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Briefing Essay - Egypt (Mgmt 445)

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Lesson 10 Briefing Paper
Egypt
Valarie Milito For your travels to Egypt, I have developed this briefing paper for you, to assist in informing you about their culture, social customs and manners as well as their business customs and behaviors. Egypt is located in North East Africa bordering Palestine, Libya and Sudan. The ethnic make-up of Egypt is Eastern Hamitic, 99% of the population is Egyptians, Bedouins and Berbers and the other 1% consists of Greek, Nubian, Armenian, French and Italian. The written and spoken language of Egypt is Arabic. Islam is the religion that the majority of Egyptians practice. There are certain obligations for Muslims which are to pray 5 times a day, at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. They post the exact times in the newspaper daily. With Fridays being the Muslim day, everything is closed. Some companies will close on Thursdays as well which makes their weekends Thursday and Friday. Here is some must needed information on the business and personal etiquette and customs in Egypt. We are going to begin with the customs of Egypt. How you greet someone is based on both class as well as religion. Handshakes are typically the customary greeting of individuals of the same sex and they are usually prolonged and limp with a smile and direct eye contact. When a man and a woman are greeting each other, the women must extend her hand firs and if she does not, then a man should just bow his head in greeting. After a relationship has been developed, then men with men and women with women will kiss one cheek and then the other while shaking hands. . If you are invited to dinner at an Egyptian’s home, remove your shoes before you enter, dress conservative and compliment the house you are visiting. It is also customary to bring a gift. It should be sweets or pastries or quality chocolates. Unless you know the hosts would like flowers, do not bring any as they are normally for weddings or the sick. If the family you are visiting has children, a small gift for them is acceptable as it shows affection. Always use your right hand when giving gifts or if it is heavy be sure to use both hands and they will not open the gift when you give it to them. When dining, please wait until the host tells you where to sit and only use your right hand to eat. If you can, take second helpings of the dinner as this is considered to be complimentary to the hosts. Do not use salt and when you have finished eating, leave a little bit of food on your plate to show you have finished or they will continue to give you more food. It is important to know about Egyptian family values and honor as well as social class. One of the most important parts of a relationship is honor. A right and obligation to an Egyptian is respect and esteem for other people. A person’s honor is enmeshed with the honor and reputation of their entire family. As a way to display their honor, it is required that Egyptians show hospitality to their friends and guests and also requires that you dress and present yourself was well as your finances allow. You must also be sure to respect to the elders and those yielding authority. In Egypt, your word is everything and to renege on your word will result in dishonoring you and your family. Egyptians also highly regard nepotism; it shows that they are putting their family above everything and everyone else. Next I am going to address social etiquette, before you will be able to handle any business relations, you must first develop a personal relationship as Egyptians will only do business with people they know and respect and are necessary for long-term business relationships. A person’s social class is apparent in Egypt; it decides a person’s access to position as well as power. The social class that an Egyptian is born into also mandates how their everyday life will be as well as the opportunities that will be presented to them throughout their lives. The three social statuses in Egypt are the same as in the U.S., upper, middle and lower class. The status of an Egyptian isn’t determined by the amount of money that they have but from the background of their family and there is very little social mobility. Networking is very important so be sure to develop relationships with as many people as you can as they tend to follow the “it’s not what you know but who you know” philosophy. It is considered rude and bad etiquette to show the soles of your shoes or feet. If you have to refuse an offer from an Egyptian, place your right hand over your heart as this symbolizes gratitude and humbleness and this is viewed as a polite rejection. Although Egyptians tend not to be superstitious, some see the palm of a hand as a symbol to ward off evil. You may see status of hands with an eye painted into the palm facing outwards in front of homes with the idea that this will protect the home from evil and jealous people. This is way you must not wave your palms in the face of an Egyptian as this could be considered bad and that you regard them as bad or evil.
Finally, we will discuss business etiquette. Egyptians will address you by your title, and will expect the same courtesy from you. Be sure to ask permission to address someone by their first name before doing so, as it is considered rude to do so otherwise.
Whenever you are having a meeting, appointments need to be made in advance and are required and should also be confirmed a week prior either by phone or in writing and then again a day or so prior. Be sure to accept the beverage that is offered to you whether you drink it or not because it is considered rejecting the person if you do not accept. Make sure you are conservative in your appearance but also dressed and presenting yourself well, you will be judged on how you look. For a meeting, you should wear conservative formal wear to make a good impression. Men should wear dark colored suites and women also need to be sure they dress appropriately with everything being properly covered, knee length skirts or dresses and sleeves that cover most if not all of the arm. Eye contact is most important as it demonstrates honesty and sincerity so you will be receiving intense looks and stares. Even though Egyptians tend to be soft spoken, they do use emotions and hand gestures when they get excited, so if they get loud or pound on the table, do not be alarmed, they are merely demonstrating a point.
In Egypt, rank and hierarchy are extremely important so be sure to yield to the judgment of the spokesperson, this person is the most senior person there. Age and experience is highly regarded in Egypt, so older businessmen tend to have more success. It is also recommended that you have older people with titles in your group because of this. Unless the subject at hand is confidential or being held by high government officials, meetings are not held privately, they often work with an open-door policy. This may mean that the meeting is interrupted by others with a whole new conversation being started. It is acceptable join in on the new conversation, but is not acceptable to attempt to change the subject back to the prior discussion before the interruption. Meetings will usually start with small talk. Keep in mind that if you plan on sending an itinerary or any materials prior to the meeting, but sure to send them both in English and Egyptian Arabic languages. The same goes with business cards, make sure you have one side translated into Egyptian Arabic and that you hand it to them so that they can read it. If you receive a business card, be sure to study it before you put it away. Decisions are jury-like in Egypt, they are not made until there is a long deliberation and because businesses are hierarchical, the highest ranking person there will make the decision after a group agreement. If this is a governmental decision, it may take longer for a decision because it requires approval from ministers of several departments. Because it is very bureaucratic, it may take multiple meetings to finish a simple task. They also tend to negotiate a lot since it is rare that they consider an offer as final and can be tough when it comes to negotiating a deal. Egyptians also do not like the word no, so they tend to use silence as an answer as opposed to saying now and they do not fare well with bullying tactics, so refrain from trying to pressure them into a decision.
In conclusion, I have learned that in Egypt family is everything and put above anything else. Money does not identify your class, your family lineage does. They take their customs very seriously and expect you to know them and respect them while visiting. I have also learned that they use group decision making but at the same time they do leave the final decision to be made and announced by the most senior person that is there. Honor is also extremely important and their word is everything, and to go back on their word would not only dishonor themselves but their families as well. I truly enjoyed writing this briefing, so much more than I thought I would!

Sources:
Bebenham BA, L. (2012, December 27). Etiquette in Egypt. Retrieved October 31, 2015, from http://www.traveletiquette.co.uk/etiquetteegypt.html
Egypt - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/egypt-country-profile.html

Orrill, J. (n.d.). What Are the Customs & Beliefs of Egypt Today? Retrieved October 31, 2015, from http://traveltips.usatoday.com/customs-beliefs-egypt-today-22770.html…...

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