Evening Sessions #6: Culture Clash! Business in the Middle East

Let’s get personal.

For the majority of my life I was raised in Great Britain, I went to school, studied medicine and then management all in some of the finest institutions in the country. I developed a dry, sarcastic sense of humour and a stiff upper lip. I listened to Oasis (don’t judge me) and I went on holiday to the Lake District.


My parents are Iraqi. I love arabic food and I speak arabic fluently.

So it makes sense that I would try to explore both healthcare and business opportunities in the Middle East at some point. If only it was that simple! I thought that my theoretical and practical experiences would be enough, in fact, entitle me to a myriad of successes.

What I needed to realise was that just speaking the language, telling some jokes and enjoying the food are not enough to get by in a foreign land. To truly know your market you have to understand the psychology of that culture. I don’t just mean business intricacies but personal foibles and characteristics.

When you meet a client you make assumptions. You’ve researched their business, their achievements and you make an estimate of what you think are their ambitions and objectives. You tailor yourself accordingly to make sure that you give an accurate representation of yourself so that you can develop a partnership that will succeed for the both of you.

But really, you are making those judgements based on your own personally held beliefs and experiences which may be similar to someone from a similar local market (no guarantees even then!) but when entering a profoundly new international market its a different ball game.

So what do you do?

There’s no easy solution but if you want to go global you have to take the time to immerse yourself in your target market’s culture. Join the people, visit and live in the land, enjoy the food but ultimately observe their motivational factors. Talk to the people to enrich yourself and your understanding of how they approach business.

I’m in the midst of a gradual re-acclimatisation to the culture of the middle east and having spent time making frequent visits there I now feel I’ve adapted. I understand people’s motivations, their inclinations and what tools and methods will be acceptable. More importantly, I’ve learned how to package my ideas and consultations so that their true potential is visible.

This was never going to be a how-to guide. It’s a lesson based on my experiences to never make any assumptions. Life can be an adventure and going global is one part of it.

Broaden your horizons and take your business with you.

Now go forth!

Dr Saif Abed

CEO and Co-Founder

Abed Graham Healthcare Strategies Ltd



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