Saudi Arabia is an attractive market for foreign investment, but professionals in the country may notice a slight shift in business practices and a potential slowdown in some processes during Ramadan.
Research by Proven, a business support service provider for Saudi Arabia, shows that certain sectors thrive in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. For example, retail and F&B sectors saw a 25 per cent increase in sales over the holy month in 2016.
Slowdown not likely
However, thanks to the announcement of Vision 2030 and the ambitious goals to diversify the economy, business practices are likely not to see the summer slowdown as they have done in the previous years, according to the analysts at Proven.
Ramadan is a time of fasting, focusing on prayers and being charitable, and it is also a time of celebrating and connecting with friends and family. The holy month offers a time for businesses to connect with their clientele as it encourages a sense of community and belonging.
For foreigners visiting the Kingdom, it is important to be respectful to the religious holiday and be aware of customary etiquette.
Dos and Don’ts
Professionals working in KSA during the holy month should be prepared for some changes and allow for flexibility to their usual business practices.
Here are some tips for those living and working in Saudi Arabia during the month of Ramadan:
1. Be aware of business hours: Like most companies in the GCC, Saudi Arabia reduces the working day to a maximum of six hours for Muslims or 36 hours per week. This is to accommodate those who are fasting.
2. Be aware of the Eid Holiday: Muslim and non-Muslim employees are entitled to a four-day paid vacation for the Eid holiday, as per article 112 of the Saudi Labor Law. The vacation duration can be as much as 15 days, depending on the employer.
3. Dress appropriately: Visitors should take extra care in ensuring they are dressed modestly during the month of Ramadan.
4. Exchange Ramadan greetings: It is customary to use the greeting “Ramadan Kareem” when meeting Muslims and, at the end of Ramadan, during Eid celebrations, the greeting “Eid Mubarak” is used.
5. Be charitable: During Ramadan, taking time to be generous and charitable to the less fortunate is a part of the essence of the month.
Attend Iftars: Accept invitations to Iftar meals. It is courteous to bring a gift or a dish to contribute – but be aware of Halal food and its restrictions, especially during this time.
Allow extra time for traffic: The traffic is heaviest 30 minutes before sunset. Roads are congested as people head out to break their fast at Iftars with friends, family or colleagues.
Expect delays in government departments: Due to reduced working hours, governmental departments may experience delays.
1. Eat and drink in public: Note that chewing gum also constitutes eating. It is considered disrespectful to eat during fasting hours and any breach can lead to severe disciplinary action.
2. Smoking: During Ramadan, smoking in public is not allowed until after the evening Taraweeh prayer at sunset and, particularly in Saudi Arabia, there will be few places that allow smoking during the month.
3. Public displays of affection: This is the same as other times of the year, but especially during Ramadan, avoid public acts of affection.
4. Playing loud music: For foreigners experiencing Ramadan for the first time, it is important to stay respectful to those fasting, so avoid loud music, etc.