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Saudi Arabia: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Saudi Arabia

Although Saudi Arabia is increasingly progressive, foreigners must still observe appropriate cultural sensitivity. For example, it pays to know that Saudis take time to build relationships and treasure loyalty greatly, so foreign business people must learn to be patient, be respectful, and never rush their counterparts to make a decision.

Business meetings are formal with appointments arranged in advance and should not coincide with prayer times. It is important to be on time, although you may be kept waiting. Men should wear suits for business meetings and formal social occasions. Business cards should be printed in English and Arabic. While many Saudis speak perfect English, some may still prefer to bring an interpreter.

Business greetings involve a handshake (between men) and perhaps an exchange of business cards – use your right hand to do both. After that, take time to engage in small talk and become acquainted first.

Beware that the working week in Saudi Arabia is from Sunday to Thursday.

Office Hours

Sun-Thu 0800-1700, although each company has its own policy.


As one of the leading oil producers, Saudi Arabia is very wealthy. In recent years, however, the government has been trying to diversify its economy away from its dependence on oil. Tourism, healthcare and tech-based industry are some of the areas that the government is keen to grow.


US$700.1 billion (2020).

Main exports

Petroleum, petroleum products, natural gas.

Main imports

Machinery, equipment, medicines, food.

Main trading partners

China, India, USA.

Keeping in Touch in Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia has an excellent telecommunications network.

Mobile Phone

Mobile coverage is exceptional in cities and towns, but coverage outside urban areas can be sporadic. Buying a local sim card is the best way to avoid paying roaming charges. There are three mobile operators – STC, Mobily and Zain, with STC being the leading telco.


Wi-Fi hotspots are readily available in every major city.


SPL ( runs the postal service.

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