Palestinian Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • You are expected to greet everyone in the room individually, even if the group is large. 
  • If your Palestinian counterpart is hosting the meeting, you can expect to be treated very generously. Tea, coffee and sweets are usually served.
  • Allow social conversation to pass before mentioning business. Rushing through this discussion or trying to begin the agenda prematurely can appear too impersonal.
  • Meetings may be paused if they interrupt prayer time. Therefore, it is usually best to make appointments in the morning before the midday prayer or after lunch.
  • Avoid losing your temper. It is unlikely to further negotiations and will possibly make Palestinians hesitant to do business with you.
  • Be aware Palestinians generally try to avoid confrontation and express any reluctance or disapproval indirectly.
  • All criticism or confrontation should be handled sensitively and in private. Avoid outrightly accusing someone of something (especially during a meeting in front of others) as this will tarnish their honour. Give them the chance to explain and protect their honour so you can move forward.

 

Relationships

Relationships play a central role in Palestinian business culture. Personal contacts are often integral in providing the assistance, networks or access needed to complete professional operations. Many businesses are also family-owned and operated, relying on local customers. This means business dealings tend to be more personal and less formal. Palestinians prefer to work with those they know and can rely on, often seeking to build strong friendships with potential partners to do that. They base one’s credibility in business on personal qualities rather than on financial aptitudes, and therefore will be seeking an honest commitment to the relationship from you.

 

Considering this, Palestinians generally want to know a great deal about their partners in order to build the trust and loyalty needed to support business in the future. People are often invited to discuss business in more personal and social settings, such as restaurants or even one’s home. Accepting this offer and engaging with a Palestinian on a more intimate level expresses esteem and trust.

 

Given their people’s history and circumstances, Palestinians may not trust outsiders automatically. Therefore, it can take some time to build the trust necessary for a solid working relationship. However, relationships tend to be very strong once someone has proved themselves as an honest and hardworking partner. Consider a Palestinian may eventually expect you to grant them privileges on the basis of your friendship and vice versa. These usually involve favours for their family or networking opportunities. Try to be flexible in receiving and extending these favours where permissible. You can expect strong loyalty in return.

 

Considerations

  • Friday is a holy day for Muslims throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Therefore, the official working week is from Sunday to Thursday, with the ‘weekend’ falling on Friday and Saturday.
  • Timelines are looser than in English-speaking Western countries. For example, if following up on whether something has been completed, an answer of “It will be done tomorrow” often means it will happen sometime in the future but not right now.
  • Be aware that plans are often stated as one’s intention. However, they can change according to varying circumstances. In some cases, people are not notified when plans change.
  • Consider that there may be more dynamics affecting decision-making than what is immediately apparent to you (such as outside pressures from the family, , ‘notable families’ or religion).
  • The Palestinian labour force is well educated and familiar with technologies and overseas practices. Avoid being condescending to them or underestimating their skills.
  • Most Palestinian businesses in the West Bank and Gaza are small-scale and family-operated. This leads many business dealings to be more personal and less formal.
  • Palestinians may be wary of planning for things far in advance as political and social unrest easily renders business plans obsolete in the Palestinian Territories.
  • The economies of both the West Bank and Gaza are poor and struggling. Unemployment and inflation are chronically high and fluctuate according to political relations with Israel.
  • Be aware the restrictions on Palestinians’ movements imposed by Israel have an impact on the flow of goods and services in the area. Multiple physical barriers (e.g. checkpoints) slow down trade.
  • Multiple currencies circulate in the Palestinian Territories: the Israeli new shekel, the Jordanian dinar and the American dollar.

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