Working in Kuwait

Although lucrative employment packages are increasingly rare, Kuwait remains a very attractive destination for career-minded expats. In our 2017 Expat Explorer Survey, expats ranked the country in the top 10 for disposable income and savings.

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Doing business

With one of the most open economies in the Gulf, Kuwait has a highly skilled workforce and a low unemployment rate. While the government is taking steps to reduce the number of foreigners working in the country, expats are still valued.

The centre of business is the capital, Kuwait City. Oil is still the country’s biggest industry, but other key sectors include construction, finance, education and healthcare.

In The World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business Survey, Kuwait was ranked 102nd out of 190 countries, scoring particularly well for paying taxes. But it scored poorly for starting a business, mainly because you need a Kuwaiti business partner who has a controlling share in the company.

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Business culture

Arabic culture dictates how things are done in the Kuwaiti workplace. There’s an overlap between the personal and professional – and it’s important to build trust and friendships with colleagues. This doesn’t always happen quickly and rushing Kuwaiti businesspeople will only jeopardise the relationship.

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Communication style

In Arabic culture, people don’t like to say ‘no’ outright. Instead, you may be given non-committal or vague statements. When you’re talking to someone, you should maintain eye contact because this conveys honesty and trustworthiness.

Patience

It’s important to respect the pace at which things move in Kuwait – and to avoid showing anger or frustration. Meetings are often interrupted by phone calls or visitors, but you’ll be expected to wait patiently.

Management style

Kuwaiti business culture is hierarchical with decisions made at the top. Employees defer to their seniors and are unlikely to challenge them. Any issues are dealt with privately to avoid embarrassing anyone.

Fast facts

Business language

Arabic is the official language, but English is widely used in business circles.

Business hours

Usually from 8:30am to 6pm, Sunday to Thursday. Hours are reduced during Ramadan.

Dress

Business dress is conservative and men should wear suits. While women aren’t expected to wear an abaya or hijab, they should avoid tight-fitting or revealing clothing and keep their arms and legs covered.

Greeting

A handshake is the standard business greeting between men. Muslim women don’t usually touch men they don’t know – so wait for them to initiate a greeting. Only use someone’s first name after they’ve invited you to do so.

Gifts

Gifts aren’t expected, but they’re appreciated.

Gender equality

Although women have greater freedom in Kuwait than in other Middle Eastern countries, most senior positions in business are still held by men.

Expat salaries

Expats have high earning potential in Kuwait, rivalling that of the UAE and Qatar. There’s also no income tax for expats – so your take-home pay is likely to be more than in popular expat destinations outside the Middle East.

Assess everything. The politics, the company hiring and locality of accommodation.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

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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.