Background To Business in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates consists of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain.

Each of these states has its own identity and individual characteristics (some are more liberal in their attitudes to clothing etc. than others) but they also share a great many commonalities and this country profile will concentrate on the commonalities and, as such, can be used as a guide to all the states which comprise the UAE.

A key issue to bear in mind when doing business in the Emirates would be the cosmopolitan nature of the population. Over 80% of the population of the region are non-locals. It is almost more likely, therefore, that you will be doing business with a western expatriate then with a local Emirati.

A key question to ask before starting any project in the UAE would be: ‘Who am I dealing with?’ Obviously dealing with an American expatriate will require a different approach than when dealing with a local Emirati. Do some research in advance and work out, not only who you will be dealing with directly, but also who is the final decision-maker. You may be dealing with an American – but are they reporting to a local, senior business man?

Another key issue to bear in mind is that beneath the veneer of Westernisation, the Emirates remain a region heavily influenced by the all-embracing influence of the teachings of Islam. There is little separation between religion, life in general and business – they are all interlinked in a way that is alien to most western business people. Show great respect to local religious sensitivities at all times – not to do so could be a real deal-breaker.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the United Arab Emirates

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in the United Arab Emirates. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in the United Arab Emirates and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips