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.