Your guide to expat life in Bahrain

Working in Bahrain

Bahrain’s high quality of life and earning potential attract many people to its shores. It has one of the most diversified economies in the region and all kinds of multinational corporations are based here. The finance and construction industries are the biggest employers of expats.

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Doing business

Coupled with a strong economy, Bahrain’s strategic position in the Gulf makes it an important business hub. A long history of trading with other cultures means that doing business here is fairly easy. But the corporate world is still quite traditional and hierarchical. And starting a business can be particularly complex as the law requires you to have a local business partner with a controlling interest.

The World Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business Survey ranked Bahrain 65th out of 189 countries. Particular areas of strength were dealing with construction permits, paying taxes and registering property.

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Business culture

Bahrainis prefer to do business with people they know and trust, and relationship building is key to your success. Be prepared to spend time getting to know your business partners – small talk before meetings goes a long way towards nurturing the relationship.

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Communication style

Although eye contact is important, the Bahrainis’ communication style isn’t very direct, particularly when it comes to refusing a request. You’re unlikely to receive an outright no. Instead you’ll be met with vague statements and a lack of commitment.

Patience

Trust has to be established – so be patient and don’t try to rush decisions as this will only harm the relationship.

Business etiquette

Hospitality is central to Arab culture and the open-door policy extends to the workplace. Don’t be surprised if meetings are interrupted as anyone who calls on your host will be welcomed in.

Fast facts

Business Language

English and Arabic

Business hours

Usually from 8am to 5pm, Sunday to Thursday. Working hours are reduced for Muslims during Ramadan.

Dress

Men and women should always dress conservatively for business meetings.

Greeting

Men greet each other with handshakes, along with kisses on both cheeks if they know someone well. When you greet women in the workplace, don’t make physical contact unless they initiate a handshake. Address colleagues with their formal names and titles.

Gifts

Small gifts are acceptable, but don't give pork products or alcohol to Muslims.

Gender equality

Although more Bahraini women are entering the workplace, it’s still a patriarchal society with decisions ultimately made by senior men.

Expat salaries

Expat salaries often equal or exceed what you’d earn at home. The petroleum and finance industries are particularly lucrative. Living allowances and no income tax mean your disposable income should be significantly higher.

Compare the packages offered by your company- compensation vs living expenses packages.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Bahrain

Making life easier for expats

  • Starting a new life abroad has its complexities.
  • Your finances shouldn’t be one of them.
  • We believe that choosing to live abroad has the power to enrich your life. It can be a journey that leads to new experiences and opportunities. But it can also be complicated. That’s why we’re here to help manage your finances and make planning for the future simple.
  • Wherever life takes you, we’ll help take care of your personal economy.

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in August 2016. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.