- Make an effort to arrive on time. However, Syrians have a looser sense of punctuality and may be late themselves.
- You are expected to greet everyone in the room individually, even if the group is large. Greet the host of the meeting first, and from there you can either greet people in order of oldest to youngest, or from the left of the room to the right of the room.
- Receiving Business Cards: Only use the right hand to receive a business card as the left hand is considered unclean and is reserved for removing dirt and cleaning. Do not put the card away immediately, but regard it carefully and place it before you on the table once everyone is seated. Do not write on a card unless directed to do so.
- Presenting Business Cards: Only use the right hand when presenting a business card, and make sure that the writing is facing the other person. Do not deal out your cards as if you were playing a game of cards as this risks being interpreted as rude.
- Allow social conversation to take place before discussing business.
- Syrians tend to conduct very animated business meetings. 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 interrupt in order to make your point heard. They should not find it rude. To avoid distraction or deflection from your proposal, sit next to the business person you are interested in and make your proposition directly to him.
Personal relationships play a huge role in Syrian business culture. Syrians prefer to work with those they know. For them, trust is key to good business. 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. Their priority is to expand their network with people they can rely on, often building strong friendships with potential partners to do that.
Considering this, they 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. As an Australian, you may consider many of the questions asked to be too personal, detailed or unrelated to the point at hand. Try to be patient regardless, and provide answers for the sake of the business relationship. It would be most beneficial to ask them similar questions in return. Syrians greatly appreciate when their colleagues show interest in their personal lives.
Syrian partners or colleagues may expect you to grant them privileges on the basis of your friendship and vice versa. These usually involve favours for their family or entail networking. Try to be flexible in receiving and extending these favours as they will help you generously in return. 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 get your senior to apologise on your behalf.
- Syrians defer all decision making to the senior who holds the most power within their company. This individual bears all responsibility and consequences on the company’s behalf.
- It may take days or weeks to receive an answer regarding larger decisions. Time can be very flexible, so indicate your own company’s time constraints to give them a deadline.
- Syrians accustomed to the economy in their home country may be wary of planning for things far in advance as political and social unrest easily renders business plans obsolete in Syria.
- When discussing business, Syrians—particularly Arab Syrians—do not always see the need to separate their emotional investment from the subject and may intermingle their feelings into the professional context. This is because, in contrast to Australia, displays of emotional passion can give a person esteem or leverage in negotiations. With that in mind, do your best to remain honest and patient. Appeal to logic to combat against arguments of emotion, but try not to be the typical ‘stiff and cold’ Westerner.
- In Syria, people prefer to agree by contract and adhere to them on the basis of trust. It’s important not to underestimate the power of verbal agreements in business. Syrians speak with sincerity and will generally keep the promises they make by mouth.
- To questions and requests which require a yes or no answer, an Arab's preoccupation with appearances and automatically requires that he answer ‘yes’ whether it is true or not. This is because in the Middle East, a flat ‘no’ can indicate that you want to end the relationship. The polite way to say no is to say something along the lines of, “I’ll see what I can do”, 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 signifies “no”. Such an response also means “I am still your friend/ally, I tried”. The best way of navigating around this rhetoric to find the underlying truth is to check for clarification several times.
- An Arab may also respond with “Inshallah” which roughly translates to mean "If God will/allows it to happen". This is a way of saying yes without making any promises, communicating "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 your or anyone else's fault, but simply the will of God (fate).
- People are often invited to discuss business in more personal settings, such as restaurants or even one’s home. In these situations, discussions of serious matters begin with small talk and refreshments. Accepting at least a small quantity of refreshments or engaging in some small talk expresses esteem and trust. If you decline refreshments, the host will likely offer them to you at least two more times before accepting your refusal.
- Economic sanctions in Syria have led the economy to be mostly cash-based at present.
- On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), Syria ranks as 178th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 14 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is highly corrupt.
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