Doing Business In Kuwait

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Business Etiquette, Languages & Culture


Although Arabic is the official language, English is widely used and spoken. Many Kuwaiti's speak English fluently as there are lots of private English and American schools and universities where all subject are taught in English and Arabic is taken as a subject.

Meetings and Presentations

The visitor should understand that his first few contacts with a Kuwaiti firm may well be conducted with an expatriate or a non Kuwaiti Arab - a Lebanese, Egyptian or Palestinian, or a trusted Indian or Pakistani office Manager. In most Kuwaiti companies, the visiting businessman will have to work his way up and through the levels of assistant managers before meeting a decision-maker.

Traditional courtesy dictates that, even at the lowest level of the company, you will be met with goodwill. This can be frustrating if the company very quickly decides that your product is not for them, because few Arab managers will give you an abrupt rejection. Foreigners unfamiliar with local business methods may therefore still have the impression that clinching the deal is only a day away, when, in reality they are receiving a polite brush-off.

The golden rule is only talk business with a decision-maker. However, it is important to remain polite and courteous with all office staff. Careless remarks or a display of impatience will naturally be frowned on and will certainly reach the ears of senior management. The moment you step into an office you are under observation.


Kuwait's deep-rooted trading traditions earned its merchants a reputation for financial astuteness and business acumen long before the discovery of oil. Today's Kuwaiti businessmen, many of whom have been educated in Europe or the US, have considerable experience of the business methods of both East and West, and their shrewdness should never be underestimated.

The aggressive, hard sell does not appeal to Kuwaitis. Patience, small talk, low-key presentation, the desk-top video tape of the product, samples and specimens, an attractive company brochure - these are not, as might be thought, cosmetic trimmings but an essential part of business behaviour.

Kuwait City Picture

Although negotiating is done in English, contracts are written in Arabic. If there is both an English and Arabic version, the Arabic will be the one followed.

Business will only be discussed once an atmosphere of trust and friendship has been established. Do not seem in a hurry, do not talk of planes to catch and do not fret over a taxi back to the hotel (the client can probably arrange for a car to take you back). Kuwaitis expect punctuality, but your schedule should allow you flexibility in case of any delay on their part. All local telephone calls are free of charge, and most shopkeepers or office staff will be happy to let you use their telephones to confirm a company's location or leave a message that you will be late for an appointment.

Source - UK Trade & Investment


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