Article image: 5 Main Rules of Business Etiquette in the UAE

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When planning business meetings in the UAE, it is important to remember that this is a Muslim country with its own rules and norms. In order not to get into an embarrassing situation, one should take into account cultural characteristics and rules of the business etiquette characteristic of the Arab world.


As far as clothing is concerned, its modesty is very important both for women and men. Do not wear open clothes (including open shoes) – shoulders, arms, and legs must be covered. The most appropriate clothes for men are a business suit and a tie. Dark colors are considered to be professional. Women are better off wearing a business costume or a skirt covering knees. For non-Muslim women, there is no need to wear a hijab or a handkerchief, but one should not forget about modesty. Local residents can even make comments if they consider the choice of clothing inappropriate. Therefore, one should keep this in mind – it is best to choose conservative clothes.


A business meeting usually starts with a greeting. First, greet the oldest person in the room – this is a sign of respect in Muslim culture. Non-Muslims greet their Arab partners with the words “assalamu alaikum,” which means “peace to you,” in response, they say “we Alaikum Assalam,” which means “peace to you and you.” When exchanging business cards, it is best to give and take the cards with your right hand. Men greeting a person in a professional setting always use handshakes, and they can last a long time. Be sure to use only the right hand since Muslims consider the left one unclean. Welcoming a Muslim woman, one should refrain from any body contact. As for women, when greeting a Muslim man, you should not hold out your hand – wait until a man gives you his hand first, and if that does not happen, you should refrain from trying to shake his hand. When greeting another woman, a kiss on the left cheek is allowed.

Business conversation

Trusting relationship is established at the first meeting. It is important to get acquainted with the person you work with. It is accepted to ask about health and well-being of a family of the colleague during a business conversation (however, avoid asking questions about a wife or a daughter). Here are some examples of possible questions “How many children do you have?”, “Where do they study?” When business communication is important, status is manifested using using the correct name when addressing someone. Usually, it is customary to use terms such as Sheikh (boss) (or Sheikha for a woman), Sayyid (Mr.), Sayyida (Ms), etc. Keep in mind that Arabs usually refer to people by their names so that John Smith will be Mr. John. Islam is deeply rooted in the United Arab Emirates and there are many religious expressions in informal conversations, such as “inshallah,” which means “if Allah wills it.”

Table etiquette

Muslims do not drink alcohol. In the UAE, alcohol is served in most hotels, but it may not be served in local restaurants. If alcohol is not offered, it is better not to ask for it. Also, you should not refuse from extra servings during lunch, as this is considered impolite. Do not order pork or products made from it. Pigs are considered dirty animals in Islam. If you are a left-handed person, please note that you should eat only with your right hand. In the UAE, it is customary to leave a 10% tip. If you are invited to a dinner at the house of a Muslim colleague, be sure to take off your shoes as wearing shoes inside is often considered a sign of disrespect.

Signs of attention

In most cases, it will be appropriate to make a small sign of respect (a gift) to your partner after an invitation to enter the house. This can be a book or a souvenir from the company. Keep in mind that a gift that is associated with the hobby and hobbies of your partner is a great idea. Your Arab partner will certainly appreciate this sign of attention.

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