Doing Business in Dubai

Doing Business in Dubai | BCBusiness

Vancouver and Dubai share many similarities—both are port cities and boast a mix of many cultures. But take the time to brush up on your Middle Eastern etiquette so you don’t offend in this booming desert oasis

The Greeting

The Handshake: Don’t automatically go to shake hands. Some traditional Muslim women may feel uncomfortable shaking hands with an unrelated male, so it’s best to let them offer their hand first.

SALAAM ALAIKUM: Offer a firm (but not too firm) handshake, good eye contact and a quick Salaam alaikum—the Arabic greeting that translates to “Peace be upon you.”

The Meeting

LOCATION, LOCATION: When picking the venue for your meeting, make sure you find a location with plenty of parking— everyone drives in the U.A.E.

Appearance is Everything: Image is important in the Arab world. Dress your best because if you don’t already look like you’ve “made” it, you might not be given the time of day.

Promptness: While you should arrive on time for a meeting with a client, punctuality isn’t necessarily a highly valued virtue in the U.A.E. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself waiting a while.

Small Talk: Don’t dive right into business chatter at the start of a meeting. You’ll likely share some chai (tea) or a soft drink and make small talk for a while before getting to the meat of the conversation. During a meeting, if an Emirati client picks up whenever his phone rings, don’t take offense.

Wheel and Deal: Haggling is at the heart of every business transaction in the Middle East. Be frank about money and factor this into any prices you quote.

The Meal

Snack Appropriately: Should your client extend a dinner invitation, it’s rude not to accept. But it might be wise to grab a snack. Dinner is usually served very late by Western standards—think 9 or 10 p.m.

Reply All: Be sure to address everyone when answering questions at a business meal—often the most silent individual is the decision-maker.

Social Customs

Modern Modesty: As a woman in the U.A.E, it’s always a good idea to dress modestly. That means no short skirts or revealing tops. Slacks are a good option. Whatever your choice, make sure your clothes have a loose fit so you aren’t drawing attention to the shape of your body.

No Lefties: Using your left hand to gesticulate or reach out to another person is a no-no. Embrace your right hand and use it for everything.

Ask for Directions: Don’t trust your cab driver with directions. Canadians take it for granted that cabbies here know their way around, but the majority of Dubai’s population are immigrants new to the city. Always come prepared with directions to your destination.


Etiquette Profs: David Macadam, regional director and head of retail, Jones Lang LaSalle Real Estate Servives Inc., Middle East & North Africa; Noushin Khushrushahi, freelance researcher.