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Time keeping in the Middle east


Is there anyone out there who has experience of working with clients from Arabic countries?

I started delivering residential courses for a Middle Eastern training provider last year and have so far delivered 6 five day courses. This is my first experience of working with Arabic clients.

The problem I have is getting delegates into training on time. Many arrive late at the start of the day, and are late returning from breaks and lunch. For exampole, on a recent course I had specifically asked everyone to be on time for a group exercise, I explained why this was important and made a real point of getting their agreement at the close of the previous day's work. On the day my first delegate arrived 25 minutes after the start time for the session, and the last of the group arrived 40 mins in!

Are there any methods out there to help get my sessions on time? I appreciate it is a cultural thing, but surely there is something I can do.

4 Responses

  1. Advice

    Hi there.

    Very difficult to generalise but I have many years experience working with Arabs both here and Middle East.

    Never plan anything important within first and last hour morning afternoon and after lunch. They are not rude or bad timekeepers they just have different perspectives of the importance of being on time.

    Its never easy but the more you try and control the more they will be late.

    Just be very flexible and plan to start your day "proper" 1 hour after the start time, have an "add on" to keep the early ones amused…if they all show up on time be flexible enough to ditch the "add on" and get on with the real stuff.

    Not easy but they are a pleasure to work with in my experience. Think of them as "cats"…they do not like being dictated to or controlled…the more you try the more they will resist.

    Good luck Steve

  2. Steve is spot on…


    Steve’s approach and advice is spot on.

    I’ve just spent three years out in the Gulf in L&D and pretty much you have to build in that extra margin and then ‘roll with the punches’. You have to get into a different mindset when it comes to timekeeping and effectively change down from our Western ‘top gear’ into more or less 2nd or 3rd gear.

    It takes a little work, but once you get your head around it, you’ll find it easier to cope with and actually enjoy a slightly different pace. It’s cultural and nothing against you or the coursework.

    This is great experience for you so just go with the flow and you’ll learn an awful lot from your delegates as well.



  3. Another little tip…

    Thought of another little tip you might want to try..

    In Middle Eastern schools they encourage students to take lots and lots of notes. Even into adulthood this doesn’t seem to bother them and they actually seem to enjoy it!

    If you want some downtime you could do a lot worse than to put some words on your screen and ask them to copy them in their notebooks.

    Good luck



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Douglas Brown


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