One of the most difficult concepts for many other cultures to grasp is the need to offer flattery in many business situations.
Arabic is a language of hyperbole, where the merits of others are praised and overtly commented upon. Therefore, during the relationship-building process, it is important to offer compliments to your host, his organisation and the Muslim world in general. You, in return, will be complimented. Do not seem distant, aloof or embarrassed if this happens – take the compliments in the spirit they are given.
You may be asked questions which seem overly familiar at a very early stage. Questions about marital status, children, religious convictions and personal wealth are commonplace. If you feel uncomfortable answering such questions, have a ready supply of stock answers at your disposal. Refrain from saying that you are an atheist as this is incomprehensible in a society in which the absolute existence of a monotheistic deity is a given.
People are reluctant to convey bad news to you about any business issues. When this characteristic is combined with natural Arabic hyperbole it is important to maintain a sense of perspective when being given very positive feedback about any particular proposition.
Do not be surprised if people seem somewhat aggressive in meeting situations. Speaking volubly and with a rising tone shows sincerity. This denotes engagement and interest and is in no way a negative sign. (The ability to converse in this manner is a much-admired characteristic in the region.)
Finally, be aware of the importance of good, strong eye contact. A man’s sincerity and honour can be judged by their ability to look you in the eye. This can be somewhat uncomfortable for those from cultures with much weaker eye contact (many Asian countries) but efforts must be made in this area.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
The United Arab Emirates is still predominantly dependent on oil revenues but, having said that, represents the most diversified economy in the Gulf region. All the Emirates have made concerted efforts over the past couple of decades to develop a future in which the country could continue to prosper in a post-fossil fuel world.
As a result of this drive for economic diversification, the UAE has become a magnet for international companies looking to develop new markets and increase their global footprint. As an affluent society, the UAE offer good opportunities across a wide-range of both consumer and industrial areas and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
However, the UAE is a Gulf state and needs to be approached with a degree of caution. Things work differently in the UAE than they probably do ‘back home’ and if you are considering doing business in the United Arab Emirates then it is essential to do some homework in advance. Do not be fooled by the fact that the country is home to a large number of expatriates from all over the world – the decision-makers are Emirati and you need to understand their local culture and business mentality if you are to have any hope of success.
Remember that relationship -building is the key but that it takes time and patience to build those relationships. Don’t try to rush things and don’t expect immediate results – you may be lucky but usually patience is an essential trait when working in the UAE.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Emirati business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: