Dubai’s commercial sector is not only one of the most modern in the world, it’s also one of the fastest growing business communities on the planet. A massive investment programme has made Dubai and the Emirates in general one of the key business hotspots, with investors, entrepreneurs, and global brands eager to be a part of the progression.
Despite being very much a 21st century city, Dubai has its own customs, traditions, and methods of doing business. It is therefore essential to understand and adapt to the local customs of the region. Dubai also has a large expatriate community, which influences the way business is conducted on a daily basis.
To help you get the most out of your business trip to Dubai, here are a few tips to ensure your trip is a success from the moment you arrive.
Greeting your hosts
Dubai business etiquette is quite formal, so you should shake hands with your hosts or place your right hand over your heart when greeting women. Handshakes are standard between men, but wait until a hand is offered. Exchanging business cards after the initial greetings is part of business protocol in Dubai, so make sure you have a plentiful supply of good quality cards to hand out.
Avoid doing business on a Friday
Dubai is a Muslim Emirate, which means Fridays are a day of prayer and rest. However, you will find it’s business as normal on a Sunday. So avoid booking meetings or trying to do business on a Friday. The usual office hours are between 8am-1pm and 4pm-8pm, Saturday to Thursday. Banks are open from 8am-1pm Saturday to Wednesday, although some are also open from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.
Familiarise yourself with the language
If you want to make a good first impression, learn a few Arabic phrases such as the basic greeting “as-salaamu aleikum”, which means ‘peace be upon you’. English is the standard business language in Dubai, but it is polite to try to learn a little of your hosts’ language.
Business attire in Dubai, as in any other professional or formal setting, is conservative and without any fuss. ‘Whacky’ ties won’t impress your hosts, so stick to simple and elegant attire. Women should avoid low necklines or short skirts, and both men and women should avoid overly tight clothing (not only is it frowned upon in Arabic culture, but it can be impractical and uncomfortable during the summer months).
Doing business during Ramadan
Ramadan is a hugely important part of life in Dubai and as the fasting month, its influence can be felt right through the business community, as well as everyday life in the city. It takes place during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar.
Business does not come to a complete stop during Ramadan, but merely adapts to the spiritual nature of the month. Be prepared to shift business meetings to suitable timings and expect business dinners to take place after iftar which is the time Muslims break their fast. Many businesses will close at 1 or 2pm during Ramadan, so make sure to check opening hours and business timings in advance.