You may find that you are invited for a meal by a local Emirati contact who will entertain you lavishly at one of the most expensive hotels or restaurants in the region.

The food will be superb and the surroundings even better. You host may flatter you and tell you how much he enjoys doing business with you. Does this mean you are on track to land that big contract? Not necessarily. This lavish entertainment may be the precursor of great things to follow – but it may also be a polite way of letting you down gently!

If you invite a local contact for a meal, it is important that you also entertain lavishly. The amount of effort (and money) put into the entertainment aspect of relationship building reflects how highly you value your guests. Do not imagine that this investment is ill-advised or wasted – it is an absolutely essential part of that all-important relationship building process.

Do not eat or pass food with your left hand – which is considered to be the ‘dirty’ hand. (It might even be considered offensive to pass things with the left hand.)

A service charge of about 10% is usually added to a restaurant bill but it is not uncommon for people to add an extra 10% on top of this.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

Free Download


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