5 Etiquette Tips for Doing Business in Dubai

There is no country that has generated more publicity in recent times than the United Arab Emirates, with most of that attention going to Dubai. From constructing the tallest building in the world to reconstructing The World, Dubai has constantly made headlines. It remains a great business destination not just for its ambitious projects, but also for their vast crude oil resources and their hunger for innovation. Dubai is also a city steeped in tradition, and your knowledge of their culture will make your dealings go that much better.

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1. Make your greeting standout

Proper greeting is a big part of most, if not all societies. For a traditional society such as Dubai, greetings are even more revered. The most senior person in the room should be greeted first and by their appropriate title – Sheikh (chief) or Sheikha for a woman, Sayed (Mr) and Sayeda (Mrs), before their first name. The people of Dubai are very friendly and so prefer to call people by their first name.

2. Don’t be stingy with handshakes

Handshakes are the staple greeting gesture. Handshakes can also last a long time, so don’t let go even if it starts to feel uncomfortable. When a man greets an Arab woman however, he is to wait to see if the woman will extend her hand. The same applies for a woman greeting an Arab man. It is also normal for your hand to be held for extended periods of time when walking together. It is a friendly gesture and again you are not to let go unless they do so first.

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3. Your right hand is always the right hand

When shaking hands, passing over documents or serving food, you are expected to always use your right hand. Muslims regard the left hand as unclean, as it is used mainly for bodily hygiene. You are also expected to eat with your right hand, especially in public. This is especially inconvenient for left-handed people, but you’ll get used to it……eventually.

4. Get personal

Business in Dubai is built on familiar relationships. Your business partner wants to know all about you and you are expected to do the same. Even at a formal meeting, a lot of the questions could be about your family. However, in getting to know your host, you should not ask about a man’s wife or daughters. Women can speak to other women about it, but a woman’s life in Dubai is very private.

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5. Long skirts over short shorts

Proper dressing is very important in all Arab nations and Dubai is no exception. Each year we hear about tourists being imprisoned or fined in Dubai for inappropriate clothing in public. For business meetings men should wear a suit, and women will do well to cover their legs, shoulders, arms and toes. When entering religious sites women should always cover their hair. Women are not required to wear a veil in Dubai, but it makes a good impression, especially if you are there during Ramadan – the Muslim month of fasting.

Besides these business etiquettes, another useful tip is the importance of learning their language. Knowing at least a few greetings and phrases in Arabic will charm your business partners. Your concern for their language and culture will show how much you care about them and their business. If you would like to learn some Arabic before you go contact us to find out how we can help. If you think your Arabic is good enough take our Arabic level test to make sure.

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