After five years living and working in the Sultanate, there is one thing that still catches me out: Omani business hours. Just the other day I set out to purchase one liter of spare oil for my magic carpeted ride. Sounds simple, right? Not so, because this American forgot that 2pm is sleepy time in Muscat. When will I learn?
If you are like me, a monochronic addict (who should be working on a 12 step program), Oman can be your worst nightmare and source of constant angst, but it does’t have to be. A little understanding and planning will make your visit more enjoyable.
There are a couple details to establish when talking about Omani business hours:
- Oman is a hot country
- Oman is modernizing
- Business culture is mixed between east and west
- Dominance of polychronism (time culture where time is not important)
When business owners mix the four details and apply them to their Omani business hours, you get a wide ranging, non-sensical, and seemingly random set of operating hours from business to business. This is where the frustrations can set in for staunch follower of monochronism.
I’ll give you an example: Malls. There are two types of retail malls here in the Sultanate; The giant, modern, western type with large food courts and parking garages; and the smaller, humble malls which dominated the shopping scene a decade ago. Both are retail centers were owners hire space to trade goods for cash. But they have entirely different operating hours based on the four details above.
The humble malls take the traditional, eastern, polychronic culture; add a bit of afternoon heat, and come up with business hours like 9am-1pm, 5pm-10pm. Compare that to the modern, western malls’ business hours of 10am-10pm.
Retail establishments aren’t the only sector that mix their business hours. Offices do as well, adding to the confusion. Returning home from work at 4pm, I sometimes see many of my neighbors; some are leaving to return to their work, others are coming home along with me. It’s all very random.
On the other hand banks and government offices have very predictable and aligned set of business hours: 8am-2pm, weekdays. So, forget doing any government or bank business outside of your obligated working hours, right?
So what’s the big deal D?
Really it’s no big deal, I very much appreciate the eastern, polychronic culture. The pace of life that occurs in Oman is refreshing and rewarding. It’s just hard to drop those western thoughts of efficiency. “Hi, I’m D, and I’m a monochromic addict.”
Which time culture do you most identify with? Let me know, leave me a comment below.
Tips for Navigating Omani Business Hours
- Call ahead – Finding out the hours of the restaurant of shop you want to visit before you hop in the car could save you loads of time.
- Arrive at 11:30am – If you can’t find a phone number, arriving 11:30am will give you the best odds of finding an open business.
- Keep the business hours saved in your phone – For businesses or offices I frequent I try to keep their hours saved in their contact card.
Typical Omani Business Hours
|Office (western culture)||8am-5pm|
|Office (eastern culture)||8am-12pm, 3pm-6pm|
|Retail (traditional)||9am-1pm, 5pm-10pm|