Archive for June, 2012

Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos: Communication Guidelines for EGYPT

Posted on June 12, 2012 by Leave a comment

In Egyptian business culture, punctuality is not as much of a priority. Although visitors to the country should make an effort to arrive on time, your contact may be late for an appointment.

Cultural Clues

Cultural Clues

Appointments with traditional Arab businesspeople are rarely private occasions. Interruptions in the form of phone calls and visits from your counterpart’s friends and family are to be expected. Moreover, you may find other businesspeople present and several meetings occurring simultaneously. Westerners frequently find these distractions frustrating, but it’s important to remain calm and understanding.

Friday is the Muslim holy day, and many people also take Thursday off. The typical business week is Wednesday through Saturday. Business hours vary widely. A typical business schedule is 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the summer, and 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and continuing 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the winter.

The Islamic calendar uses lunar months of 28 days, so an Islamic year of 12 months is only 354 days long. Consequently, holidays will be on different dates by the Western calendar every year. Any listed Muslim holiday dates are approximations since they depend upon actual lunar observations.

Paperwork should include two dates: the Gregorian (Western) date and the Hijrah (Arabic) date. Be aware that Coptics, that is, Christian Egyptians, have yet another calendar, different from both of the above.

Egyptians tend to speak at a much closer distance than do many countries. Even if you are unaccustomed to this level of contact, do not back up or shy away. If you keep your distance, the perception might be that you find your counterpart’s physical presence distasteful or that you are a very cold, unfeeling person. Moreover, conversations usually involve touching.

Women constitute considerably less of the Egyptian workforce. Most are employed in the professional and service sectors. While there are numerous female secretaries and physicians, few female executives are to be found. If you encounter a woman decision-maker in business, she will probably be very Western-oriented in her behavior.

Arabic men often walk hand in hand, but Westernized Egyptians rarely do this. If an Egyptian holds your hand, accept this gesture of friendship.

The left hand is considered unclean in the Arab world. Unless you are handling something considered unclean, always use the right hand. Also avoid gesturing with the left hand.

When you remove your shoes, as when entering a mosque, the soles of the shoes are placed together, preventing the sole from being pointed at anyone.

When sitting, keep both feet on the ground, since Arabs do not cross their legs when sitting. Exposing the bottom of your foot is considered offensive.

The “thumbs up” sign is thought to be offensive throughout the Arab world.

The Egyptians will accept information that does not contradict Islamic values. Nevertheless, compared to other Arabic cultures, they are more open to Western ideas. It should also be noted that many Egyptians are not practicing Muslims.

Be aware that Arabic is a language of hyperbole. For example, when an Egyptian says “yes”, he may actually mean “possibly.” Although you should feel encouraged by these positive responses, it would be wrong to assume that agreement has been reached.

In accordance with tradition, an Egyptian will welcome you several times at your first meeting.

Egyptian names are written in Arabic. Because short vowels are not written in Arabic, translating from Arabic to other alphabets is not an “exact science.” Egyptian names may be spelled several different ways in English.

Business will not proceed until your counterpart knows and decides that he likes you. Consequently, the social side of the deal is just as important as the work-related one.

5 Key Topics to Use in Conversation

  • Egyptians may joke around and make fun of themselves. For example, Egyptian bureaucracy is a favorite target. Nevertheless, no matter how self-deprecating their humor gets, you should not try to make fun of Egypt or the Egyptians.
  • Egyptian achievements, both the ancient wonders and modern advances
  • The positive reputation of Egyptian leaders around the world
  • Egyptian cotton, gold and other elements of their economy
  • Sports, especially soccer (football), basketball, boxing (in which Egypt has won several medals),
    horse racing, tennis, and all water-related sports (especially sailing and swimming)

5 Key Topics & Gestures to Avoid in Conversation

  • Women in general, especially inquiring about female members of your counterpart’s family
  • Israeli or Palestinian affairs
  • Avoid initiating discussions about your private life or religion.
  • Comparison of Egypt in relationship to more westernized countries.
  • Never talk about anyone in terms of inequality.

Bon Voyage!

Join us in the future for ENGLAND!

Author: Gayle Cotton, International Keynote Speaker & Cultural Expert

Contact Gayle for More Information!

US: 972-370-1300

Contact EMMY AWARD WINNER, Gayle Cotton for your next meeting or conference to help your business become more successful in today’s Global Business Marketplace. Gayle is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Training & Executive Coaching. She is the author of the ‘5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Business Communications’, available in book or DVD. She travels worldwide as a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Gayle’s vast experience living and working abroad will entertain and inspire any audience with her fresh, unique and humorous approach to Cross-Cultural Communications! Having worked with companies of all sizes and industries, including 50 Fortune 500 companies, Gayle has successfully helped them grow their businesses internationally. Success in the global business arena can only be accomplished with awareness of the various distinctions in communication styles, business strategies and approaches to cultural etiquette in different countries.

Visit the Circles Of Excellence Blog for additional Cross-Cultural Articles!

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Taking the bulls by the horns at the Cararra Marble Quarry in Italia!

Posted on June 8, 2012 by Leave a comment

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential hosted a week of special events in celebration of their 25th Anniversary in Europe, so all attendees took advantage of the opportunity to see as much of Italy as
possible. I’m sure I speak for all attendees when I say that we all relished our special time in the Italian sun with as much pasta, wine and Italian fare as we could handle. Viva Italia!

My trip then took me to  England, Switzerland and France for both business and pleasure. Nothing like Spring in Europe! I was actually snowed in in the Alps! Watch for all the pictures on my website soon.


Watch for the new Article: Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for EGYPT

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Coming soon this month on the Circles Of Excellence Blog!

Watch for the new Article: Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for MEXICO

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