- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Bahrain (PDF)
Expats 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 Islam, and expats will need to familiarise themselves with appropriate customs and practices.
Bahrain was ranked 43rd out of 190 countries in the World Bank's 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey. Bahrain did well in categories like ease of paying taxes (1st) and registering property (17th) but fell short in getting credit (94th).
Usually Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 5pm. However, this can vary from company to company, especially when it comes to multinational corporations
Arabic is Bahrain's official language, but English is commonly spoken and is often used in business.
Business attire is formal and conservative.
Small gifts are acceptable. Gifts aren't opened in the presence of the giver and are typically saved for later.
Men and women are treated equally in business.
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
Business moves slowly in Bahrain, and any attempt to rush it is considered improper. 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 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 thobe, a flowing robe seen at nearly every type of occasion.
It's 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.
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
► Banking, Money and Taxes in Bahrain has more information on expat money matters in the Kingdom
"It’s a work hard ethic, people here seem much more dedicated to their work than in the UK but they also play hard and everyone is positive." Learn more about working in Bahrain in Susie's interview.
"There is definitely a results / output based focus, although most people seem fairly relaxed about their job roles." Read John's Expat Arrivals interview for more.
Are you an expat living in Bahrain?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bahrain. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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