The local business etiquette in Abu Dhabi

The networking etiquette in Abu Dhabi
Updated 2021-11-10 09:03

Before expanding your career in Abu Dhabi, it is important to look into its business culture because of the cultural aspects involved. This means that observing caution is imperative since Abu Dhabi has a blend of traditional Arabic, Islamic and contemporary elements when it comes to business etiquette. Do your research, ask colleagues or refer to our guide below to avoid committing etiquette mistakes while new on the job.

 Here are the key points one must remember when networking in Abu Dhabi:

  • Before joining or attending a local event, find out more about local culture to get a grasp of its background.
  • Engaging in a formal and polite manner is always the safest way.
  • Expect language barriers, which means not everyone might know how to speak English. Therefore, always make sure both parties agree or understand what is being discussed.
  • Avoid negative words and phrases; always speak with a smile to avoid offending anyone.


Physical interaction between opposite sexes is still prohibited because of the conservative views. Greetings between people of the same sexes are usually according to protocol. Typically, this involves handshakes, greetings and praises.

Men are expected not to shake hands with females, especially Emirati women. In general, Arab men may not wish to shake hands with that of the opposite sex. Smiling is accepted.


During meetings, etiquette is also observed. An example is when a verbal commitment is made. It is considered binding.

Being honest and discreet is a given in Abu Dhabi's business culture.

Dressing appropriately is important. Dressing conservatively is imperative, and visitors should wear modest clothing. Take your cue from locals and you will be safe.

Discussions should be observed with care to use respectful and friendly tones.

Avoid being rude by pointing your finger or shouting at someone. Be polite and speak politely as you converse with colleagues to avoid being labeled as rude.

Face-to-face meetings are generally conducted and most preferred unless otherwise specified. In some workplaces, telecommuting is accepted, but do this only when asked or asked to do so.

Always be punctual in meetings and refrain from tardiness. While delayed meetings are common, do still come early or on time.

Small talk is usually common in meeting rooms, so expect a bit of chitchat to break the ice before meetings. Be positive about how you view the Emirates and talk about your experiences.

Adjusting to local expat life may be tricky at first as you navigate the ropes of company culture, but once a few weeks have settled in, and the ice has been broken, it gets easier. The trick is to read up on local etiquette and keep in mind the critical points we mentioned above to avoid committing "faux pas" in the workplace.

The good news is that most office environments have diverse cultural backgrounds, so most of the employees are expats like you. Make friends; get to know your colleagues, and before you know it, you will settle in nicely without fear of stepping on anyone's toes.

Useful links:

IHG Blog: Abu Dhabi Etiquette

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