Business Card Etiquette in the Middle East

Posted on Jul 5, 2016 | 0 comments

Business Card Etiquette in the Middle East

Business cards are universal but there are regional differences in both the content details and, very importantly, in the etiquette of their usage. Learning the business culture in a new host country is critical to making a strong first impression as well as demonstrating professional behavior to business partners, whether they are locals or expatriates (expats).


Business cards are an essential business tool in the Middle East and are exchanged freely and frequently, so it is advised to have business cards with you at all times. Business cards are generally exchanged at the end of a meeting, or, if at a conference or event, during networking times or coffee breaks. It is considered polite to have one side of your card translated into the local language (usually Arabic), and to present the Arabic-written side of the card face-up when passing it on to a colleague or client. However, do not assume that all Middle Easterners are Arabs. The Middle East is home to many different ethnicities.


What to include on your business card:

A traditional business card in the Middle East includes your company’s name, logo, address and website (if you are employed), your full name, professional title/qualifications, position, phone number (office and mobile), fax number and e-mail address.


Protocol varies by country.

The United Arab Emirates is a country whose people respect traditional Islamic roles and values while operating within an increasingly cosmopolitan, international culture. Due to the international business environment in Dubai, etiquette with regard to business cards is rather relaxed. Although business cards in the UAE are typically exchanged at the beginning of a meeting, it is also acceptable to hand them out during a night out or during a supermarket chat with a neighbor or compatriot.


In Bahrain, business cards are given to everyone you meet in a business setting or when meeting people at any networking or social function. When you receive business cards, make a point of looking at them carefully and respectfully before putting them away. Never give or receive cards with your left hand, which was traditionally reserved for “unclean” acts.


In Israel, business cards are exchanged without much fanfare, often at the beginning of a meeting, though there are no hard and fast rules. Most companies provide business cards for their employees, who are most likely to find themselves in work-related situations where such exchanges are made. People who are self-employed frequently have their own business cards, as well as their own website. It is perfectly acceptable for business cards to be printed exclusively in English as not everyone can read Hebrew. Some organizations and individuals opt for cards that are printed with Hebrew on one side and English on the other. Businesses that work locally and conduct business solely in Hebrew have their cards printed in Hebrew, as the chance that they will require an English card is minimal.


Where to print business cards:

It is very easy to have business cards printed in most Middle Eastern metropolitan areas. It might be preferable to have them printed locally to ensure correct local language content, customary layout and most current contact information (phone numbers and addresses).


Lucia Kolaja Bordean, Corporate Relations Manager

Edited by: Anna Sparks, Expert Global Career Consultant



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