Iraqi Culture

Business Culture


  • You should arrive punctually but may be excused for being late as the Iraqis have a looser sense of time and may be late themselves.
  • Greet the host of the meeting first. From there, you are expected to greet everyone in the room individually—even if the group is large. Greet in order of oldest to youngest, or go from the left of the room to the right.
  • Receiving Business Cards: Use the right hand only to receive a business card as the left hand is considered unclean. Do not put one’s card away immediately, but regard it carefully first and then place it before you on the table until everyone is seated. Do not write on a card unless directed to do so.
  • Presenting Business Cards: Use the right hand only when presenting a business card, making sure that the writing is facing the other person. Do not deal out your business cards as if you were playing a game of cards as this could be interpreted as rude.
  • Allow social conversation to pass before mentioning business. Rushing through this discussion or trying to begin the agenda prematurely can make you seem too forceful.
  • Whilst still acquainting yourself with each other, you can expect Iraqis to take a relatively blunt and probing approach in asking about your company and its intentions.
  • The highest-ranking person does most of the talking in business meetings, and subordinates are there to provide on-the-spot clarification and advice to their senior.
  • Iraqis can conduct very animated business meetings, so expect many interruptions and tangents to unrelated topics as they often conduct multiple conversations at once when talking in a group. Be patient and feel free to politely interrupt in order to make your point heard. They should not find this rude. To avoid distraction or deflection from your proposal, sit directly next to the businessperson you are interested in and make your proposition directly to him.
  • Expect for bargaining to occur and the terms of the deal to deviate far from where they began.
  • Avoid letting emotions interfere with the negotiation/bargaining process.
  • Negotiations can take a long time and meetings may be interrupted by a prayer session.
  • An Iraqi hosting a meeting is likely to be reluctant to finish the meeting themselves as this can be interpreted as the host kicking everyone out. The guests of the meeting should excuse themselves and indicate the conclusion in that way.

Relationship Oriented

Personal relationships play a large role in Iraqi business culture. The Iraqis prefer to work with those they know. They base one’s credibility on personal qualities rather than on financial aptitudes. For them, trust is key to good business and so they will be seeking an honest commitment to the relationship from you. Their priority is to expand their networks with partners they can rely on.

Considering this, they tend to want to know a great deal about their partners in order to build the confidence and loyalty needed to support business in the future. As an Australian, you may consider many of the details and questions asked to be too personal or unrelated to the point at hand. Try to be patient and provide answers for the sake of the business relationship. Moreover, ask them similar questions in return as Iraqis generally appreciate when their colleagues show interest in their personal lives. However, do not ask an Iraqi questions about his female family members. This can be extremely inappropriate.

If you offend your business partner, do not ignore the fact that you’ve done so as this will likely jeopardise your relationship. If you are unsure of what to do, it is a good idea to have someone more senior than yourself apologise on your behalf.

Exchanging Favours

Your business partner may expect you to grant them privileges on the basis of your friendship, and vice versa. These usually entail favours for their family. Try to be flexible in receiving and extending these favours and carry out their request. If circumstances later render it impossible, be careful that you are explicit in explaining as Iraqis are prone to taking any testimony that you will try to do something as a promise. Therefore, when you are requested to do something, either keep your word or be plain in explaining that what they’re asking of you would be difficult to complete.If you cannot complete what they’ve asked, your Iraqi counterpart should still appreciate your initial gesture of agreement.


  • Iraqi business culture is hierarchical, based on age and position and people defer all decision making to the manager at the highest-level of the business. This individual takes all responsibility and consequences for any decisions made by the company.
  • Women rarely hold managerial positions and their input is generally ignored.
  • Avoid losing your temper. It is unlikely to further negotiations and will possibly make Iraqis hesitant of doing business with you. Express any reluctance or disapproval calmly, with tact or in a one-on-one setting.
  • In Iraq, people prefer to agree on contracts and adhere to them on the basis of trust. Iraqis generally keep word-of-mouth promises, so be clear that what they are saying is what they mean (see next point).
  • To questions and requests that require a yes or no answer, an Iraqi's preoccupation with appearances and automatically requires that he/she answer ‘yes’, whether it is true or not. In the Arab world, a flat ‘no’ indicates that you want to end the relationship and causes people to lose face. The polite way for an Iraqi to say no is to say, “I’ll see what I can do”, or something to that effect, no matter how impossible the task may be. After the person has been queried several times concerning his success, an answer such as “I’m still checking” or something similar means no. Such an response also means “I am still your friend/ally—I tried”. Tilting one’s head back while raising the eyebrows can also suddenly indicate no. The best way of finding the underlying meaning is to check for clarification several times and ask open ended questions.
  • An Arab may also respond with ‘Inshallah’ which roughly translates to mean "If God will/allows it to happen". Inshallah is a way of saying yes without making any promises. It infers "I will try my best but in the end it is up to God to make it happen". Therefore, if you are unable to achieve what you agreed to, it is not you or anyone else's fault, but the will of God.
  • Giving gifts is not necessary but appreciated. However, giving expensive gifts can be misinterpreted as bribery.
  • On the (2017), Iraq ranks 169th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 18 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is highly corrupt.

A unified, searchable interface answering your questions on the world’s cultures and religions

Sign up for free