VIII: Navigating Business Culture in the UAE: Insights for Success (10 things to know before setting up a business in the UAE)

Zehra Fattah Bani | 11 Jul 2023 | Middle East perspective

The business culture in the UAE is a unique blend of traditional Arab customs and modern business practices. As a Muslim woman, understanding and embracing the business culture in the UAE is crucial for establishing strong relationships, securing deals, and achieving long-term success. In this article, we will explore key aspects of the UAE’s business culture and provide valuable insights to help you navigate the business landscape with confidence.

Relationship Building and Networking

In the UAE, building strong personal relationships is the foundation of successful business interactions. Emiratis value trust and rely on personal connections to establish rapport. Invest time in building relationships by attending networking events, social gatherings, and engaging in personal conversations before discussing business matters.

Hierarchy and Respect

The business culture in the UAE is hierarchical, emphasizing respect for authority and seniority. It is essential to address individuals by their appropriate titles and show deference to senior executives. Decision-making power is typically concentrated at the top, so it is crucial to build relationships with key decision-makers.

Formality and Etiquette

UAE business dealings are characterized by a formal and respectful approach. It is customary to dress conservatively and professionally, especially when meeting government officials or conducting business in more traditional sectors. Punctuality is highly valued, so be sure to arrive on time for meetings and appointments.

Emirati Cultural Sensitivity

Respecting and appreciating Emirati culture is vital for successful business interactions in the UAE. Familiarize yourself with local customs, traditions, and religious practices. Show sensitivity towards Islamic customs, such as fasting during Ramadan, and be mindful of cultural norms and etiquette.

Long-Term Orientation

The UAE business culture often emphasizes long-term relationships and mutual trust. Patience is key, as decision-making processes may take time. Emiratis value reliability, commitment, and follow-through on promises. Maintain regular communication and demonstrate your dedication to nurturing a lasting partnership.

Multicultural Environment

The UAE is a melting pot of diverse cultures and nationalities (more than 200). Embrace the multicultural environment and be open to working with people from various backgrounds. Emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion in your business practices.

Business-Government Relations

The government plays a significant role in business affairs in the UAE. Foster strong relationships with relevant government authorities and be mindful of regulations and compliance requirements. Understanding the government’s vision and initiatives can provide valuable insights into business opportunities.

Arabic Language and Translation

While English is widely spoken in the business community, learning a few Arabic phrases can go a long way in building rapport and demonstrating respect for the local culture. Consider hiring professional translation services for important documents and presentations to ensure clear communication.

Embracing the local customs, building relationships, and demonstrating cultural sensitivity are key to thriving in the UAE’s business landscape. Even for a German/Turkish national like myself, by understanding the nuances of the UAE’s business culture and adapting your approach accordingly, you can establish strong connections, foster trust, and achieve long-term success in this dynamic and thriving business environment.