Social differences in the Arab culture

Arab culture is very different than the culture that we have in the west. This is something that you have to understand if you are going to do business in the Arab world. Most people from outside of the Arab world really don't understand these social differences and this can lead to all sorts of problems when you are trying to do business.

Probably the most important social difference in the Arab culture is the importance of family. This extends far beyond what we would think of as being family in the Western world and includes the whole extended family. The first loyalty of most Arabs is to their family and this takes precedence over their jobs, business and even their friends. If you are doing business in the Arab world you will encounter a great deal of nepotism, this is part of the social difference, people are just more comfortable doing business with family members than they are with other people.

The other big social difference that you will encounter in the Arab world is in how women are treated. In most cases they are treated as second class citizens and they do not receive the same education or have the same career opportunities as men. At the same time Arab women usually dominate the household and rule over everything that happens there. Of course this is just a broad generalization, the exact role that women play and the freedom that they have will vary dramatically from one country to the next in the Arab world.

One area of social difference that a lot of visitors to Arab countries are surprised by and often made uncomfortable by is the lack of personal space. When they are talking to you Arabs will stand much closer than we do in the west. In addition there will be a great deal of touching, usually on the arm or shoulder, amongst people of the same gender. Since we don't usually do this in the west it catches a lot of people off guard but it is something that you are going to have to get used to if you are going to be doing business in the Arab world.

Of course the main reason for these differences comes down to religion. Most, but by no means all, Arabs are Muslims and this has a huge impact on the way that they live. Most people in the west really don't understand Islam and are surprised by a lot of the social differences that it creates. In general Arabs are much more respectful of other people than we are in the west and this is something that you have to be very careful about. They are very sensitive about being disrespected and if you do it even accidently you can cause great offence.