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Since the late seventies, the Middle East and North African region has been one of the top destinations for professionals such as engineers and nurses from different parts of the world.
And as the region developed further through the years and became the home of new industries and multinational companies, it cemented its title as the Promised Land for job seekers.
This development is not poised to stop anytime soon. Reports reveal that the Saudi government will be investing over $370 billion for infrastructure projects and social development.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, sees about 14 major infrastructure developments for economic development. As for Dubai, it’s still pushing to be the top professional hub of the region.
Are You Fit to Work in the MENA Region?
It is vital to note, however, that despite ideal conditions, working in the MENA region is not always an arrangement that works out for everybody (same as in everywhere else).
Some people thrive well in their careers here, and some don’t. That being said, if you are looking for long-term employment or a satisfying professional life in the Arab business scene, you need to educate and evaluate yourself thoroughly.
- Learn the work culture of the nation you’re eyeing for employment.
- After that, take a reality check; evaluate the kind of person you are to see if you’re a good fit for the unique conditions presented by working in the MENA region.
The Arab Work Culture to the Rest of the World
One of the critical factors to take into consideration if you are seeking employment in the MENA region is that the environment is quite unique. Listed below are aspects of the Arab work culture that you need to understand if you are seriously contemplating launching your career in the Middle East.
1. There’s still some inequality in terms of job opportunities.
In a lot of countries here, women are still restricted from working in particular fields. For example, according to the Arab News, women are not welcome to work in the construction and engineering industries. They are also prohibited from taking any job that is considered hard labor and that would expose them to particular elements such as blood, waste, and blood.
2. There’s gender segregation.
In countries like Saudi Arabia, gender segregation is being observed for specific operations. A business organization has distinctly male and female departments which do not interact with each other.
3. There’s a relaxed pace of work.
In most industrialized countries, deadlines should be honored at all costs. However, the Arab work culture is not like that; it’s considerably more relaxed.
A lot of professionals find that they are not as pressed for time to accomplish their tasks in an Arab work environment.
The focus is to get the job done the best way possible, even if you do not necessarily meet the deadline.
4. There’s a strict demand for foreign workers to be punctual.
When it comes to appointments and scheduled meetings with foreign partners or workers, Arab are absolute sticklers for punctuality (but not at all so with fellow Arabs). This is just how it is, and you have to accept it.
5. Knowledge of Arabic is one of the keys to developing strong relations.
It’s important to mention as well that knowing how to speak Arabic will serve your best advantage. Even if your company is a multinational one, you’ll have better relations with your Arab coworkers and superiors if you can speak some Arabic.
Therefore, even if the primary medium of communication in the company is English, consider taking Arabic classes in Abu Dhabi. There are short courses you can take to learn the fundamentals of the language, how to become fluent in it, and how to use it for corporate purposes.
6. There’s a demand for full respect for Islam and the Arab culture.
Islamic principles figure in business operations. You need to go about your work with proper consideration for religious practices that crossover in the workplace.
Likewise, you must show respect for other traditional practices, which you’ll be able to demonstrate well if you know how to speak Arabic.
7. There’s a high regard for meetings outside of work.
If you wish to develop close relations with your Arab coworkers, you must make time for out-of-work meetings, such as company dinners or tea. Arabs enjoy chit-chat, and this type of exchange is considered a part of business communication.
You would do well for yourself not to miss out on invites for dinner or tea. Quite often, it’s during a casual conversation when business projects and other concerns come up.
You’ll quickly be in the know and get on better with everybody simply for being around for meetups and for knowing the Arabic language.
8. Knowledge of English is also a must.
This is especially important if you work in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where most multinational companies are located. Knowing how to speak in English is a must for effective communication.
You need to know conversational English because it’s the language most Arab professionals automatically switch to for communicating with the foreign members of the organization. If English is not your first language and you still struggle with it, you can take spoken English classes in Abu Dhabi.
9. Corporate hierarchy is strictly observed.
Arab bosses can be the kindest that you’ll ever meet, but you cannot interact with them as if they are your friend, which is a common practice in Western countries.
Hierarchy in the workplace is strictly observed in Arab companies. There are titles and formal language to use in showing respect, which is why learning Arabic for business can genuinely be beneficial if you aim to thrive in an Arab corporate environment.
Qualities for Success
With an understanding of the Arab work culture, it should be easy to establish whether or not you can thrive in it. But, if your goal is to succeed by outworking your natural tendencies, it’s imperative to possess the following qualities:
Learn to be accepting of and respectful toward how different the conditions are in a predominantly Arab work environment.
2. Eagerness to learn.
Arabs appreciate efforts for improvement, especially when it comes to aligning with their standards or aiding them with their concerns.
Relationships are important. Make the time for meetups with your colleagues and bosses. Never turn down invites for a meal and always set a good impression.
All in all, to thrive in your career in the Arab region, you have to display great regard for the local culture.
Even simple things such as appropriate greetings can benefit you immensely in business transactions and other types of dealings.
Jerrin Samuel is the Executive Director at Regional Educational Institute (REI) in Abu Dhabi. Since 1995, REI has been at the forefront of education by delivering quality corporate training courses in the UAE, helping many businesses and organizations achieve greater productivity and higher customer satisfaction levels.