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Understand the history. Many Russians in business are highly informed in global affairs and it is important to understand the country’s recent history, from their perspective; Russians often feel their country is misrepresented in the international media. The immediate past has a very real effect on the mentality of Russians today.
Be flexible. Schedules change all the time due to weather, long distances, traffic and general bad timekeeping.
Find a local fixer. A trusted local advisor will guide you through the complexities of doing business in Russia and will be able to make introductions.
Respect the hierarchy. Decisions are made from the top in Russia so make sure you are not wasting time dealing with a low-ranking individual.
Be patient. Russians are used to hardship and long waits. Patience is a quality they respect and it is an essential aid to doing business. Negotiations and decision-making take a long time and Russians do not like to be hurried.
Be prepared to do favors. Friendships in Russia are based on mutual obligations and it is normal for friends to ask one another for favors.
Embrace hospitality. Business entertaining is an important part of relationship building. Be prepared for long dinners, multiple toasts and emotional speeches. In summer, you may be invited to a family’s dacha, or country cottage.
Put up with bureaucracy. Everything in Russia seems to take longer than you would expect. Do not try to take shortcuts and always comply with regulations.
Develop stamina. Like it or not, many Russians are heavy drinkers and you will be expected to join in.
Tell a good story. Russians enjoy flowery language and may pepper presentations with metaphors and long, involved stories.
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
Beware of criticism. Saudis are resistant to change and reform is slow. Visitors in Saudi Arabia are here to work, not assimilate. Whatever your feelings, try to stay out of politics and religion and do not criticize the Kingdom.
Embrace hospitality. Accept invitations, reciprocate and learn a little about etiquette, for example, the importance of accepting coffee or tea in someone’s office. Little things make a difference.
Work on relationships. Personal relationships are the single most important aspect of doing business and a friendship is for life.
Exchange favors. Friends are expected to do favors for their contacts and this should be mutual.
Save face. Maintaining honor is absolutely critical for a Saudi. Be indirect in communication, rather than blunt; maintain diplomacy at all times; and never do anything that causes a contact to lose face.
Control body language. Arabs are very perceptive of gestures. Maintain eye contact and do not shrink away if someone stands close or touches your arm. Women in business, of course, are treated differently.
Take your time. Negotiations take several rounds of meetings so allow time. Trust must be built before negotiations can begin.
Keep to your word. The spoken word is very powerful. If you say something, be sincere, as it will be remembered. Try not to depend too heavily on email.
Be patient in meetings. There is rarely a fixed agenda and discussion may go round and round, or off at a tangent. Constant interruptions are likely. Use all of this to your advantage.
Be a neighbor, not a stranger. Neighbors, within the immediate sphere of influence, are seen as friends and take priority over strangers.
In the Arab world, business is relationship-based. It is absolutely essential to take the time to build a relationship with your Egyptian counterpart before trying to start negotiations.
Family and kinship are very important to Egyptians. Nepotism is considered a positive and you’ll often find several members of the same family at high levels within one company.
Personal introductions are by far the best way to get to know Egyptians. Always engage a local representative to set up appointments and help you get a foot on the business ladder.
Egyptians have very complex social networks and you’ll often find one individual sitting on the board of or acting as consultant to several companies. This is why it is so important to cultivate personal relationships; you never know where a relationship may lead.
Foreign women are generally treated with respect in Egypt and many Egyptian women hold high-ranking jobs, though still far fewer than men. It is, however, important to dress modestly and understand that you are operating within a Muslim society.
Business entertaining plays a very strong part in any deal. Egyptians are extremely hospitable, as are most Arabs, and it would be considered very rude to decline an invitation.
Egyptians have a strong sense of honor and a man’s word is his bond. They also have a strong sense of face and will go to great lengths to preserve this.
Many Westerners working in Egypt have difficulty coping with the Egyptian concept of time. Meetings will start late and will often run over time, and it is considered rude to cut somebody off during a discussion just because another appointment is due. Deadlines may or may not be met; Egyptians believe that everything is ultimately the will of God.
Egyptians are high context communicators and it is important to learn to read between the lines of what they are saying as well as to study their body language to find out what they really mean. Because saying ‘no’ to somebody may cause them to lose face, Egyptians will go to great lengths to avoid giving a negative answer.
Egypt is located in the very heart of the Middle East and although it has very strong ties with the West, is still essentially an Arab country and has a strong affinity with most of its neighbors. Discussing or criticizing Egyptian politics and foreign policy is a bad idea.
Although Uruguayans display many Latin traits, they are quite different from their neighbors, the South American superpowers of Brazil and Argentina. Uruguayans are less flamboyant than their neighbors, taking a more self-effacing and conservative approach to life.
Uruguayans feel slightly threatened by their two huge neighbors, on whom they depend heavily for trade. Victories like winning the 1950 World Cup were huge and deeply symbolic as a metaphor for Uruguay’s situation – tiny, sandwiched between two powerful giants, yet successful.
Business in Uruguay is generally relationship based and nepotism can play a big part. Preference will almost always be given to a family member, a legacy from an ancient system of kinship, although close friends can be included in a person’s network.
When starting a business, a local agent who knows the system is a vital contact as they will be able to make the right introductions to anybody who matters.
Uruguayans have an active interest in politics and it is acceptable to raise politics as a discussion topic socially. Make sure you know what you are talking about, though. Remember that during the military rule of the 1970s, thousands of people were tortured and went missing and many of them remain unaccounted for. Show sensitivity if you are discussing this subject.
Uruguayans are highly social and enjoy nothing more than entertaining friends at an asado, a lavish barbecue.
Uruguayans want foreign investment but the recent financial crisis is still fresh in many people’s minds and both individuals and business leaders tend to be risk averse.
Uruguayans are considerate, polite and often quiet and reserved. Part of the national culture is to extend gauchadas, favors modeled on the image of the legendary gauchos, who are brave, generous and honorable.
The ability to present an intelligent, articulate argument combined with a friendly approach will help you win business.
Uruguayans are detail-orientated and will want complex contracts rather than simple verbal agreements.
To learn more about the other 28 cultures represented at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, go back to the main article on this topic.