Columbia Pictures produced a film in Egypt that caused the greatest shock to the general public. The actors' accents were Pakistani, their clothes were Moroccan and their behaviour was rather American. The most appalling element of the film, however, was the portrayal of the former Egyptian president Nasser, kissing his wife in public, something totally unacceptable in Islamic countries...
Communication and behaviour - Egypt
- Since there are plenty greeting styles in Egypt, it is safest to wait for your counterpart to initiate the greeting, especially at a first meeting.
- Arab men usually walk hand in hand although Western-style Egyptians rarely do this. If an Egyptian holds your hand, accept this as gesture of friendship.
- The left hand is considered unclean in Egypt. Unless you are handling something considered dirty, always use the right hand. Avoid gestures with the left hand.
- Pointing is considered extremely rude.
- Do not cross their legs when sitting. Moreover, showing the bottom of your foot is considered offensive.
- The "thumbs up" sign is offensive in Egypt and the entire Arab world.Strict Muslims won't touch alcohol or pork. If you invite an Egyptian to a social event, make sure there is a selection of non-alcoholic drinks available.
- Don't 'wipe out' your plate. Leaving a small portion of food means you have had enough.
- When eating in an Egyptian home, adding salt to your food is considered an offence.
- Egyptian cotton, sports (football, boxing) and achievements of the past are popular conversation topics.
- Women (inquiring about female members of your counterpart's family) and Israel are topics to avoid.
- Presents are acceptable but make sure you give or receive them with the right hand and never with the left. Using both hands is acceptable.Small electronic devices, chocolates and fashionable compasses are popular gifts.
- A typical business day is usually from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm in the summer and 9:00 am to 1:00 pm with an extra 5:00 to 7:00 pm in the winter.
- No business is conducted on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Most people don't work on Thursdays either.
- Working hours for businesses and government offices are shortened during the Ramadan.
- Punctuality is not as much of a priority. Your counterpart may be late for the appointment or won't show up at all.
- Indeed, it is a common practice to keep foreign trade partners waiting. You may not be able to hold more than one appointment per day. Besides, Cairo is well known for its traffic congestion.
- Appointments with traditional Arab entrepreneurs are rarely private. Interruptions in the form of phone calls and visits from friends and family are to be expected. Remain calm and understanding.
- You should have an Egyptian agent to do business in this country. If you're doing business in both Cairo and Alexandria, it's recommended that you have a separate agent for each city.
- Business cards should be printed in English on one side and in Arabic overleaf.
- Business documents should include two dates: the Gregorian (Western) and the Hijrah (Arabic) date.
- Visitors are expected to follow Egyptian discretion standards. Despite the country's hot temperatures, most of the body must remain covered.
- Avoid wearing traditional clothing. Egyptians may find it offensive to see foreigners dressed in their traditional attire.
- The lewd gaze of an Egyptian man is usually a good indicator that a foreign woman's dress is not 'modest' enough.
- The pace of business is much slower in Egypt than in Europe or the States. Producing 'instant results' is out of the question.
- Business will not proceed until your counterpart decides that he likes you. The social side of the deal goes hand in hand with the work-related one.
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