Cultural and Business Do’s and Don’ts in Saudi Arabia

MMPL | 22nd August, 2022

You have landed your dream job in Saudi Arabia, now what are the business and cultural dos and don’ts you should be aware of to help you settle in and thrive in a new country? 


  1. Understand your rights and obligations as per the labour contract 
  2. Be observant and respectful of Islamic culture – Saudi Arabian people are predominantly Muslim. Hence, it is important to be aware and respectful of Islamic culture, whether you’re Muslim or non-Muslim 
  3. Greetings to each other – In Saudi Arabia culture, when people greet each other, they say “Salam Alaykum,” which means “peace be upon you.” It is usually followed by a handshake if it is a formal meeting 
  4. Do understand that a worker is expected to work with the sponsor for the entire duration of the contract, usually two years, before becoming eligible to change jobs or leave the country. Requests for premature return even on family emergency, health reasons, etc. are usually entertained by sponsor under exceptional circumstances. In these cases, the sponsor usually wants to be compensated for the recruitment expenditure incurred by them 
  5. Be aware that the Kingdom follows the Hijri calendar, which is about 11 days shorter than Gregorian calendar. The expiry dates of visa, iqama, etc., should be cross-checked well in time in order ensure renewal in time and to avoid inadvertent overstay 
  6. Contact the Ministry of Labour to register a complaint in case of any labour problem such as (a) the employer not providing the residence permit (Iqama) within 90 days of arrival, or, (b) dispute with the sponsor over harassment/non-payment of salaries, violation of the terms of labour contract, refusal to grant leave/exit on completion of the contract etc 
  7. Exercise extreme caution while using the internet and social media so as not to break the local/cyber laws – eg. browsing/forwarding of objectionable material/contents from any prohibited sites on the internet; sharing/ ‘liking’ pictures/posts on the social media of any religious nature, refrain from being critical of political system. Any of these acts could have drastic circumstances 
  8. Do give sufficient notice (preferably 60 days) in advance of the expiry of the contract expressing your intention to leave the Kingdom on completion of the contract. Else if the client is satisfied, contract may be renewed for another two years on similar terms 
  9. Do dress conservatively and formally. Respect the local dress code of the Saudi Arabian people
  10. Always carry your Iqama. Your iqama is your proof of legal residence and works in Saudi. It should be paid for by your employer along with your visa. There are checkpoints and sometimes, police will ask to see your iqama. Moreover, you need it for all transactions from getting a visa to applying for a license


  1. Do not work with anybody other than your sponsor even with the consent of your sponsor as it is illegal and violations are punished with detention and deportation 
  2. Saudi Arabian business etiquette does not allow for strike at work, resorting to any form of agitations, forming trade unions or associations as these activities are illegal in the Kingdom resulting in arrest, imprisonment and deportation 
  3. Do not sign on any blank paper /or any document without knowing the contents 
  4. Do not give copies of passport or Iqama to a third person as they could be misused 
  5. Do not make/sell/consume alcoholic drinks – Alcohol is forbidden in the Kingdom. So is consumption of pork 
  6. Do not get involved in drug consumption/peddling– punishments are severe including jail and death 
  7. Do not attempt to take photos/video of government buildings, industrial areas, airports, police checkpoints, etc. or such sensitive installations as this could lead to arrest, jail and deportation. Photography is a sensitive subject in Saudi Arabia.  Also avoid taking pictures of women and children, without permission 
  8. Do not circulate videos of grievances relating to working conditions in the Kingdom, on the social media as this could be counter-productive. Circulation of such videos which are perceived to be tarnishing the reputation of the employer as well as the image of the host country are dealt with sternly 
  9. Do not overstay your visa in the Kingdom if the sponsor is not willing to renew the employment contract 
  10. Arabian traditions do not allow consumption of food or beverages publicly during the holy month of Ramadan 
  11. Public display of affection is prohibited. Public display of affection is a punishable offense in Saudi Arabia. Arabian traditions do not allow for males and females to touch each other or even holds in public unless they are married or family members. Males should be especially mindful not to make eye contact with females (especially those wearing abaya or burqa), so as to avoid unnecessary quarrels or penalties.
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