When you’re invited to a business dinner in Jordan. You might encounter exotic foods, fresh fruits and desserts that would make your head spin.
Jordan is a country with a rich heritage of culture, religion and tradition.
Don’t be surprised if your waiter nimbly removes your shoes, captures your order without a pen and paper, or gives you a wet towel to wipe your hands and mouth before you dine. If you’re a guest of a Jordanian, this may seem very familiar. This is just my list of what to expect when attending a dinner in Jordan.
If you go, you’ll be treated to a multi-course meal. The Jordanian culture considers the invitation to sit down for dinner as an important social event.
The meal usually lasts 3 hours or more, however, time is not a factor of importance.
If you want to gather business deals, schedule your meeting in the afternoon. You’ll likely be invited to dine in the evening.
What To Say You May NOT Say
Avoid offering to pay for the entire meal if you’re invited to your Jordanian business contact’s home for dinner.
Jordanian hospitality extends to hosting meals for guests without expecting payment. This is the only exception for example if you’re there on business.
To make the meal more intimate, it’s common to have a table with no more than 4 or 5 people.
The table should seat no more than 6 people in total.
The Main Dining Area
The dining area is generally located off the kitchen but may be on a patio or balcony. The dining area is never located in the living room.
The dining table should be the focal point of the home.
Just like in North America it’s usually placed in the centre of the small square.
Once seated at the table, the host will ask you to remove your shoes if you’re wearing them.
Be prepared to take off your shoes and place them below the table, your feet can be washed before dinner.
Eating is an art for the Jordanians; Just like how we eat meat with fork and knife.
You’ll definitely be surprised after taking a bite.
The impressive part about a dinner in Jordan is the food doesn’t leave anything to be desired.
The authentic Jordanian cuisine uses fresh local ingredients; the restaurant style is home cooking.
The meal includes a first course, soup, meal and dessert, and is often served in five separate courses.
The Host, You and Your Purpose
The host is always the last to sit down to dinner.
If you’re invited by a Jordanian to dinner, you’re considered an honored guest and should conduct yourself as one.
This will be an opportunity for small talk, chit chat and discussions about the weather, sports, and hobbies.
The apparent purpose is to have dinner and enjoy the meal, however, the situation allows you to feed off of the host’s personality while observing his or her social interactions and level of interest.
The Dinner Conversation
At the table, the courses may be served in a variety of ways.
Always be ready for it and don’t look put-off by it for example when you hand wipes your mouth or swat up your hand with a wet cloth.
This is standard practice in Jordan.
You’re not expected to eat everything put in front of you; enjoy the food you like and pass on the dishes you don’t like.
This is what your host expects.
There are specific rules of etiquette around the table.
The Host or A Guest at the table
Don’t start eating while everyone is still being seated.
Don’t pop a grape or piece of food into your mouth while eating.
Don’t start eating until the host feeds a guest.
Don’t refuse food from the host.
Don’t insist on feeding the host.
Doctoring The Dessert
Come prepared to experience a new way of eating.
The Jordanians doctor their dessert with a spoon and fork, not their fingers.
Another etiquette is for the person with the oldest child at home to pass the dessert around the table.
The last food that is put on the table is the first to be served. This should be a vegetables dish or salad.
Greetings in Arabic
To greet someone warmly in Arabic, use the following line ‘Ahlan wa Shalom’.
It can be translated as its equivalent in Hebrew, ‘Have you come in peace?’
This is an indirect way to inquire about the health and well-being of the other person.
It’s considered polite for one person to kiss another on the cheek when meeting.
You may be invited over for dinner at a man’s house.
If you’re a woman do not go to a man’s house alone as a visitor.
At the table, it’s expected for male guests to wait on their female counterparts.
The host or a female in the house at the table should serve the food and clear the table when finished.
Smoking is considered rude and offensive.
If you’re invited for dinner expect to sit across from the host, or if the table is round and you’re seated next to the host.
It’s polite not to interrupt any conversation or respond to a question from another person during the meal.
A lesson in conversation etiquette.
Tables in Jordan are generally small enough for 4 people, but they’re very close together.
During conversation, don’t sit too close to the person you’re conversing with.
Behave how you’d like to be treated. Don’t finish your meal before the first person.
Lastly, it’s considered polite in Jordan if the final person to arrive at a restaurant greets all the other people waiting.
Business Law in Jordan
Recall that Jordan is still a developing nation, many traditional customs and laws that you may not be used to still play a key role in the day-to-day life of the citizens.
Business contracts in Jordan should be treated with the same caution as in a private contract with a Jordanian through a foreigner.
There were a few times I was taken advantage of purely because I was a foreigner, so don’t make that mistake.
The good news is that many Jordanians are smart, humble and honest people.
Don’t be surprised if Jordanians don’t show up on time.
This isn’t a mean act or something to take personally; the Jordanian way is to stay on your originally scheduled time.
At the same time, you can expect a double-cross if you don’t honor a prior agreement.
It is common for Jordanians to ask for an entrance fee to a business meeting; the typical entry fee for a business meeting is around 10 dinars or $16.
Business Hour in Jordan
Normal business hours for in Jordan are:
- 8 am – 1 pm
- 3 pm – 5 pm
- 8 pm – 12 pm
Business Meetings are held after 5 pm.
The Most Common Business Problems
As an outsider, please don’t see the Jordanian population as a group.
Although the people in the different communities share the same language, cultural and religious heritage, they don’t share the same customs and traditions.
The vast majority of Jordanian citizens are highly educated, but basically there are two different Jordanian cultures (one in Amman and one the North, and another one in the South).
The Jordanian culture is as diverse and complicated as the racial and cultural diversity in the United States.
Only by becoming familiar with the diverse groups, can you learn how to relate to each of the different groups and sub-groups.
The Jordanian business protocol is accepted as one of the most complicated business protocols in the world.
There is no real way to learn how to do it right, but I’ll tell you what I learned.
It would take a very long time for me to even just mention everything you should take into consideration when doing business with Jordanians.
The truth is you would be undervalued as a foreigner and an outsider in business, but this was the first impression I got.
I was able to get loyal relationships with people that were there to help me, not hurt me.
A big problem in Jordan is that there’s no Minimum, Maximum or Range of Business Salaries.
Business Meetings in Jordan
Business meetings in Jordan are conducted in Arabic.
I once saw a Jordanian Doctor lose his temper with a patient in a hospital.
The doctor was speaking fast and loud in Arabic, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
The man who works in Amman should wear a suit and tie and always remain humble and polite.
They are not to look above their customer’s eyes when speaking to him or her.
You can expect to sit either across from the person you’re meeting with or to his/her right.
The first things you should be noticed is that they haven’t finished their food when they begin to speak with a guest.
Also, take note that they will either want to bargain with you for the item you are proposing or tell you that the item will break their bank.
Business Cards in Jordan
The business card in Jordan is not common as in other countries.
The only time you are expected to present your business card is if you are conducting business with an important member of society.
Business Cards are not given to someone who is not a good acquaintance, unless you are a foreigner.
They are not really worth putting your blood and sweat into, just for a chance to get a good ‘meeting’ that will lead to more meetings.
There are also different customs and etiquette when it comes to business cards.
Politeness is a very key component.
Business Relationships in Jordan
Everyone in the larger cities possess two types of cellular phones: the old model for voice and the relatively new type for an SMS (Short Message Service) and both are based on the different codes for the city and the land lines.
The cell phone is considered a status symbol in Jordan and is the dominant way of staying in touch with co-workers or associates.
Anyone with a cell phone has the ability to call anyone else with a cell phone, regardless of whether they work for the same company or live in the same neighborhood.
When doing business in Jordan, make sure that you take the time to understand the different Jordanian cultures.
The Jordanian culture is one that is very hard to understand.
Just because a group of people are comfortable with Arabs, because they’ve lived in the Middle East for over 20 years, does not mean that they’re comfortable with the Jordanian people.
Most of the Arab nations are composed of a great deal of land and wealth.
Foreign investors can get the “royalty treatment” and they can charge very large sums of money.
You may think your Arab brethren are being taken advantage of, and in some cases you’d be right.
However, there’s also a very good chance that most Arab businessmen are making more than they would anywhere else in the world.
The Jordanian, like many of the other Arab people, still have a strong sense of family loyalty.
The outside world started to change that culture, but they’d like to believe that they are the same people with the same values that their ancestors had.
Inviting someone into your home for dinner is a very serious matter; take this into consideration when doing business and you’ll be able to respect the laws of the land.
Common Business Complaints
The cost of labor is considered extremely high in Jordan and the quality of that labor is overrated.
Jordan is extremely bureaucratic and slow in the collection of the bills.
Jordan is the number one country in the Middle East for public complaints.
The primary reason for this is the bureaucracy.
There was a popular move to do business and provide better service, but it never caught hold.
The bureaucracy also ties directly to Jordan’s corruption.
Public complaints are “rationalized” in Jordan by pointing out that is is an Arab society in which corruption is considered a given.
This gives Jordanians a “pat” on the back for not taking advantage of the weak in society.
The real reason for the corruption is that people are so poor, there’s so little to work with, they can’t move forward as a country.
There’s a natural order to things, and Jordanian culture is based on these natural laws, which creates certain social protocols.
Jordanian Business Lawsuits
The ideal choice for anyone to do business with in Jordan is the Jordanian Company.
You don’t have to worry about the legal system, which will most likely rip you off.
There is a large possibility that you’ll be ripped off if you choose to do business with a Jordanian company.
The biggest complaint about doing business with a Jordanian company is what’s referred to as “The Double Mint”.
This is a process of saying yes to a business deal and then changing your mind because conditions changed or you just don’t want to do business with that person.
It’s not uncommon to get ripped off by a Jordanian company and end in a business lawsuit.
It’s not uncommon for a Jordanian company to turn a blind eye to any shady business dealings.
This is because it’s well-known that there’s not much that foreigners can do about being cheated.
You should always be aware of the fact that every business relationship is different and that nothing should be taken for granted.
Payments and Begging
The typical Jordanian is pretty poor.
It’s not uncommon for you to treat this person as a valued business contact, only to find out that this person has never paid his or her taxes or bills.
They will come to you for a free meal or a free trip to get you on their side of the deal.
The only way to outdo them is by giving them far more than they think they’re worth.
It’s not uncommon for someone to do something for you and then expect you to buy them a meal.
If they ask you for money, give them a gift.
If they ask for a gift, give them something they can use.
When it comes to business, I’ve found that it helps to instead of give money to beggars, you should buy them a meal.
Learn the Basics of the Arabic Language
To tell the truth, one of the most major problems with doing business in Jordan is the language barrier.
Foreigners can’t speak a word of Arabic when they first get there, so they’re pretty much shooting in the dark.
I knew I was shooting in the dark when I went there with a poor working knowledge of Arabic.
I thought it would be pretty easy to learn Arabic because I’ve lived around the Middle East for the last 10 years.
This was not the case.
You can get by in Jordan by speaking English and by using the “hand-to-hand sign language” that you’ll learn the first day.
The business relationships do tend to go much faster if you can learn and speak Arabic.
As long as you have a good business relationship with your partners and vendors, you can get by with your English.
Most of the business contracts aren’t written in Arabic anyway, so you don’t have to know the language to do business there.
A good working knowledge of Arabic will improve your business relationships with the people and people will take you much more seriously.
Taking Arabic lessons a few hours a day before you head out to Jordan is a good idea.
It’s virtually impossible to do business with someone that doesn’t understand even the most basic aspects of the Arabic language.
It’s not uncommon for the Jordanian to agree in front of an audience to do business with you, but then renege on the deal when the audience has gone away.
Training Is Growing
A great deal of the training in Jordan is focused around the needs of Jordanians and is limited to the location of Jordan.
Jordanians aren’t looking to the outside world for training, they’re focused on developing their own national infrastructure.
The training is also often under the control of the government.
While Jordanian companies don’t care much about training their employees, they do care about rewarding their good employees.
You can drastically improve the efficiency of your Jordanian partners by providing a little training.
It doesn’t have to be in-depth, just enough for them to get the job done right.
Doing business in Jordan is different than doing business in other countries.
There are different mores and customs that you need to understand if you want to be more effective and efficient while you’re doing business there.
If you don’t do business in the conventional way, your work could be completely sabotaged.
This is often the case when you do business with the Jordanians.