With its affluent and wealthy population and a reputation as a tech leader, Dubai and the UAE more generally has become a hub for business. Businesses from across the world are keen to establish partnerships with Dubai but succeeding in the country extends far beyond your typical business model.
To stand a serious chance of succeeding in Dubai, you must first understand and respect Dubai’s business culture and overall values. We have created this guide to doing business in Dubai and the UAE, helping businesses better understand the type of conduct future contacts may expect of them.
It’s widely expected for both men and women to dress both formally and modestly in business. For men, this means wearing a suit and tie, while women should dress conservatively, covering their shoulders, arms and legs and avoiding tight-fitting or revealing clothing. It’s important to remember this and dress accordingly when meeting with clients or attending networking events.
There are certain values that you should uphold when first greeting your business contacts in person. It’s important to understand the rank of the people in the room, and it’s expected that you’ll greet the most senior person first, and work around the room from there.
If you’re greeting a member of the opposite sex who is Muslim, Dubai Tourist Board advises to not offer a handshake unless the other party extends their hand first. Don’t be offended if your contact does not offer to shake hands, as this could be because of their religious beliefs.
It also goes without saying to avoid swearing or insulting the country’s culture too. Not only do you risk causing offence, it could even mean getting on the wrong side of the law.
In the world of business, it’s tempting to get straight to the point and start talking business as soon as possible during a meeting. However, this isn’t customary when doing business in Dubai culture.
Doing so can come across as abrupt. You are generally expected to spend some time getting to know your contact and asking them about themselves and their family before you start talking business. It’s wise to wait for your contact to change the topic of conversation to avoid causing any unintentional offence.
Due to the fast-paced nature of doing business in the UAE, it’s not unusual for meetings to start later than planned. Likewise, you may find that meetings or conference calls with multiple people can get a little chaotic. Late-comers are common, people may join unannounced and the conversation may go off-piste.
This may seem removed from the typical conference calls you may be used to, but it’s important to stay positive and have patience. Go with the flow but remember to maintain your own punctuality.
When scheduling a meeting or conference call, it’s important to time it right, especially during religious events such as Ramadan. During Ramadan, the working days can be shorter and altered, with more people working early morning and after sunset. Likewise, it is frowned upon to set up a conference call or meeting during prayer times. Remain thoughtful of this when scheduling communications with your contact.
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