How Misreading Culture Can Ruin Your Business In The Middle East?

How Mis-reading Culture Can Ruin Your Business In The Middle East?

  • Basma El BazAuthor: Basma El Baz Publish date: Wednesday، 15 February 2023
How Mis-reading Culture Can Ruin Your Business In The Middle East?

I religiously visit the Hammam Spa to indulge myself with a Moroccan bath. This glorious traditional treatment cleanses and detoxifies the entire body and soul. If you haven’t tried this treatment before, you are missing out on A LOT “also, ew!”

During my last visit to a Hammam spa in a luxury 5 stars hotel in Dubai, I witnessed a bizarre exchange. A western tourist was having a heated argument with the staff because another guest used the steam room while fully lathered in a soapy material. The tourist insisted it was “not right.” I wanted to ask her, “not right,” for whom?

For those unfamiliar with the Moroccan Bath rituals, it starts with having a warm shower, followed by applying a layer of black soap all over the body, then entering the steam room for about 10 mins. Afterward, the black soap is removed with warm water; then, the attendant exfoliates the body with a special hammam glove. The tourist obviously didn’t know about the treatment and got upset when she saw the other guest – who was actually sitting on a towel not to soil anything. The thing is, this person, who is on a visit to an Arab country, didn’t even bother to ask questions calmly about the nature of the culture behind the treatment; she rushed into having a fight with the staff. Then made it into a formal complaint to the management, who politely asked her to leave the facility since she was disturbing other customers.

I see similar situations regarding foreign companies doing business in the Middle East. Many companies pass uninformed judgments about the way things are in the region, unaware of the culture, the traditions, or where they come from. They start clashing with policymakers to impose their views because “this is the right way of doing things.” Again, I ask: Right for whom? And who said there is only one “right” way of doing things? Consequently, in many cases, those companies end up making many wrong decisions that are obviously not good for the business. Then, they end up blaming the Middle East.

Making numerous field trips to the region and understanding its dynamics and geopolitics would be the ABC for any foreign company to operate properly. However, the key decision makers don’t make such trips; worse, they do not factor in the consultation of the Middle Eastern staff they’ve hired for that exact purpose. For example, one big tech company insisted on tying specific experiences they created for the Middle East audience with targeting metrics that depended solely on language, despite the multiple trials from the team on the ground to explain that this would not work with users in the region. The result was minimal page views on the experiences. Instead of reviewing its user experience and understanding the culture, the company decided to sunset those experiences which could have been a profit source.

On the other side, there’s the example of Ariel in Egypt. This detergent is highly consumed in many villages, and the reason is not its powerful marketing, but rather because the company understood the culture and knew that consumers in villages would not go far to buy products, they give more weight to availability, & of course price, over brand names. So, Ariel made sure it had powerful distribution in villages, ensuring that the product was on the shelves of even the smallest store. Not only that, but a couple of years ago, it created a package worth only 1 EGP (0.041 USD) that could cover only one handwash, which became a massive success in rural areas where sometimes women who also own washing machines, like to use their hands to wash clothes.

Learning to avoid the pitfall of ignoring the culture and traditions of a given country or region while conducting business is crucial for any company because otherwise, the price could be something as simple as embarrassing yourself or your company, like the lady in the Moroccan bath. Still, it could also lead to the loss of millions of dollars and/or unnecessary catastrophic PR fires.


The post How Mis-reading Culture Can Ruin Your Business In The Middle East? first appeared on Jalees.

The post How Mis-reading Culture Can Ruin Your Business In The Middle East? appeared first on Jalees.

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