Dubai Skyline

Thinking of starting up or doing business in Dubai? Great choice, as Dubai is considered to be the most business-friendly city in the Middle East with huge advantages in the areas of logistics, duty free options and attractive import and export polices.

There are business etiquette rules to be followed by expats in Dubai so that business runs smoothly and you don’t upset the locals and workplace. Here are my 5 top tips for doing business in Dubai:

  1. Be aware that Working Days & Hours are different from other parts of the World:

    The official off day in Dubai is Friday but most Multinational corporation (MNCs) will also give Saturday off. Generally, office hours start from 8.30 am or 9.00 am until 5.30pm or 6.00pm. During Ramadan month, legally the working hours are cut down to 6 hours. But a few companies will give permissions only to Muslims as they fast during the day. So it is proper not set up meetings or plan to visit companies after 1.00pm in the month of Ramadan.

  2. Formal Dress Code is of utmost importance:

    Most Dubai men wear a crisp white ankle-length shift known as a dish-dasha and a head cloth known as a gutra. Many local women wear a floor length robe known as an abaya which covers them from head to toe and often even covers their face except their eyes.

    Business expats in DubaiWork attire in Dubai tends to be quite formal for foreign business people, so tailored pants, skirts, collared shirts and jackets (Business suits) are the norm. Women should dress modestly/conservatively, covering shoulders, upper arms and knees. Women should refrain from wearing short skirts and low neck attire when on business. This is especially important during Ramadan. If you are travelling to the midlands of Dubai, get the traditional attire.

  3. Do plan carefully for business meetings:

    Some great tips from Gulliver at the Economist:

    Do not arrange appointments on Fridays, the Muslim day of prayer and rest. Handshakes are standard in business. Many men and women from Dubai will not shake hands with the opposite sex; wait for a hand to be offered. In place of a handshake, you can place your right hand over the heart. Business cards are essential; always carry a small stack with you. They are usually handed out at the beginning of the meeting, after a formal greeting.

    Finally, do think about what you are going to talk about. While the conversation can be casual, don’t pick apart Arab associates in public, as this will be viewed as an insult.

    Be especially careful when discussing religion and politics as these tend to be sensitive subjects. Upcoming local projects and developments tend to be safer topics of conversation.

  4. Be extra sensitive to religious laws during the holy month of Ramadan:

    Ramadan is the holy month of the Islam religion and falls between June and July most years. Muslims fast during the daylight hours and focus their activities on prayer, fasting and charity.

    You should be especially vigilant of laws during this time as the religious police tend to be less tolerant during this time. Public displays of affection, dressing, drinking, eating, or even being seen accompanied with a local woman (If you are a foreign man) in public during fasting hours will definitely be noticed and most lightly lead to an arrest.

  5. Don’t forget etiquette when you are out & about:

    Dubai may appear much more modern than other countries in the Middle East but there are still behaviors that we take in our stride in western countries that are not acceptable there. Nudity or going top-less is an absolute no-no on local beaches or in any other public areas. Being drunk in public is also frowned upon and you may end up behind bars. In general, the law favours the locals so avoid getting into fights with the local people.

Photo Credit: Alina Sofia under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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