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How to do business in the Gulf: Part three 

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7 Time your arrival

Punctuality is a moveable feast, and delay confers status and importance on the part of the delayer. Junior colleagues are expected to be at the appropriate place on time but the decision-maker of the group is allowed to keep them waiting. The further up the power structure you go, the greater the delay. “I’ve seen ruling sheiks keep a ballroom full of people waiting hours for a speech, with no complaint,” says Ben Flanagan, editor of MediaWeek Middle East. 8 Respect the sheik

In contrast to the West, leadership is held in respect – even awe. There’s little tradition of constructive criticism. Sheiks and their senior business executives are used to having their views confirmed and implemented, not debated – especially if they hold government positions. This presents difficulties for Americans and Europeans, who regard executive meetings as an opportunity to exchange candid views and agree a consensus. Use a far more nuanced approach in the Gulf.9 Know who’s who

Sheiks of ruling-family blood are called Your Highness, while cabinet members are referred to as Your Excellency. Senior Arab executives are Sir on first meeting and Mister, followed by last name, thereafter, for example: Mr Al Futtaim. Use of the first name is allowed on familiarity. For women, use first names for anyone outside royalty or cabinet status. Never call somebody sheik – you wouldn’t say “Hello, Queen” to Her Majesty, would you?

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