UAE Business Etiquette: Doing Business in the UAE


The UAE has evolved into an attractive business hub over the years. It’s not surprising to see why so many people are drawn towards the UAE to do business. There is a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, and also there is little government interference. Also, the UAE is considered to be one of the least corrupt countries.

The free zones enjoy property ownership, confidentiality, and tax exemption. You can start a business in any of the 7 Emirates. When doing business anywhere in the UAE, remember that the region is under Islamic law. There is a thin line between life in general, business, and religion.

Conducting a Business in the Free Zone

Customs laws for businesses in the free zones are different compared to those in the mainland. Certain merchandise is prohibited in duty-free and free zone areas, depending on the nature of their origin.

Prohibited goods refer to those goods which are not allowed for business either for export or import according to the Unified Customs Law of the GCC countries or the provisions of any other relevant laws. Merchandise that is prohibited includes radioactive material, ammunition, weapons, and explosives, narcotics, and merchandise from boycotted countries.

Business Etiquette in the UAE

Business etiquette is the accepted manner of conduct in a business setting. To violate this is rude and offensive. The following business etiquette ideas will give you an insight into what is expected;

Islam and Culture

Doing business in the UAE requires you to be familiar with Islamic culture and the people’s way of life. The legal system is based on Sharia Law, which is against criticizing Islam, proselytizing, and talking people’s pictures without consent. It is necessary to get help from legal consultants in Dubai to avoid confusion. The success of your business depends on how well you understand the culture.


Although Arabic is the most common language in the UAE, people also speak English, Russian, French, Hindi, etc. Almost all official forms, documents, decrees, and laws are in Arabic. It is, therefore, necessary to have some knowledge of the language. English is also commonly used. Although the most written correspondence is often in English, it is preferable to have one side printed in Arabic. During meetings, exchange business cards immediately after salutations, present the card with the right or both hands. Don’t offer or receive anything with your left hand.

The Workplace

The UAE is an Islamic country, which means that they worship every Friday. Unlike other countries, the workweek starts on Monday and ends on Thursday. The weekend is Friday and Saturday. Private companies can work with split or straight shifts. If you’ve scheduled business meetings during Ramadan, it is crucial for you to participate in this fast. Some restaurants have special areas for non-Muslims to eat.


You should always dress appropriately in public and at work. Both men and women are expected to dress modestly. Avoid open clothes and shoes, your arms, shoulders, and legs should be covered. Business suits are more appropriate and acceptable for men. Dark colors are more professional compared to bright ones. Women ought to wear business attires that cover their knees. If you are a non-Muslim woman; you don’t have to wear a hijab; however, you should observe modesty.


Business meetings in the UAE start with greetings. You should greet the oldest person first to show respect according to the Islamic culture. Greeting your partners with “Assalamu Alaikum,” this means peace to you, the respond should be, “we Alaikum Assalkam,” this means peace to you and you.

Men can greet their partners with the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean. Women should refrain from any body contact. Women can greet each other with a left kiss on the cheek. When greeting a Muslim man, a woman should not offer her hand, wait for the man to offer you his hand, and if he doesn’t, don’t try to force it.

Business Conversations

A good business relationship is established during the first encounter. It is necessary to get along with your business partner. You can ask about the well being of your colleague during a conversation. However, avoid questions about your coworker’s wife or daughter.

In business conversations, status is very important, and you are expected to use the correct names. It is customary to use Sheikh (boss) or Sheikha for a lady and Sayyid (Mr.) or Sayyida (Ms.). You should always address people with the appropriate title. During business negotiations, you should aim to gain the other party’s trust. Focus on flexibility and have clear objectives.

Starting a business in the UAE is easy and beneficial; however, you need to be aware of the culture and the appropriate way to behave. Dress modestly and learn a little about the UAE’s culture. It is also advisable to understand how to start conversations with the locals, especially during negotiations and meetings.


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