Cultural Awareness Tips for Doing Business in Dubai

January 20, 2015

When conducting a business in Dubai or in any free zone area, entrepreneurs will undoubtedly work with individuals of various nationalities and backgrounds. It is important to remember that every culture has a different style of business etiquette. Learning the proper techniques for conducting business cross-culturally will allow you to avoid poor first impressions and ensure no time or money is lost.

Clothing

Wearing culture-appropriate clothing will always make for a great first impression and set a professional tone for how you will be seen to business prospects and clients. Remember Dubai's culture is rooted in Arabic and Islamic tradition and therefore caution and consideration must be taken in your regards to your appearance so as to not offend anyone. If you are working in an industry where casual clothing is normal - ensure that you avoid revealing or inappropriate attire. If you are not sure, dress conservatively and in dark colors to be on the safe side.

Conversations

Communicating in a foreign country can be difficult for even the most seasoned business travellers. This is especially true when you are trying to start a business in Dubai and set up your company. When conversing with colleagues or clients, determine what makes an appropriate topic of conversation in the country. Some people are easily offended when talking about religion, politics, or money. Learn some basic history about Dubai and the UAE. You can also use your knowledge of local culture as a conversation starter.

Greetings

Different cultures have their own style of greeting and there is nothing worse than trying to kiss someone who is expecting a handshake or holding out your hand when the other person bows. When conducting business in city as versatile as Dubai, you must remember that offering your hand to a member of the opposite sex is looked down upon, especially by the local population. It is best to wait for other party to initiate the handshake first, thus allowing ease and comfort for both persons involved.

Personal Space

Doing business in Dubai means you will come into contact with other entrepreneurs, many of whom have setup their business in Dubai just as you have. Remember that standing too close or touching another person is considered inappropriate. Keep, at minimum, an arms length away from the person to avoid any issues.

Being culturally aware is an essential element to consider while you’re doing business in a foreign country. What may pass for “normal” in your home country actually may come across as offensive or insensitive while doing business in other countries or with other nationalities. When in doubt, research the local customs and behaviours and you’ll always end up looking like a star!