Saudi Arabia is an attractive market for foreign investment, but it can be a difficult path to navigate. Without understanding nuances of the market, especially in important times such as Ramadan, most business professionals will be unprepared for what they would face, and what is expected of them.
As Ramadan approaches, Proven Saudi Arabia, a business support service provider for Saudi Arabia, advises people working in Saudi Arabia to prepare for a slight shift in business practices and a potential slowdown in some processes. It is also important to remember that certain sectors thrive during Ramadan such as retail and F&B who, in 2016, saw up to a 25 percent increase in sales over the Holy Month.
This year, with the announcement of Vision 2030 and the ambitious goals to diversify the economy, the usual summer slowdown may not take effect.
For foreigners visiting the Kingdom, it is important to be respectful to the religious holiday and be aware of customary etiquette. Professionals working in KSA during the month should be prepared for some changes and allow for flexibility to their usual business practices.
Following are the dos and don’ts to achieve this:
#1. Business Hours: Like most companies in the GCC, Saudi Arabia reduces the working day to a maximum of six hours for Muslims or 36 hours per week. This is to accommodate those who are fasting.
#2. Eid Holiday: Muslim and non-Muslim employees are entitled to a four-day paid vacation for the Eid holiday, as per article 112 of the Saudi Labor Law. The vacation amount can be as much as 15 days, depending on the employer
#3. Dress Appropriately: Visitors should take care in ensuring they are dressing modestly during the month of Ramadan.
#4. Exchange Ramadan Greetings: It is custom to use the greeting ‘Ramadan Kareem’ when meeting Muslims, and at the end of Ramadan, during Eid celebrations, the greeting ‘Eid Mubarak’ is used.
#5. Be Charitable: During Ramadan, taking time to be generous and charitable to the less fortunate is a part of the essence of the month.
#6. Attend Iftar: Accept invitations to Iftar meals. It is courteous to bring a gift or a dish to contribute.
#7. Allow Time For Traffic: The traffic is heaviest 30 minutes before sunset. Roads are congested as people head out to break their fast at Iftars with friends, family or colleagues.
#8. Expect Delays In Government Departments: Due to reduced working hours, governmental departments may experience delays.
#1. Eat & Drink In Public: Note that chewing gum constitutes as eating. It is considered disrespectful to eat during fasting hours and can lead to severe disciplinary action.
#2. Smoking: During Ramadan, smoking in public is not allowed until after the evening Taraweeh prayer at sunset, and in Saudi Arabia, there will be few places that allow smoking during the month.
#3. Public Displays Of Affection: This is the same as other times of the year, but especially during Ramadan, avoid public acts of affection.
#4. Play Loud Music: For foreigners experiencing Ramadan for the first time, it is important to stay respectful to those fasting.