Economic Success through Cultural Competence

"Arabs are unpunctual, unreliable and readily cheat foreign business partners." Prejudice against Middle Eastern peoples are also, and especially today, widely spread in Germany. Thus, knowing the cultural rules prevailing in the Middle East is not pure luxury, but a neccessity for performing successful business. According to Sylvia Ortlieb, how good business relationships are built and how putting one’s foot in it during communication and interaction can be avoided, can be learnt during an intercultural competence training.

With her guidebook "Business-Knigge für den Orient" [Etiquette manual for the Middle East] she aims at illustrating a basic cultural competence to the readers, which is to form the basis for a fruitful communication between the Middle East and the Occident.

First, Ortlieb spotlights the individual states of the Middle East – Gulf States, Maghreb Region and the Islamic Republic of Iran – and illustrates their individual market relationships with the Federal Republic of Germany. In the following text, a profound insight into the Arabian way of thinking and manners is provided. Why, and how, can conflicts arise in contact with Arabian business people? What should German business partners imperatively avoid and how can they be generally successful in the foreign cultural sphere? Ortlieb communicates how culturally competent acting as a basis for stabil business relationships leads to competitive advantages.

Based on her ethnological and historical knowledge, the author goes into cultural characteristics of Middle Eastern countries, such as the Arabian people's Concept of Time which considerably differs from ours. The importance of religious holidays, as well as of certain Islamic rules, and especially the roles of women in Islam are dealt with in an appropriate way. Using the explanations of Arabian negotiation strategies and concepts, German business people should be enabled to win Arabian business partners for their projects.

After that, Ortlieb provides extensive information on personnel management and company organization in Middle Eastern countries (did you know that in Middle Eastern countries, the role of the mediator exists for solving problems?) as well as on the topic separation between the sexes and women in the Arabian world of business. The author provides an historical overview on the Middle East, Middle Eastern culture and identity, as well as Islam, thus providing an insight in Islamic bank and financial systems.

The "Business-Knigge für den Orient" [Etiquette manual for the Middle East] addresses the phenomenon of business relationships between Occident and Orient, from their starting phases to their end. Furthermore, not only the rules of etiquette in the field of economics are illustrated, but the fundamental basics for a successful stay in Middle Eastern countries are shown as well. The Doctor of Political Science and Ethnology Ortlieb provides knowledgeable and extensive information about the culture, society and business life in Arabian countries. She uses concrete examples to show possible misunderstandings and communication traps, thus contributing to the understanding of and respect towards the Middle Eastern culture from the European side.

The book is clearly arranged by means of short subchapters providing a smooth text flow. Coloured information boxes for special topics loosen the text.

Sylvia Ortlieb’s work is to be understood as a commendable approach to create awareness for the cultural differences between Western and Middle Eastern countries, which are especially important for business relationships, and which are still brushed aside as marginal by many people.