What to do if you made a faux pas?

No matter how hard you try the fact is that if you are doing business in the Arab world you are going to make a cultural mistake at some point. The consequences of this mistake will depend on how serious it was. For the most part if you do make a mistake you will be able to recover from it if you use a little bit of common sense.

In general if you have made a social mistake in dealing with an Arab business partner the best thing that you can do is to simply apologize. This is the same thing that you would do in any other setting. The reality is that Arabs are not all that different from anybody else. Just because we in the west don't really understand their culture we tend to worry too much about making a mistake. For the most part unless you have made a huge mistake that has caused great offence you can overcome them.

It is important to realize that Arabs don't expect you to be an expert on their culture. They are well aware that you are a foreigner and that you come from a different culture. They will of course expect you to show them and their culture respect and you should try to adapt to the way that they do things. However they do not expect you to be an expert on their culture. Most mistakes will be forgiven as long as you sincere in your apology and you show proper respect.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Arabs are just as anxious to make sure that they don't offend you as you are that you not offend them. Really they will treat you the same way that you would treat them if they made a cultural error in dealing with you. All of that being said there are a few mistakes that can be hard to recover from. These are the mistakes that you really have to make sure that you avoid since they are the ones that cause great offence. The most important is to impugn somebody's honor by causing them to lose face.

The concept of face is important in the Arab world and if you cause somebody to lose it you will have a hard time dealing with them. If it does happen the only option that you have is to apologize. However you have to make sure that the apology occurs in private. A public apology will just make things worse by causing them to lose even more face. In the Arab world privacy is much more important than it is here and this is where you really have to respect it. A public apology will just make it obvious that you caused the person to lose face, this must be avoided.