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Business etiquette, language & culture

Overview

Egypt is a Muslim country. You should respect and be aware of local traditions and sensitivities and always behave and dress modestly, particularly when visiting religious sites. However, although the national culture revolves around the religion of Islam, other religions are also respected and churches and temples can be found alongside mosques.

Language

Arabic is the most commonly-spoken language. Almost all official documents, forms, laws and decrees are in Arabic. Therefore, it helps to have a working knowledge of the language.

English is widely spoken throughout the country. Although it is not uncommon for written correspondence to be in English, Arabic is often preferred within some public sector organisations. It is preferable to have one side of your business card printed in Arabic.

Cultural considerations

Many traditional attitudes and business practices are evolving towards a more-westernised approach. Nevertheless, it is still important to be aware and respectful of some of the differences that might exist.

The working week traditionally starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the official days of rest, although in some cases, people will work Saturday.

Meetings

Personal relationships are key to doing business in Egypt. UK exporters are encouraged to have a face-to-face business dialogue with their Egyptian counterparts. It is essential to obtain legal, financial and taxation advice, along with undertaking necessary research, all of which are critical when considering new markets.

As in other countries, more than anything it is important to target the right person in your contacts, the decision-maker. It is also preferable to establish new business contacts via an introduction by mutual contact, exhibitions, networking receptions or through the Embassy in the form of an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). Through an OMIS, the Embassy in Egypt can provide a programme-arranging service, whereby your company would be introduced to the most appropriate contact and an appointment can be confirmed on your behalf.

Face-to-face meetings are preferred as phone or emails are sometimes seen as impersonal. Appointments should be made no more than two weeks in advance and confirmed a few days before the actual meeting as priorities may change. It is useful to allocate extra time in case the meeting should go on longer or start later than anticipated.

Greetings

The customary greeting is “As-salam alaikum," (peace be upon you) to which the reply is "Wa alaikum as-salam,” (and upon you be peace). When entering a meeting, general introductions will begin with a handshake. You should greet each of your Egyptian counterparts individually. Avoid shaking hands with a woman unless they extend their hand first.

During meetings you should:

  • exchange business cards immediately after introductions, presenting with both hands or with the right

  • do not offer anything with your left hand, nor receive anything with your left hand

  • keep cards on the table, do not put them away immediately

When you are in Egypt, especially on business, coffee, as well as tea, may be offered to you in offices and at Arab's homes. Offering coffee is symbolic of hospitality.

Personal contact with potential and existing partners/clients and regular visits to the market are of the utmost importance and it is natural for the business relationship to be built over time. It is advised that you consult a lawyer prior to signing an agreement in Egypt. A list of lawyers is available from the British Embassy Cairo, or at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/egypt-list-of-lawyers.

Remember, relationships are most important. You should show long-term commitment to Egypt and your Egyptian contacts – keep in touch between contracts or projects.

 

Egyptian public holidays 

2018

Date:

Holiday:

22nd September

El Hijra (Islamic New Year)

6th October

Armed Forces Day

20th November

Moulid El Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)

 

2019

Date:

Holiday:

7th January

Coptic Christmas Day

25th January

Revolution Day

25th April

Sinai Liberation Day

28th April

Coptic Easter Sunday

29th April  

Sham El Nessim (Spring Festival)

1st May

Labour Day

5th -7th June 

Eid El-Fitr (End of Ramadan)

23rd July

July 23rd Revolution Day

12th -14th August

Eid El-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

12th September

El Hijra (Islamic New Year)

6th October

Armed Forces Day

9th November

Moulid El Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)

(NB some dates may be subject to change)


 

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