Negotiation Practices and Etiquette in Ethiopia

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
When doing business with others, it is a good strategy to know as much as you can about them, their products, and their company. When dealing with those outside the Western world, it is important to understand the various cultures, and business etiquette

We often forget that what is the norm for one culture is not the same for others. Even the simplest of gestures may be a sign of politeness, yet a sign of rudeness or aggression to others. Those going to a foreign land are often advised to learn about the cultures, what is polite behavior and what may be considered rude behavior. Corporations and other large businesses conduct business in foreign countries. There are social norms, as well as norms in regards to business and negotiation etiquette.

When building or expanding a business, it is understood that International expansion is important. Not only will company representatives and executives travel abroad, but International clients may visit you to conduct business. Therefore, it is important that employees, at every level, be educated. When doing business with Ethiopia, there are multiple cultural differences. Areas such as business dress, greetings, dining, women's business role, gift giving to simplistic areas such as business cards require and understanding, to ensure appropriate behavior. Many cultural customs in Ethiopia that occurs in the home, carry over into the business world. Politeness and honor is important throughout all aspects of their culture. Ethiopians take great pains in not to causing their business contacts to feel uncomfortable.

There are simple basics to business etiquette. One of the common practices in business is the use of business cards. The only difference in Ethiopian culture and the Western world is that the business card is never folded, and it is handed to the recipient, as well as received with the right hand or both hands. Other cultural differences are centered around the business meeting.

Business Meetings

Business meetings begin rather informally, with greetings, and conversational pleasantries, serving tea or coffee. Ethiopians often ask questions of their guests, due to their personal interest, rather than a business interest only. Be prepared to ask questions about family, etc, and to answer questions that may be asked of you.

Although, business meetings are rather informal, it may be wise to have an agenda formed to simply serve as a guideline.

Unlike Westerners, Ethiopian businessmen do not have an expected time for a business meeting to end. Once all discussions have been completed, and possible more pleasant conversations take place, the elders will decide when it is time to end the meeting.


  • Greetings are rather formal and polite.
  • Handshakes are gentle and lingering.
  • Members of the opposite sex are not to have physical contact. It would be appropriate for a female who is attending the meeting to not extend her hand for a handshake. However, if a female does extend her hand, the Ethiopian males will respond, rather than refuse by not extending their hand.

Punctuality is of great importance.


  • Business dress: Suit and tie

The Ethiopian government continues to have primary control over business dealings in the country, although this is changing. Ethiopians are not familiar with business practices of other countries, therefore lacking experience. Most prefer doing business with a friend, or whom they consider to be their friend. They are a people who do not like to disappoint others or to appear being disrespectful. Therefore, Ethiopians may make an agreement with you, but not follow through on that agreement. It would be wise to invest in the services of a professional in International Business, particularly in negotiations with countries that are fairly new to the global market, such as Ethiopia.


Linda Smith
Posted on Jun 18, 2011
A. Smith
Posted on Jun 18, 2011