The Commisceo Global Blog

Keeping you up to date with all the news, articles, tools, opinions and press relating to the world of cultural understanding, in and out of business.

The Importance of Business Relationships in the Middle East

The Importance of Business Relationships in the Middle East

Intercultural Awareness

Intercultural awareness training is sometimes perceived as a luxury within the business world. Many who feel this way are also proponents of the misconception that because the "world is getting smaller" our differences are becoming less obvious and less of a problem. This is in fact false. As we get closer, our differences become more acute and more of a problem thus further driving the need for intercultural awareness training.

Companies are now tuning into the fact that in order to get ahead in today's global economy, cultural awareness is critical. It is no longer a luxury but a necessity. The right intercultural awareness training briefing can offer a company real benefits, namely a competitive advantage and a greater long term gain.

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When Cultural Ignorance becomes a Costly Mess

When Cultural Ignorance becomes a Costly Mess

Case studies from real business life are always the most powerful of ways to highlight the importance of local knowledge and cultural awareness for those operating in foreign countries. Often ignored or undervalued, this lack of sensitivity can sometimes have messy outcomes.

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Ramadan: The Business of Fasting

Ramadan: The Business of Fasting
Did you know Ramadan starts next Tuesday, the 9th July 2013 [June 29th 2014]? Well it might do; all depends on the moon. Nevertheless millions of working men and women from Morocco to Saudi Arabia to Indonesia will be fasting from dawn till dusk as of next week. Life changes for 30 days inevitably having an impact on business.
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20 Must Know Arabic Words and Phrases for your Business Trip to the Arab World

20 Must Know Arabic Words and Phrases for your Business Trip to the Arab World

Travelling to the Middle East, The Gulf or Arab world on business?

No matter where in the world you go for work knowing a few words or phrases in the local language can break down barriers, build relationships and smooth the way to business success.

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Leadership and Management: Is the West Killing Local Arab Culture and Values?

Leadership and Management: Is the West Killing Local Arab Culture and Values?
Has the adoption of western education, management and leadership paradigms killed off local and national management styles across the world? Voices in the UAE are claiming this is unhealthy and unsustainable as foreign principles can never 100% fit in with local cultural needs.
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Doing Business in The Middle East

Doing Business in The Middle East

The Middle East is an area which carries many stereotypes and myths. Before doing business in the Middle East it is imperative to learn about areas such as business culture, business etiquette, meeting protocol and negotiation techniques.  Through such knowledge stereotypes are broken and barriers to communication reduced.

When doing business in the Middle East, it is wise to bear in mind the great diversity within the region. However, a common religion, language and culture make the highlighting of general traits and features for the region valid.

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The Middle East Unveiled: A Review



As someone in the intercultural field, a Muslim and having spent many years living, working and travelling throughout the Arab world, I am always keen to scrutinize literature aimed at business professionals seeking to improve their knowledge of the region. Donna Marsh’s “The Middle East Unveiled” is a recent edition to such literature.
With an experience of the region spanning some 30 years, Donna worked within sales, marketing and new business development across the region. Today she acts as a trainer and consultant advising companies on how to work more effectively in the region.
The major positive of the book is summed up in the title’s sub-heading, ‘a cultural and practical guide for all western business professionals’. The topics covered are very comprehensive. Ranging from the usual business practicalities and etiquette to safety and security through to what to do at the weekend. One could suggest that the author was over ambitious in the range of subjects covered however the informal and succinct writing style help the reader get straight to the point thus lightening the experience. The format of the book further allows the reader to ‘dip’ into topics rather than having to wrestle with long chapters.
I find chapters on Islam intriguing. It is not uncommon for “Western” authors to misrepresent the religion, fuel expat stereotypes or simply offer their gloss of a highly complex and colourful religion. Donna however has managed to tackle a sensitive topic with an impressive amount of clarity, accuracy and balance. The key, it appears, is her straight-talking approach to the topic and a deep appreciation of what the religion actually says on certain matters plus the various practices across the region. In short the section gives anyone a great introduction to Islam and Muslims, increasing awareness and therefore reducing the ‘fear factor’.
Any review would not be a review without some nitpicking. Two major factors stand out for me when looking for the negatives of the book.
People love case studies, anecdotes and the like when it comes to cultural information. It gives people real life examples, context and a way of applying information to situations. Each chapter could have done with an anecdote from the author’s library of experiences to help readers along the journey. This neatly brings me on to my second point.
As a woman, such anecdotes would have had even greater impact. Donna’s advantage with this book was her gender. At a time when we are fed stories of stonings, burqas, forced marriages and honour killings this was an opportunity for a woman to bring across her story of the Arab world. Women in business tend to shy away from the region; a real and honest assessment of a Western woman’s role in the Arab world could have had a great impact on this perception. Although the book does cover topics around gender differences in a useful manner, that little bit extra in terms of a woman’s viewpoint would have meant added value to the reader.
In conclusion, Donna has successfully managed to encapsulate her knowledge and experiences in this great little publication. It is current, comprehensive and most importantly useful. A ‘must-have’ for anyone looking to better their understanding of working in the region.
By Neil Payne, Kwintessential Ltd
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UAE is top world expat destination

The United Arab Emirates is the world’s top destination for expatriates in terms of personal taxation, according to a new study.

Mercer’s ‘Worldwide Individual Tax Comparator Report’, a global survey of expatriate hotspots, looks at tax and benefits systems across 32 countries, focusing on personal tax structures, average salaries and marital status. Data from the survey is used by multinationals to structure pay packages for their expatriate and local market employees.

For single managers, the UAE has the most attractive tax environment according to the percentage of net income available, the survey finds. The country earns its no. 1 ranking by not assessing income tax, with social security contributions amounting to just 5% of a local employee’s gross salary.

Read more> UAE 
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An expatriate child's view of Saudi Arabia




With all the attention given to the Middle East today, it is important that the Western public receives a complete picture in order that their opinions and sentiment toward Arabs and their homeland’s is a responsible one. Much of the history of these countries is left unacknowledged, untaught, and for the most part, completely unspoken. One country in particular, Saudi Arabia, is clouded by mystery and stereotypes regarding the Islamic faith that its population holds. Aramco Brats' Story is a feature length documentary film depicting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as seen through the eyes of the Western expatriate children who grew up there between 1933 and present day. Aramco Brats were the children of expatriate workers who were employed by Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company) and who spent their childhoods within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The film is an amazing depiction of Saudi Arabia, Arabs, and Islam narrated by nearly 100 average Western citizens of all faiths, who choose not to concentrate on religion, but rather look at the other cultural aspects that many overlook when unfairly judging these people and their nations.

Beginning with the History of Saudi Arabia and its first monarch, King Abdullah Aziz Ibn Saud, The Aramco Brats’ Story mixes old and new media with the stories and commentary of average Western citizens to explore such topics as: Desert Storm, the Royal Family, the discovery of Oil in 1937, expatriate life within the region and the Western Media’s portrayal of Arabs and Islam. Throughout the film, the audience comes to realize that the reporting they have witnessed, the small vignettes of footage they have seen, and the rumors they have heard are not indicative of the overall Arab culture. One of the most interesting facets of the film is found in the understanding these interviewees carry regarding the acclimation of the Islamic world into the new millennium’s Global Village. This privileged group of children and adults have, in their own way, inadvertently developed a Third Culture without denial of religion, race, color, or creed that is representative of the future earth culture, with a goal that is nothing shy of world peace.

The Aramco Brats’ Story is one in the first of a series of films that will, without a doubt change the world. If you’ve ever held an opinion about the events of this day and age, or wanted to know more about the Arab world, this film is a must see. You will leave inspired, humbled, and enlightened.

Visit the Website > ARAMCO Brat's Story
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HR costs soaring in Dubai

Dubai has attracted many international companies and employees over recent years, as it bids to become a global economic superpower.

Managing the UAE's HR Environment, a report by Mercer HR Consulting, showed that average salaries for expatriate staff rose by 6% last year. Daily allowances rose by more than 20%, and multinationals now pay an average of about £240 a day for executive expats on short-term assignments in Dubai - one of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

These soaring costs are leading companies to be more creative with their HR practices, according to Markus Wiesner, head of Mercer's UAE operations.

Read more: Dubai 
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