People and Culture in Kuwait

16 October 2012

Arabic is the official language of Kuwait, although English is commonly spoken

Despite Kuwaiti nationals being a minority in the country, it is important that foreigners wishing to do business in the country understand traditional manners and customs.

When you first meet a Kuwaiti client, you should not immediately begin to discuss business matters. Usually, refreshments will be served, and it is impolite to decline the offer of tea or coffee. Occasionally, considerable time will be spent exchanging courtesies. It is impolite to enquire about a Kuwaiti man’s wife or daughters, but be prepared for much leisurely small talk. The key to successful business negotiations is trust and you may be requested to return on a second, third or even fourth occasion. Ultimately, a national’s word is considered a bond. Courtesy may inhibit a firm no, but it is rare for a national to back away from an agreement.

If you have the right connections or family background you can get things done in Kuwait. Personalities play a significant role in the sphere of business, as does maintaining a steady physical commitment to Kuwait.

The national dress is a symbol of identity worn by nearly all locals. Most men wear the white ankle-length shirt or dishdasha and a white or sometimes red-chequered head cloth or gutra, with a black coil or agal to hold it in place. Under this they wear a skull cap or gahfiah. On formal occasions, men may wear a bisht cloak with gold braid. Kuwaiti women wear a black cloak or abaya and a headscarf or hijab.

Islam is the official religion of Kuwait and is widely practised, though other religions are tolerated. Most Kuwaitis are Sunni Muslims. The Islamic holy day is Friday.

It is advisable to carry your passport at all times or, if you have one, a Kuwait civil identification card, which is issued to foreigners who gain residency. Entry to and the photography of military, industrial and other restricted areas, particularly oil fields, is forbidden.

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