Doing Business in Bahrain

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Bahrain's business culture is based on personal relationshipsExpats anticipating doing business in Bahrain will find an environment that's well-acquainted with foreign influence, and arguably the most liberal in the Middle East.

Nearly 50 percent of Bahrain's population is made up of foreigners. However, the country takes its mandate from the Muslim religion, and expats will need to familiarise themselves with appropriate customs and practices.

Bahrain was ranked 63rd out of 190 countries in the World Bank's 2017 Ease of Doing Business Survey. Bahrain did well in the categories of ease of paying taxes (4th) and dealing with construction permits (19th), but fell short in enforcing contracts (110th).
 

Fact facts


Business hours

Sunday to Thursday, 8am to 5pm, though this can vary from company to company, especially when it comes to multinational corporations
 

Business language

Arabic is Bahrain's official language, but English is commonly spoken and is often used in business.

Dress

Businesswear is formal and conservative.

Gifts

Small gifts are acceptable. Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver and are typically saved for later.

Gender equality

Men and women are treated equally in business.

Greetings

A handshake is the most common greeting. When a man greets a woman, he should wait for her to extend her hand first.

Business culture in Bahrain

 

Personal relationships

Similar to most Arab countries, business culture in Bahrain is based on personal relationships. A letter of introduction from a mutual acquaintance is a great way to facilitate meetings, as Bahrainis generally prefer doing business with people they know. It follows that initial meetings focus on building a relationship rather than hammering out details.

Business moves slowly in Bahrain, and any attempt to rush it is considered improper. Meetings in Bahrain generally include coffee as a ceremony symbolising friendship.

Business attire

Business attire in Bahrain is strictly formal. No matter how hot the weather, a suit and tie are mandatory. Women should dress modestly, keeping arms and legs covered at all times and wearing closed-toed shoes. Local businessmen may wear Western attire or a dishdasha, a flowing robe seen at nearly every type of occasion.

Communication

It is important to use formal titles when addressing local businesspeople.

Business language tends to be indirect, and care is taken to save face and avoid disappointing others with flat refusals. It is considered impolite to fast-track discussions or openly contradict another person.

Religion

Business culture in Bahrain is welcoming to foreign investment. Expat business owners are required to be respectful of Islamic culture and tradition, however they are not required to practise it themselves.

Dos and don’ts of business in Bahrain


  • Do always wear a suit and tie.
  • Don't rush into business talk.
  • Do arrive on time, though locals may be late.
  • Don't use high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Do have one side of a business card translated into Arabic.
  • Don't schedule meetings for July and August when many businesspeople are out of town.