Behavior and Etiquette – Official and Business Meetings: Part 1

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Afghans generally believe peoples’ needs and the joy surrounding life’s positive events are more important than the demands of a time schedule.  Therefore, they may be late for appointments and scheduled events may last longer than expected. Afghans like to talk a lot and establish a relationship before starting a meeting.  It is considered rude to ask a direct question without first asking about a person’s well-being.  There is a long greeting process and much general talk before getting to the point.  For a Westerner, this can be frustrating, especially when you are in a hurry.  Time in Afghanistan is not measured as strictly as in Western countries.

meetingAfghans follow a pattern of etiquette where there is first a cup of tea, and then some pleasant conversation with little or no mention of business. In a meeting, do not be surprised to find several people attending or simply gathering to listen.  A time for building trust and relationships is considered crucial. Generally speaking, the Afghan people prefer to get to know the new person before entering into full conversation that may lead to commitments.   In establishing a relationship, Afghans will want to let you know about their background and they will want to get to know yours.  Relationship building is absolutely critical in dealing with Afghans; agreements will not be reached without rapport. This may very well take time.

Again, the concept of time in Afghanistan’s society is much more relaxed than in the U.S.  Meetings generally will not start and stop at a specific time and people may wander in and out during the meeting.  The only fixed times in most Muslim nations are prayer times.  Prayer times are adhered to by most of society.  Everything else is squeezed into the gaps between prayers and scheduled events are simply rough approximations.  If prayer time coincides with a meeting, non-Muslims should sit quietly and wait for the prayers to conclude.

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