The business environment in Qatar may differ slightly to what you are used to so we have noted down what you need to bear in mind.
15 July 2014| Last updated on 11 December 2017
If you are new to Qatar, or visiting for business purposes it’s important to know how to conduct yourself appropriately in work related situations. If you’re coming from the west, you will be forgiven for making common mistakes that some Qataris may find offensive, however displaying a knowledge of the culture will earn you a fair few brownie points. Always err on the side of caution and be formal and polite as this will seldom be misconstrued as rude or insensitive.
Qatar is a Muslim country and Arabic is the official language, however business is generally conducted in English and the language is widely spoken. When making an appointment, do it shortly before the meeting time as schedules change a lot in Qatar. Do not schedule appointments on Fridays and Saturdays. Friday is the religious holy day and no one works. The work week in Qatar is Sunday to Thursday. Be aware of the religious holidays in Qatar and do not schedule meetings during those holidays, especially Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr. It is also a good idea to know when Ramadan is, this is a time of fasting and reflection. Avoid scheduling meetings during this time unless an urgent matter arises. All business hours are reduced for employees during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Business attire should always be worn to a business meeting, this includes a jacket and tie for a man – despite the heat. Don’t worry as most office buildings are very well air conditioned. Women should wear a business suit that is not too short or tight, with no cleavage and with sleeves that cover the shoulders. When you meet and greet a Qatari businessman or woman there are two forms of greeting, physical contact between members of the opposite sex is frowned upon. A simple hand to the chest will suffice in greeting a member of the opposite gender. You may see two Qatari men greet each other by rubbing noses; this is a common Bedouin greeting.
Calling each other by your first names is the done thing in Qatar; you should prefix the name with a title like Mr. or Ms. Always start the meeting off with some small talk, ask after the family and the business. If you’re a man meeting another man do not ask after his wife or sister directly as this might cause offence. Always try to greet the most important person in the room first, hierarchy is important.
At the beginning of the meeting you will exchange business cards. Always carry business cards in a safe place or a business card holder. Always hand and receive the card using your right hand. It is okay to study the card for a bit before putting it away carefully in a safe place. Secondly you may be offered Arabic coffee in a small cup. Accept the coffee with your right hand, drink it and shake it a little if you do not want any more. Try not to leave the cup on the table.
Bringing a gift to the meeting is an acceptable gesture and a gift of sweets or dates is acceptable and friendly as it can be shared among the staff or the family at home.