So, you’ve decided to start doing business in the UAE. Regardless of whether you are physically working in the UAE or just beginning to do business with companies in the UAE, it is time you familiarise yourself with cultural and behavioral aspects of business in the UAE’s purview.
UAE is a Muslim country and has rules and norms that might differ from other parts of the world. To avoid any awkward business situations, you need to study the cultural characteristics and business etiquette characteristic of the Arab world on the whole. Though very accepting and warm, the business community in the country might expect specific behavior from you when it comes to business dealings.
There are essential aspects that business professionals must consider ahead of meeting an associate or business partner in the UAE. Greeting style, addressing others, business card protocol, and communication tactics – all play an important role in how your business cultivates important relationships.
A corporate meeting starts with a salutation, usually ‘assalam wuailaikum’ or a simple ‘hello.’ A greeting is answered with ‘wa alaikum assalam’. Men to men greetings are with handshakes; however, if your associate is a woman, refrain from shaking hands unless the other holds out her hand. As a sign of respect, greet the eldest in the room first before going on to others. Immediately present the people you just met with a business card, using your right hand or both hands. You can ask questions about their health and well-being.
While addressing, people in the UAE use customary terms such as Sheikh/Sheikha and Habibi/Habibti along with the first names. Also, a lot of religious expressions are used in informal conversations – like ‘inshallah,’ which translates to ‘if God willing.’
One of the critical things that you must know and do at all times is maintaining the modesty of clothing. Modesty in outfits is an essential factor not just for women, but men too. The most appropriate clothes for men are business suits in dark colors and for women business costumes or skirts that are knee-length. It is highly advisable to choose conservative clothes.
The good news is that UAE is home to people of over 200 nationalities, making it a truly global nation, where the ex-pats and the locals understand almost all cultures from around the world very well. This results in a very healthy and fruitful business relationship with a very accommodative work and business environment. So if you keep in mind the points mentioned above and put in some time to study the local culture a bit before you jump into the business world – it sure will be a worthy investment.
After all, it is crucial that you know certain things when planning business meetings or going about any business-related activities in any country other than yours. If you work with business professionals from different cultures than yours, it is wise to be empathetic and understanding. If, as a business professional, you are not aware that business etiquettes differ around the globe, you might end up as a faux-pas during the vital phase of your business set-up.
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