United Arab Emirates

Top Tips on the UAE

Tip 1
Remember that, despite its Western feel, the UAE remains an Islamic country and that great respect should be paid to Islamic tradition, beliefs and sensitivities.

Tip 2
More than 80% of the population of the region are non-Emirati and you are just as likely to be doing business with an American or an Australian as you are with a local.

Tip 3
The Emirates consists of seven, separate states which are all slightly different in feel and approach. If you are doing business outside the main centres of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, make sure you do some additional research.

Tip 4
Do not be surprised if local companies are very family–oriented and influenced. Nepotism is a way of life and is actively encouraged. You could find several family members in the same meeting.

Tip 5
Company structures will reflect this family-orientation through a strong sense of hierarchy. Try to find out the hierarchy of your counterpart – and look into who the real decision-makers are.

Tip 6
As throughout the Arab world, age is worthy of respect and honourable visitors will display respect to older people. Is it therefore a good idea to have a few older heads in your delegation?

Tip 7
Do not assume that any expatriate you deal with who works for a local company will be the final decision-maker. It is highly likely that the expatriate (whatever their job title) will need to report to a local senior official for final authority on any issue.

Tip 8
Management style is directional and employees expect managers to lead in a fairly authoritative manner. This can mean that instructions are given in a very direct, even abrupt way.

Tip 9
When in meetings, avoid pointing the soles of your shoes at your counterparties as this could be seen as rude. It is also best to pass any documents, refreshments etc. with your right hand.

Tip 10
Same gender tactility is very common – although public tactility across the genders is very rare and frowned upon.

Tip 11
Meetings can often appear unstructured with no (or little reference to) agenda. People may be present who are seemingly nothing to do with your meeting.

Tip 12
Meetings will not always (in fact very rarely) start on time. Levels of lateness can vary from a few minutes up to more than an hour.

Tip 13
Try not to arrange too many meetings on the same day as lack of punctuality, the unstructured nature of meetings and heavy traffic can make it difficult to pack lots of commitments into one time slot.

Tip 14
Arabic is a language of hyperbole. Therefore, it is common for business associates to lavish extravagant praise on each other as part of the all-important relationship building phase of doing business. Don’t feel inhibited to join in this process.

Tip 15
People do not like to say ‘no’ or deliver negative news. It can be very difficult to fully understand exactly how interested people are in your propositions. Only perseverance and patience will reveal the true picture.

Tip 16
Don’t take ‘yes’ to mean ’yes’ every time. It could be being used as a delaying tactic.

Tip 17
Emotional discourse denotes interest and engagement. Don’t mistake loudness and emotion for hostility or anger.

Tip 18
You should endeavour to maintain strong levels of eye contact (same sex) as strong eye contact denotes sincerity and trustworthiness.

Tip 19
Women play a more active role in business than in neighbouring Saudi, although some older, more traditional Emiratis may maintain a significant gender bias.

Tip 20
Dress conservatively, but very smartly. Modesty in dress code is important for women. You will be judged partly on your appearance.


This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture

Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working.  We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.

This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in United Arab Emirates only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.

Country Breakdown





United Arab Emirates Dirham


$ 348.7