Facts and Statistics
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Climate: mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq
Population: 28,221,180 (July 2008 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%
Religions: Muslim 97%, Christian or other 3%
Government: parliamentary democracy
Language in Iraq
The official language of Iraq is Arabic. Many other languages are spoken by a variety of ethnic groups, most notably Kurdish. “Iraqi Arabic” (also known as Mesopotamian Arabic [Mesopotamian Qeltu Arabic, Mesopotamian Gelet Arabic, Baghdadi Arabic, Furati, 'Arabi, Arabi, North Syrian Arabic) is a variety of Arabic spoken in the Mesopotamian basin of Iraq south of Baghdad as well as in neighbouring Iran and eastern Syria.
Iraqi Society and Culture
The Iraqi population includes a number of ethnic groups, about 77% of whom are Arabs, 19% Kurds, and the rest a variety of different groups, including Turkomens, Assyrians, and Armenians. There is also a distinct sub-group of Iraqi Arabs, called the Ma'dan or Marsh Arabs, who inhabit miles of marshy area just above the point at which the Tigris and Euphrates join together.
The majority of Iraqis are Muslims regardless of ethnicity. Its position in Iraq went through a transition during Saddam Hussein’s regime as the state moved from a secular one to one needing Islam to prop up their actions. At this stage the words “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest) was added to the flag. During Saddam’s regime only Sunnis held real power.
With the overthrow of Saddam’s regime the Shia majority now hold more power and influence than in the past. As well as the power shift people have also been able to express their religious identities a lot more freely.
The Shia and Sunnis are similar in over 95% of ways. The differences are not as acute as one would think. Essentially the split occurred to the political question of who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad as the leader of the community. Major differences between the two occur in jurisprudence (i.e. how to pray, how to marry, inheritance) and minor elements of faith.
Regardless of orientation Islam prescribes a way of life and it governs political, legal, and social behaviour. It organises one’s daily life and provides moral guidance for both society and the individual. The rules of Islam come from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (known as “hadith”).
Hospitality is an Arab and Muslim tradition deeply engrained in the culture. Visitors are treated as kings and must always be fed and looked after. A tradition within Islam actually stipulates someone is allowed to stay in your home for 3 days before you can question why they are staying and when they will leave, Invitations to a home must be seen as a great honour and never turned down.
Family and Honour
Iraqis consider family and honour to be of paramount importance. The extended family or tribe is both a political and social force. Families hold their members responsible for their conduct, since any wrongdoing brings shame to the entire family. Loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships, even business.
Nepotism is not viewed negatively; in such a culture is naturally makes more sense to offer jobs to family as they are trusted.
It is common for large extended families to live in the same house, compound, or village. In urban areas, families do not necessarily live in the same house, although they generally live in the same street or suburb at least.
Etiquette and Customs in Iraq
Gift Giving Etiquette
The culture of hospitality means Iraqis like to invite people to their homes. If you are invited to a home:
Business Etiquette and Protocol
Meeting and Greeting
The need to save face and protect honour means that showing emotions is seen negatively. Displays of anger are a serious no-no. If you must show disapproval it is always best to do so in a one-to-one, quietly and with tact.
Always keep your word. Do not make a promise or guarantee unless you can keep it. If you want to show a commitment to something but do not want to make caste iron assurances then employ terms such as “I will do my best,” “We will see,” or the local term “insha-Allah” (God willing).
Iraqi businesspeople are not afraid of asking blunt and probing questions. These may be about you, your company or its intentions.
Due to the hierarchical nature of organisations or businesses the leader of an Iraqi team does most of the talking for his company or department. Subordinates are there to corroborate information or to provide technical advice and counsel to the most senior Iraqi.
It is a good idea to send any information or agendas in Arabic in advance. If you are bringing a team send the names, titles, and a brief business bio of people attending.
Decisions are generally made by the top of the company but this will be based on recommendations from pertinent stakeholders and technical experts who sit in on meetings.
Expect interruptions during meetings when phone calls may be taken or people enter the room on other matters. This should not be seen negatively; one should simply remain patient and wait for matters to return to them.
Iraqis often have several side discussions taking place during a meeting. They may interrupt the speaker if they have something to add. They can be loud and forceful in getting their point of view across.
Being a Manager in Iraq
To ensure successful cross cultural management in Iraq, you need be aware of the strict protocols and rituals that exist. In business it is important to maintain a degree of formality. Older Iraqis and those in senior positions should be treated with respect and deference.
Iraq is undergoing a period of transition. Intercultural adaptability needs to take into account the recent upheaval that the country has seen. Most of the country’s political, social, physical, and economic infrastructures are in the process of being rebuilt. In June 2004, the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) was formed as a transitional, interim administration to restore security and stability in Iraq, create institutions for representative governance, and facilitate economic recovery. Due to the number of foreign companies involved in the reconstruction of the country, the predominant business culture may superficially appear more western than Iraqi.
Although a local agent is not technically required to conduct business in country, you will benefit from having an Iraqi representative or partner who knows the country and can win local support. In many ways Iraq is still a tribal society. It can be difficult for foreigners to function in the north without the support of Kurdish leaders, in the center of the country without Sunni Muslim support, and in the south of the country without Shi’ite Muslim support.
The Role of a Manager
In Iraq, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.
Approach to Change
Iraq’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is minimal. This means that change is difficult to bring about and is not received with any enthusiasm. Projects will need to be carefully analyzed every step of the way to assure that all the risks have been assessed and understood.
Failure in Iraq causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Iraq is a fluid time culture, and as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Iraq will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline, and while appointments and schedules need to be set well in advance as a sign of respect for the individual, you need to understand that those schedules are seen as flexible, not necessarily needing to be adhered to.
When working with people from Iraq, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.
In general, business retains a strong hierarchical structure and intercultural sensitivity is required. Employees show respect to those in positions of authority. Managers tend to be dictatorial and autocratic. They expect their subordinates to follow established procedures without question.
Boss or Team Player
If you are working in Iraq intercultural sensitivity is essential. It is important to remember that reputation plays an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate fully that their participation is desired.
Successful cross cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with their subordinates.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Effective cross cultural management will need to understand the importance placed on personal relationships. Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business. Companies are hierarchical and the highest-ranking person reaches decisions, albeit slowly. If you try to rush things, you will give offense and risk your business relationship. Iraqis are skilled negotiators. Iraqis may ask the same question several times to see if your response is consistent.
Links and Resources about Iraq
* Currency - the currency of Iraq is the Dinar. Use the free currency converter to compare to USD, GBP or Euro.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Iraq.
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code is +964.
* Time – Iraq is +3 hours GMT.
information provided by www.kwintessential.co.uk