Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Arab Business Practices
A couple years ago my friend Hassan excitedly told me about his latest job prospect. Although I cannot recall the company, it was a nationally-based (Canadian) firm looking to attract Middle Eastern investors. Hassan mentioned that the company was having trouble connecting with potential investors because their sales staff were not familiar with "Arab business practices." Because Hassan is Egyptian, he was offered the job.
On the evening prior to Catherine David's presentation at UBC I attended a small dinner in her honour. As David spoke of her work in the Middle Eastern and Arab worlds I took the opportunity to ask her if she was familiar with the term "Arab business practices" and how these practices differed from her work with public and private institutions in the West.
David's response was brief, abstract, and focused largely on finance. Missing in her response was mention of labour relations, particularly the temporary importation (and treatment) of foreign workers, like those hired to build the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Why she chose to speak of finance, not labour, spoke more of the context we were in -- whose home it was, how we were dressed, the quality of the food and the colour of our skin.