and strives for cultural and social proximity to Europe, it is also a society with a firmly rooted Muslim culture. At first glance, a “secular” Tunisian may observe religious traditions (eg fasting during Ramadan), it is necessary to take this possibility into account. On a personal level, Tunisians are generous and sometimes have trouble refusing a proposal so as not to offend, so the process of formalizing decisions and commitments is absolutely crucial, and sometimes leads to a disproportionately long decision-making process. Visit Allunitconverters for more information about Tunisia culture and traditions.

Addressing

Companies can always address potential partners directly, in the form of an introductory email in which they present the company and the product offered. It is advisable to request a connection to the company’s management, so that the communication does not seem like “spam”, but a manifestation of genuine interest. To identify more contacts in the given sector, the most suitable connection is with the local chamber of commerce: UTICA, CONECT, CCI Sfax or Bizerte, with which the Czech Republic already has existing partnership relations. It is useful to inform the sales department of ZÚ about this communication for possible support or provision of the necessary contacts.

In the case of state-owned enterprises, it is advisable to inform the ZÚ in advance. State-owned enterprises that fall under sectoral ministries require an approach through formal correspondence through the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Another way to reach Tunisian partners is direct participation in one of the Tunisian or foreign trade fairs with a Tunisian presence. The basic prerequisite for starting cooperation is presentation material with the offered product or service. Personal contact is the most reliable form for establishing business relationships and evaluating opportunities and possible risks.

Business meeting

For business meetings, it is preferable to choose a date during the working week from Monday to Friday, working hours usually last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday is a day of rest in Tunisia, many companies and schools also operate on Saturday, although the working day is usually shorter.

For the first business meeting, a formal presentation of the business partner is important, preferably in a company environment, if it is a specific offer of cooperation. It is advisable to bring a small gift (not alcohol) to such a meeting. A meeting over lunch or coffee is a good way to find out if another work contact will be available. However, for both types of meetings, formal clothing is appropriate, and it is necessary to reserve sufficient time (approx. 2 hours), with the fact that the length of the meeting also depends on its “success”, as it may be followed by a visit to the plant or another location. Punctuality is a basic requirement, although it cannot always be expected from local partners, the reason being frequent problems of traffic jams or lack of parking spaces, especially in the capital Tunis, where there is a risk of immediate towing of the vehicle.

It is possible to arrange meetings during the month of Ramadan, but it is recommended to arrange the meeting for the morning hours (the working day ends around 2 p.m.), and out of respect for the person who may be fasting, to avoid the consumption of water, coffee or food during the meeting. In most cases, however, the established Tunisian partner will offer refreshments to the foreign guest on their own initiative. At conferences or larger events, which mainly target the Tunisian audience, it is necessary to take into account the unavailability of water or coffee. During the month of Ramadan, dinners, or “Iftar”, are mostly spent with family or used as an opportunity to entertain friends and important work partners. This is why it is always necessary to book restaurants well in advance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened up the possibilities of online conferences, which have become an acceptable form of communication even in the “tapping” phase. However, nothing can replace personal contact, which at the same time sends a signal of the party’s serious interest in establishing cooperation. With the opening of borders and the simplification of entry conditions, the physical absence of a business partner has become less understandable.

Communication

Tunisians are rather indirect in communication – dignity is considered the main virtue. Open doubt or direct confrontation is interpreted as disrespect and can deeply offend, with the risk of ending the professional relationship. Conversely, a verbal indication of agreement does not necessarily mean a final opinion. Even though Tunisia is a Muslim country, it is not customary to use the address “al-Salámu aleikum”, which is common for other countries in the Middle East region. When communicating in writing, it is also necessary to take into account that Arabic women’s names do not always end with the suffix “-a”. One of the ways to proceed in case of uncertainty is to verify the name via an internet search engine, or to stick to gender-neutral addresses in written communication.

During the first contact, it is advisable to start the communication in the form of an email accompanied by a phone call, but it is not unusual for the Tunisian partner to start the communication with a phone call. In the case of personal meetings with state companies or institutions, written communication is all the more important. These may require so-called verbal notes from the embassy, ​​by which a meeting is formally requested. This type of correspondence takes several weeks, so it is necessary to start planning a work trip to the country in good time and, if necessary, consult with the local embassy. It is recommended to always request a mobile phone number, or at least a landline, of a person who could subsequently help “press” the request or find out its status.

As far as language skills are concerned, it can be said that the vast majority of Tunisians who work in the business sector know French at least at a communicative level. However, the same cannot be said about the English language. It is therefore a good idea to find out in which language the meeting will take place and, if necessary, arrange for an interpretation. The same applies to any documents, especially the contracts or documents for the delivered goods. It is not surprising if a business partner requests their presentation in French. This is usually one of the many administrative requirements of the Tunisian authorities, so it is necessary to take this option into account.

Recommendation

According to the experience of Czech companies in Tunisia, a local representative with the help of a so-called expert comptable (accounting consultant) is essential for business development, who will ensure the formal correctness of transactions and access to information and contacts outside the “formal” network. In the beginning, it is advisable to use one of the import service providers, a number of which are active here and are specialized according to the product portfolio, for example: MJ Honest, CERCO, NEWS, Shirmann International Trade, Tunisia Medicine, STE Chahed International Trade, etc.

Public Holidays

Tunisia recognizes a total of 11 national holidays, which have historical-political as well as religious origins. In the case of religious holidays (*), the days are determined depending on the position of the moon, so the date may differ by one or two days. The start of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which lasts 30 days and ends with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, is also moving forward.

The original January 14 holiday celebrating the end of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime in 2011 was canceled by President Kais Said, and replaced by Revolution Day on December 17, commemorating the self-immolation of vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi and the outbreak of protests against the Ben Ali regime in 2010.

January 1 – New Year

March 20 – Tunisian Independence Day 1956

April 9 – Martyrs’ Day (suppression of pro-independence demonstrations by French troops in 1938)

May 1 – Labor Day

May 2* – Eid al-Fitr 2022 (end of Ramadan, which begins on April 2, 2022, March 23, 2023, etc.)

July 9-10* – Eid al-Kebir, or Eid al-Adha 2021 (sacrifice of the ram)

July 25 – Republic Day (proclamation of the Republic of Tunisia in 1957)

July 30* – Hegira New Year 2022 (Islamic New Year)

August 13 – Women’s Day (adopting a series of laws, the so-called Code du statu personnel, codifying the equality of women and may in 1956)

October 15 – Evacuation Day (departure of the last French troops from Tunisia in 1963)

October 8* – Mouled 2022 (birth of the Prophet Muhammad)

December 17 – Revolution Day

Tunisia Culture of Business