Saudi Arabia is one of the largest states in Western Asia occupying the largest section of the Arab Peninsula(Kaukab, 2015). Saudi is an Islamic-authoritarian state led by a King. The king follows the Sharia, Sunnah and the Quran which are the Islamic Laws adopted in 1992 by a royal decree (Ansari, 2015). The King heads all the three arms government, the judiciary, legislature and the executive and is also the head of the military of Saudi Arabia (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015). The king is also the Prime Minister and is responsible for presiding over his Council of Ministers, his Majlis al-Wuzarā who comprise of two deputy prime ministers together with other ministers (Thompson, 2015).
The royal family significantly dominates the country’s political system andcontrolsall the important posts in the country and the government (Thompson, 2015). The King usually has the power to appoint a Crown Prince whose role is to help him with his responsibilities. The Saudi Royal Kingdom has many princes with the male descendants of Ibn Saudhaving the most influence and power. The Crown Prince is second to the throne (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015).
Saudi Arabia greatly suffers from corruption which is a very prominent issue in the country. The country is ranked at position 109 out of 174 in the 2014 Corruption Perception Index with a score of 4.4/10 (Transparency International, 2015).The country is howevercurrently going through different reforms that are changing its political as well as governing system. There has for instance been a rapid increase in state sponsored institutions that are improving economic liberalization and socio-political modernization (Thompson, 2015). This kind of economic emancipation is surrounded by the close relationship that exists between the social and political Saudi Arabia and hence marking the change as wholesome and a necessary jolt needed to steer the country to globalization (Ansari, 2015). An historical alliance that had been established between Muhammad Al-Wahhab and Muhammad Suud is what gave birth to the close alliance between the religious and political Saudi Arabia. This is what explains the expansive socio-religious domain in the country (Kaukab, 2015).
2.2 Major National Symbols
The flag of Saudi Arabia was inspired by the prophet Muhammadand Aziz. The color green is representative of the military strength of the country, it is also believed that green was the favorite color of the prophet Muhammad (Lipsky&Ani, 1959). As indicated in the Appendix A, the flag has been printed such that it can be read from both sides and it is usually hoisted to the left. Within the flag is sword representing al-Aziz, who was aMuslim ruler. The white script in the flag is aa Muslim statement meaning that ‘There is no other God but God Himself and Muhammad is His trusted Messenger” (Lipsky&Ani, 1959).
Saudi Arabia has numerous historical museums, these include the History Museum of Riyadh, the National Heritage and the Museum of Buraidah together with the Dhahran Exhibition Center and Dammam Historical Museum that are world famous(Saudi Tourism, 2014). The town of Diriyah, is also a world heritage site and was the original home to the Saudi royal family (Saudi Tourism, 2015). Western travellers have also for a long time been attracted to the beautiful landscapes of Saudi Arabia. Apart from these, Saudi Arabia has a host of other fun attractions that include the attractive beaches, elevated mountains for site seeing and hiking together with desert-inspired events like Jubbah, skiing and sand dunes driving (Saudi Tourism, 2015).
The Saudi Arabian cuisine is traditional and diverse. Due to the Islamic laws on food and diet, Saudi’s are restricted from eating pork. Other animals can only be slaughtered and eaten according to the guidelines of halal (Lipsky&Ani, 1959). The main traditional dish in the country is known as khūzī that consists of stuffed lamb. Some other popular and cherished delicacies are Kebabs, shāwarmā, a form of marinated grilled lamb meat, chicken and mutton. Machbūsalso called kabsa, a rice dish with shrimp or fish is also popular. The flat- unleavened bread is the staple food in Saudi and is part of every meal, as are fresh fruits and dates. As indicated in Appendix B, dates form part of almost all Saudi’s diet, dates are particular important and significant during important holiday celebrations (Saudi Arabia Dates, 2015). Saudi’s also love a cup of coffee as their traditional beverage that is usually served the Turkish style (Lipsky&Ani ,1959).
In sports, football is the main sport in the country and it is followed by others like swimming, volleyball, windsurfing, scuba diving, basketball and sailing which are played by both men and women. The King’s Cup competitions hosts all the talented soccer players in the country amidst thousands of fans and spectators (See Appendix C)(Campo, 2015).Basketball is cherished by the country and the national team won a bronze in the Asian Championships of 1999. Camel racing is also a significant sport with its tournaments held during winter in the Riyadh stadium. Saudi’s also play falconry and horse racing (See Appendix C). Saudi Arabia is furthermore a well-respected and fearedopponent in common games gymnastics (Campo, 2015).
Saudi Arabian Music is mostly traditional and is closely associated with poetry (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015). Music varies regionally, the Al-sihba folk music for instance is common in Hejaz with its origins from al-Andalus. On the other hand, Samri is popular in Najd Regionwhile the folk music of Madinah and Makkah are unique to their Islamic influenceas indicated in Appendix D (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015). Music is however consideredsinful by some Muslims and is seen as a distraction from God. Percussion instruments like the drum and tambourine and the rabābah in the fiddle family are mostly used.The martial line is a native dance also referred to as the ʿarḍah’ that includes lines of men dancing shoulder to shoulder armed with rifles or swords while dancing tambourine and drum beats and poet chantsas indicated in Appendix D (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2014). Saudi’s also listen to rock music with famous artists including bands like the Accolade, the Forgotten and Premonition (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015).
The National Day in Saudi Arabia is on the 23rd of September, it is a day that commemorated the founding of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which was established in 1932 (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015). The Jenadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival is also another major celebration that commemorates the commitment of the Kingdom to the maintenance and preservation the Saudi Arabian culture. It is a two-week annual celebration usually well participated by most Saudis(Saudi Tourism, 2015). It often begins with the historical camel race together with showcases of the artistic work of citizens. The opening allows visitors to watch authentic handmade art creations like bags, potters and saddle frames (Dentzer, 2002). During such holidays, the Saudis also use their different food traditions as iimportant marks of celebration on Eid of Hajj, Ramadanand Eid of Ramadan(Lipsky&Ani , 1959).
2.3 Saudi Cultural Dimensions
Please see Appendix E for a graphical representation of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions for both Saudi Arabia and Canada.
In the power distance category, Saudi Arabia has a score of 95% meaning that Saudis are accepting and comfortablewith the power hierarchy dominant in the country (O’Sullivan, 2015). Positions of power in Saudican therefore remain intact for long periods of time without any disputes. Power Distance is the extent that the less powerful individuals in organizations and institutions in a county are accepting and expectant of unequal distribution of power and resources (The Hofstede Center, n.d.). Compared to Saudi Arabia, Canada has a really low score of 39% explaining why it has been able to rise to become a more liberal and socialist country that believes equitable and fair treatment of all its citizens. A Canadian expatriate who decided to move to Saudi Arabia may therefore be likely to experience a big culture shock.
Saudi Arabia scores 25 in the Individualism category meaning that it is generally a collectivist nation. Individualism is the extent of interdependence maintained by members in a society (The Hofstede Center, n.d). It essentially questions and examines whether people in a society associate with each other often as a whole society or whether they prefer to live as unique, different and independent individuals (O’Sullivan, 2015). It is a common observation that Saudis prefer solid and long relationships with their family andcommunities, they like to take responsibility for their communal groups (Aljahani, 2015). In contrast, Canada has a sharper increased score of 80 in individualism. This only means that a Canadian expatriate may experience a highly contrasting scene in-term of community unity and team orientation. The expatriate should therefore learn to avoid ex-communicating themselves from any groups they find themselves in work for example, this will also help in the achievement of company success as a group rather than as an individual (O’Sullivan, 2015).
In masculinity and femininity, Saudi Arabia has a score of 60. Masculine countries are driven by success, competition and overall achievement, particularly in the business world. Feminine societies on the other hand have more insistence on the quality of life and perceive care for others as important(The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). The priorities of these two different societies are their most distinguishing factors; the masculine society wants the best while feminist society believes that they have to enjoy whatever it is that they are doing (O’Sullivan, 2015). The fact that Saudi scores 60 means that it has a mixture the two, it considers well-being, but also puts on a pedestal higher interest, achievement and success (O’Sullivan, 2015). Canada on the other hand has a score of 52 in this category. A Canadian expatriate a country can therefore easily adapt to the workforce in this kind of spectrum. This is because business priorities like profit maximization will be a common factor between the two. The expatriate should therefore have a keen focus on the completion of task that have the capacity of improving the success of the business success.
In uncertainty avoidance, Saudi Arabia scores 80. This categoryis about the way a society interprets and actsunknown futures (O’Sullivan, 2015). Some deal with uncertainties aggressively while others are majorly ignorant and tend to steer away from anxieties that trouble their peace (O’Sullivan, 2015). The fact that Saudi scores an 80 indicates that it prefers to prevent uncertainties through the creation of strict regulations and laws for a good preparation of the unknown (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015).A sharp contrast exists between Canada and Saudi Arabia in uncertainty avoidance with Canada scoring 48. This only reflects that Canadian organizations and individuals are more willing and welcome to new technologies, ideas, foods and activities (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). Canadians are furthermore more accepting of the freedom of expression of others and they are also more tolerant of the opinions and thoughts of other people (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). The Canadian expatriate therefore has to be cautious and keen to all the regulations, rules and precautions that have been established by the Saudi government aimed at controlling the future (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2015).
Long-term orientation on the other hand is the extent that a society illustrates to have a more pragmatic and practical view of the future as compared to the conventional and historical view that is short-term (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). In this section, Saudi Arabia has a score of 36. Meaning that they have they a rigid and short-term society that is all the more result oriented (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). Canada has a similar lower score of 36 in the long-term orientation category. This implies that most Canadians are short-term oriented (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). This explains why most Canadian business measuretheir losses and profits on quarterly bases, every four times annually. This is a good quality ensures the Canadian employees are pushed to their limits in order to achieve positive results within the shortest time possible. (The Hofstede Centre, n.d.). A Canadian expatriate will therefore perfectly fit into the Saudi business environment in order to improve company growth and success.
Diagram indicating a comparison between the Canadian culture and the Saudi Arabian culture based on Hofstede dimensions (PD-Power Distance, ID-Individualism, M-Masculinity, UA-Uncertainty Avoidance, LO- Long-Term Orientation)
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