Posts tagged with understanding the Egyptian culture

Cross Cultural Articles, Cultural Clues, Cultural Tips: Gayle Cotton

Posted on January 16, 2011 by Comments are off

The Latest!

Cultural Clues… Do’s & Taboos

A series of cultural tips for countries from A to Z

Communication Guidelines for England

Don’t assume all British English words and phrases mean the same as words and phrases from North America, Australia or other English speaking countries. Many of British English words and phrases have different or even opposite meanings! Spelling may be different as well.

British English pronounces consonants more clearly than many other English speaking countries. Avoid speaking too quickly or slurring words or you could come across as unprofessional.

Make an effort to speak in complete sentences. The English generally find the North American habit of trailing off in mid-sentence irritating.

Try to maintain a low, moderate tone of voice at all times.

More detached, businesslike approaches are the most welcome and respected.

English businesspeople are generally interested in long-term relationships rather than quick deals.

Once they decide that they want to do business with you, the English can be blunt, direct, and probably will not hesitate to speak their minds. Before this transition occurs, however, it is important to give them the necessary time to make an assessment of you, as well as of your proposal and company.

The English tend to emphasize short-term results rather than long-range objectives.

During initial meetings, facial expressions are kept to a minimum and, consequently, it may be difficult to perceive what the other participants are thinking.

Be aware in your dealings that the English are “masters of understatement.”

In decision-making, the English tend to seek guidance from established laws and rules, rather than their own personal experiences or feelings. Moreover, company policy is the primary authority for businesspeople at all levels of the organization.

Objective facts and evidence are the only legitimate sources of truth; feelings are usually irrelevant.

Again, precedent plays an important factor in decision-making. That is, your proposal stands a better chance if it conforms to the way things have been done in the past.

Direct questions may result in evasive responses.

Aggressive sales techniques such as the “hard sell” or denigrating another company’s product or service will not be well-received.

Humor is often an important part of business discussions in England, and having a repertoire of jokes and anecdotes can be an asset. Moreover, people who are good at telling jokes and stories should make the most of these abilities.

Characteristics of British humor include not stating the obvious, as well as implying the opposite of what is being said. Consequently, paying attention to what is not said or done is often a necessary part of appreciating this style of humor.

Be warned: the English can use humor, especially irony or sarcasm, as a weapon in ridiculing an adversary or showing disagreement or even contempt.

Although English business culture is intensely hierarchical, teamwork remains important, especially in influencing decisions.

Usually, a consensus is reached before presenting the final decision to the individual highest in power.

Decision-making tends to be a slow, deliberate, process.

Rushing or putting pressure on the decision-making process is usually counterproductive.

Be aware that the English won’t hesitate to say “no.”

Refrain from giving unsolicited praise, since it is not necessarily welcome.

Welcome Topics of Conversation

  • Your positive experiences in England and other travels.
  • Your immediate surroundings including nature, architecture, food, ambience, weather etc.
  • English history, sports, and other aspects of the culture
  • All current events of a global nature.
  • The English love animals, especially dogs. Family pets are always a good topic.

Conversation to Avoid

  • The English usually enjoy talking about current events, and will be eager to hear your opinions as well. However, try to avoid getting into discussions about politics, particularly relating to Scotland or Northern Ireland.
  • Do not be the first to bring up the subject of the Royal Family.
  • Refrain from making enquiries regarding a person’s occupation, birthplace, religion, or other intrusive personal questions.
  • Discussing your “family tree” is frowned upon here. Also avoid bringing up the British class system in conversation.
  • Do not make references to the mediocrity of British food, since it has now improved significantly.

Bon Voyage!

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Cross Cultural Articles, Cultural Clues, Cultural Tips: Gayle Cotton

Posted on December 1, 2010 by Comments are off

The Latest!

Cultural Clues… Do’s & Taboos

A series of cultural tips for countries from A to Z

Communication Guidelines for Egypt


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.

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.

Business hours vary widely. In the winter, many businesses close for much of the afternoon and reopen for a few hours in late afternoon. A typical business schedule would be 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the summer; 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 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. Moreover, 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. Moreover, 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.

Good Topics

  • 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)

Topics to Avoid

  • 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 in inequality.

Bon Voyage!

Join us in the future for England!

US: 972-370-1300

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