Cultural Clues, Communication Guidelines for The UAE

The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s and Taboos for THE UAE!

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is very progressive, modern, and the most westernized of all the Arabic countries.

In the UAE, each of the seven United Arab Emirates is a sovereign principality ruled by the head of the leading family of the tribe that first settled there.

Tourist visas are available and a single visa is valid for all seven emirates. The national airline, Emirates, is renowned for excellent service.

Islam is the official religion. Because of the relatively small indigenous population [especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi], however, the western visitor does not feel its influence as much as elsewhere in Arabia, except during the fast of Ramadhan.

The official language is Arabic but Farsi heavily influences the local dialect, making it sound strange at first. English, Farsi, Urdu and Hindi are also widely spoken.

The UAE encourages foreign enterprise, and many businesses are foreign owned and run. You just need to satisfy the financial criteria to open a business there.

Business etiquette varies according to nationality, but following the general guidelines when dealing with people from anywhere in Arabia is helpful.

Appropriate business dress for men is shirt and trousers during the day with collar and tie in the evening. Traditional robes are also popular and suitable for the climate.

Business women are more common than in other Arabic countries, and need not dress as modestly as elsewhere in Arabia. Typical western business attire is appropriate as long as it’s not too revealing.

Business cards are commonly exchanged but not essential. English language cards are fine, but it’s a nice gesture to have Arabic printed on one side.

Detailed brochures and material should be printed in Arabic, either with or without an English translation.

Gifts are challenging, because virtually everything can be purchased there less expensively than elsewhere in the world. Gifts must also be the very best affordable. It’s wise to research gifts in advance to make sure they’re appropriate and will be appreciated.

As in the west, the basic working week is 5 days, save that the week begins on Saturday instead of Monday.

Generally, businesses in the UAE open at about nine in the morning, close for most of the afternoon and then re-open from late afternoon until mid-evening.

Although prayer times vary around the year, current ones are always printed in the daily newspapers and the visitor should keep abreast of them when making appointments.

If a meeting room is carpeted, it’s common to remove shoes and leave them outside to avoid bringing in impurities and making the room unclean for prayer.

At the start of a meeting, shake hands with the most senior person first, usually, but not always, the host. Then make your way around the room in an anti-clockwise direction, shaking hands with each person in turn before taking your seat.

If there are more than fifty or so people in the room, there may be a consensus to shake hands with the host and wave a greeting to the others.

Once seated, crossing legs is perfectly acceptable, provided you do not direct the sole of the foot to an individual, which is a ‘go away’ gesture.

Business initially proceeds more slowly than in the west, and then often unexpectedly speed up as business dealings solidify.

There may be several meetings required in the discussion phase, and then negotiations may be swift but not necessarily easy.

Do’s and Taboos for The UAE

5 Key Conversation Topics or Cultural Gesture Tips

  • General questions such as “How are you” are often used
  • The UAE is an oasis of variety and modernism and this is always a good topic of discussion.
  • Intelligent argument is admired and welcome, but only if it is courteous and reasoned.
  • Do not change the topic of conversation except by logical opportunity or invitation.
  • The more feedback you provide, even if it’s forceful so long as it is not angry, the more highly you are esteemed

5 Key Conversation Topics or Cultural Gesture Taboos

  • Quarreling with anger is regarded totally differently than intelligent argument and should be avoided.
  • When seated opposite someone, don’t sit with your legs apart, or cross your legs where the sole of your shoe is pointed at someone because this is considered an insult.
  • If you continually agree with someone, and are afraid to offer a differing opinion, they may begin to doubt your sincerity.
  • The UAE is very cosmopolitan, so to avoid offending be sure your manners and cultural etiquette adapt to the nationality of who you are with.
  • Since the UAE is primarily a Muslim country, before suggesting alcoholic drinks with someone be sure that they drink.

Bon Voyage!

Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for
the United States of America (USA)!

To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book

Watch the ‘Say Anything-5 Keys’ Video

Create Rapport and Organize Strategies for Success

The CROSS of Cross-Cultural

Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z

Cultural Tips for The UAE – including some valuable business travel tips for The UAE

This article on cultural differences in The UAE and cultural travel tips for The UAE is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for The UAE, tips for communicating in The UAE, and business strategies for The UAE to help with understanding the culture in The UAE. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture,’ cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for The UAE and tips for intercultural communication!

It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a significant impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.

Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!

Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our customized training programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.

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