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Understanding Dubai’s Business Etiquette


Whether you’re simply travelling to Dubai for some business conferences and meetings or planning the next big international expansion of your company, you’ll want to do your preliminary homework and come prepared for a new way of interacting and doing business—Dubai’s roots and Islamic culture means that individuals behave wildly differently than you might be used to. Given its immense value as a lucrative business hub for companies across industries, learning the intricacies of Dubai’s business etiquette is well-worth the effort. 


Getting off on the right foot with prospective partners, investors and key players in any supporting industries is critical for helping your new business find success. Immersing yourself fully in the uniqueness of Dubai’s business etiquette, culture and social norms are key to accomplishing precisely that.


Your appearance matters a great deal when it comes to making a positive first impression, especially among those that you have not interacted with before. A modest, modern and sophisticated look exemplifies that you take pride in your appearance and respect the individuals in attendance enough to take the time to put yourself together for the meeting.


In Islamic culture, proper manners are key, and punctuality is no exception. When planning out your trip or day-to-day commute, err on the side of caution and plan to arrive early to account for any unexpected interruptions. Arriving on time will go a long way towards demonstrating respectfulness towards the others in attendance.


Dubai’s business etiquette is one in which seniority is treated with the utmost respect. Therefore, it’s imperative that when you enter the room, you greet these most senior members first with a gentle handshake using only your right hand.


Meeting the right people and forging business relationships, ironically, is about more than just mutual business interests. In Dubai, it’s very common for such relationships to take a great deal of time to build up, requiring an extensive amount of informal conversation and socialising before delving too deeply into business-related issues. 


It’s important to note that this approach also applies to meetings—Dubai’s business etiquette is one in which people don’t move too hastily into business matters. Build trust and respect with all parties involved, and you’ll stand a much greater chance of forging much stronger, lasting relationships.


Given the importance of genuine personal connections, it’s very important that you go to great lengths to extend some personal courtesies. Between offering small gifts and tokens of appreciation to handing out business cards written in the Arabic language, a personalised approach to doing business will help you build a much stronger professional foundation. 


Remember that while Dubai is indeed a city of expats that you’ll undoubtedly be interacting with—at least at first—you will, eventually, be meeting with native Emiratis. Therefore, it’s absolutely critical that you always remain respectful of the culture and understand the nuances associated with Dubai’s business etiquette. After all, it won’t do you any good to get off on the right foot with any expat connections you may have only to fall short of your ultimate goal by failing to form a connection with the individuals in charge of making the bigger-picture decisions. 


Finding success with a new business venture in Dubai can be a challenging process for those new to the region, but doing your homework and adopting the measures that help you more effectively create positive first impressions is the most important step that you can take to building the relationships that will help you achieve your ultimate goals. Thankfully, by understanding Dubai’s business etiquette as well as how its Islamic culture and roots play a major role in the region’s economic landscape, you’ll be well-positioned to find the success and profitability that makes Dubai such an alluring destination for leading businesses globally.

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