Doing Business

Like anywhere in the world, doing business in the UAE has its own unique idiosyncrasies. Even if you work for a western company, the chances are that some of your business transactions will be with Emiratis, whether on a customer or client basis.

Dress sensibly
It's a good idea to dress conservatively for business meetings, paricularly if you are female  at the very least cover your knees and shoulders.

Handshake  or not?
When meeting someone of the opposite sex it’s likely that a handshake will not be given and it is best to refrain unless they extend their hand to you. Always use your right hand to meet, eat or hand over items, as Muslims reserve the left hand for bodily hygiene and consider it unclean.

Nose kiss
A nose kiss is a customary greeting in the UAE but is only used between close friends and associates, and you should not attempt to greet someone in this way.

If you’re attending a business meeting at an Arab-owned company, it’s likely that you’ll be served traditional Arabic coffee, or kahwa. Sharing coffee is an important social ritual in the Middle East so you should drink some when offered. Cups should be taken in the right hand and if there is a waiter standing by, replenishing your cup, there are two ways to signal that you have had enough: either leave a small amount of coffee in the bottom of your cup or gently tip the cup from side to side.

Things may move more slowly and decisions take longer than you may be used to. Keeping in regular contact with your clients helps to maintain genial relations, and picking up the phone rather than relying on email can make the world of difference.

Small talk
Avoid enquiring about family matters and concentrate on more generic conversations such as general compliments about the country if you are newly arrived. It's polite to send greetings to a person's family but avoid enquiring after female family members, as this is kept extremely private. Avoid showing the bottom of your shoes in meetings too as this is considered an insult.

The Holy Month marks a general slowdown in the business world, when all Muslims are entitled to shortened working hours. Be prepared to factor in extra time for any business dealings during this period. At the end of Ramadan, business comes to a halt for the Eid al Fitr holiday.

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