Most Kuwaitis are Muslims and Islam governs all aspects of their business, personal and economic lives. Those doing business in Kuwait need to take account of religious and cultural sensitivities in order not to cause offence. Friday is the holy day and much activity is curtailed during the month of Ramadan. Alcohol and pork products are not allowed and some restrictions on women apply.
While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken in the business community.
The extended family forms the basis not only of the country’s social structure but individual identity, too.
From a business perspective, firms need to understand that their initial dealings in the country may be conducted by a non-Kuwaiti Arab or other expatriate. It is often necessary to work your way up through a series of under-managers before reaching the company’s decision-maker. Sometimes junior managers will not tell you directly that your product or service is not for them, leaving you with the mistaken impression that a deal is only a handshake away. Kuwaitis appreciate punctuality.
It is vital to remain courteous and polite whoever you are dealing with. You are likely to remain under close scrutiny. Impatience or inappropriate remarks can easily scupper deals. Long before the oil boom Kuwaitis were renowned for their business acumen and financial savvy and the current generation of Western-educated business people are especially shrewd. An aggressive, hard-sell approach cuts no ice. A more subtle approach involving small talk, patience, low-key presentations, desk-top videos, specimens and samples are essential tools.
Negotiations may take place in English but contracts are normally in Arabic. Business talks only take place once an atmosphere of friendship and trust has been established. Don’t take a hurried approach.
UK Trade & Investment
Tel: 0207 215 4246
PO Box 2
Tel: 00 965 2259 4320
Arab-British Chamber of Commerce
43 Upper Grosvenor Street
London, W1K 2NJ, UK43
Tel: 020 7235 4363
Fax: 020 7235 6688