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Dubai Business Etiquette: Tips for Success in the Local Market

Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has established itself as a global business hub. Its strategic location, world-class infrastructure, and investor-friendly policies have attracted entrepreneurs and businesses from around the world. However, to thrive in Dubai's competitive business landscape, it's crucial to understand and respect local customs and business etiquette. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore essential tips for success in the local market and how to navigate Dubai's unique business culture

1. Understanding the Cultural Context

Before delving into business etiquette, it's essential to appreciate the cultural context that shapes business interactions in Dubai:

  • Islamic Culture: Dubai's culture is deeply rooted in Islam. It's vital to be respectful of Islamic customs and traditions, including fasting during Ramadan and adhering to conservative dress codes.

  • Hierarchy and Respect: Dubai values hierarchy and respect for authority figures. It's common to address individuals with their titles and last names, showing deference to seniority.

  • Hospitality: The UAE is known for its warm hospitality. Business meetings often involve sharing Arabic coffee and dates as a gesture of welcome.

2. Dress Code

Dubai's dress code for business meetings is generally conservative. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Men: Business attire for men typically includes a well-tailored suit and tie. Avoid wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, and open-toed shoes.

  • Women: Women should dress modestly, with knee-length skirts or dresses and covered shoulders. It's customary to wear a headscarf (hijab) when visiting religious sites or conservative areas.

3. Punctuality Matters

Being on time for business meetings is a sign of respect and professionalism in Dubai. Arriving late can be perceived as a lack of commitment or disrespect for the other party's time.

4. Greetings and Handshakes

Greetings in Dubai are formal and respectful. When meeting someone for the first time, a firm handshake is customary. However, greetings between members of the opposite sex may differ due to cultural norms. Men should wait for a woman to initiate a handshake.

5. Titles and Hierarchy

Dubai places a strong emphasis on hierarchy and titles. Address individuals with their titles and last names unless they explicitly invite you to use their first names.

6. Building Relationships

Building relationships is fundamental in Dubai's business culture. Business negotiations may take time as relationships are cultivated and trust is established. Personal connections can be as crucial as the terms of the deal itself.

7. Business Cards

Exchanging business cards is a common practice in Dubai. Ensure that your business card includes your full name, title, and company details. When receiving a business card, take a moment to examine it before placing it in a respectful manner.

8. Language

While Arabic is the official language of Dubai, English is widely spoken and understood, especially in the business community. Conducting business in English is generally acceptable, but learning a few Arabic greetings and phrases can be appreciated.

9. Ramadan Observance

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. It's essential to be respectful of this practice and avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours. Business meetings may be scheduled later in the day during Ramadan.

10. Negotiation Style

Dubai's negotiation style is generally polite and indirect. It's essential to maintain patience and avoid aggressive or confrontational tactics. Negotiations may involve multiple meetings and rounds of discussions.

11. Gift-Giving

While not mandatory, giving gifts is a thoughtful gesture in Dubai. When offering a gift, choose something of quality and avoid items that may be perceived as inappropriate, such as alcohol or pork products. Gifts are typically exchanged at the end of a meeting.

12. Business Hours

The official workweek in Dubai typically runs from Sunday to Thursday. Business hours vary but are generally from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. During Ramadan, working hours may be reduced.

13. Respect for Local Laws and Customs

Dubai has strict laws and customs that visitors and businesses must adhere to. These include regulations related to alcohol consumption, public behavior, and modest dress codes. Be aware of and respect these laws to avoid legal issues and cultural misunderstandings.

14. Legal Documentation

When entering into business agreements or contracts in Dubai, it's advisable to seek legal counsel and ensure that all documentation is properly drafted and translated into Arabic when necessary. Contracts are considered legally binding, and disputes can be time-consuming to resolve.

15. Local Sponsorship

In certain business structures, such as mainland companies, foreign businesses may require a local sponsor or partner. It's essential to understand the terms and conditions of such partnerships and work with reputable sponsors.

16. Networking and Business Groups

Engaging in networking events and joining business groups in Dubai can be highly beneficial for establishing connections and gaining insights into the local market. Organizations like the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry offer valuable networking opportunities.

17. Resilience and Adaptability

Lastly, be prepared to be flexible and patient. Dubai's business landscape is diverse and constantly evolving, and adaptability is a valuable trait for success in this dynamic market.


Navigating Dubai's business etiquette is essential for success in the local market. By understanding the cultural context, respecting local customs, and building meaningful relationships, businesses and entrepreneurs can establish a strong presence and thrive in this global business hub. Dubai's blend of traditional values and modernity creates a unique business environment where professionalism, respect, and patience are highly regarded. With the right approach and adherence to local customs, businesses can unlock the vast opportunities that Dubai has to offer and build lasting partnerships in the heart of the UAE.

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