Dubai Post 41: Patience is a Virtue

Americans tend to move at quicker pace than Middle Easterners.

In modern American culture, patience is often thrown by the wayside not only in business but in life as well.  Americans can be moving 100 miles a minute and always want things done 5 minutes ago.  I love this type of culture as I myself tend to go at 100 miles a minute and am constantly trying find ways to improve efficiency in everything I do.

This way of life is fine back in Chicago as I try to never waste a second in everything I do.  I time my subway rides to the minute, avoid traffic jams at all cost and usually cram as many client meetings into one day as I can.  In the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, it is a little different.

It all starts off with the air travel.  Back at home, traveling Southwest Airlines is a breeze and I have grown accustom to getting to my destinations ahead of schedule.  This is not the case when traveling to Saudi Arabia on FlyDubai as late arrivals are more common than early ones.  Furthermore, once you arrive in the country you cannot simply walk off the plane and into a cab since you have to go through customs, which can be a very long process. (Hopefully you make it through.)  Before you go through customs you must obtain a visa which you would think to be no big deal.  One of my colleagues just got refused for a Saudi Visa for no apparent reason so he had to cancel all of his meetings next week.
The traffic in Saudi can make it a nightmare to go
from client to client. 

Finally, you will make it through customs and head off to your meetings for the day.  Saudis have a slightly shorter work day than Americans and most clients will only take meetings between 9:30/10:00 – 2:30/3:00.  That being said you do not have a large time frame to work with. 

With five hours worth of time, I would usually be able to meet with a dozen or so people in Minneapolis.  That is not the case here since I cannot walk from client to client and accomplish tasks quickly.  Each client is a few miles apart which should normally be a five minute drive.  Yet in Riyadh there is always traffic so I have to plan about 30 – 45 minutes to get from meeting to meeting.  The wasted time just keeps adding up and up.
Finally, you find yourself in front of the clients.  Not everyone is like this but in general Saudi’s work at a slower pace and are not always up front with you.  There have been countless times when I will ask a question yet never receive a direct answer.  The most common response is, “Yah, that’s ok”.  If I ask again I get, “Ok, ok”.  Americans will typically tell me how it is and will not beat around the bush. 

Basically I have had to learn to adapt.  I’ve learned not to rely on others for travel information as they might steer you down a wrong path.  I’ve learned to type summaries in cars while sitting in traffic.  As far as dealing with people, I’ve learned to be even more direct and ask questions over and over and over.  Of course, I have grown accustom to being more patient, because without it, I would go crazy.  


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