Networking etiquette in Dubai

networking etiquette
Updated 2021-11-11 08:51

The United Arab Emirates is a popular destination not only for tourism but also for business travel. Every year, this country and Dubai, in particular, attract more and more tourists, investors, businesspeople and clients. To be a part of the Arab world, you should know about the local etiquette, so here are some tips.

How to dress

You should respect and be aware of local traditions. Behave and dress modestly. Be mindful not to wear revealing clothes (including open-toed shoes). It's also important to cover your shoulders, arms and legs. For men, a suit and tie are appropriate. Dark colours are considered more professional. Women can wear either a suit or a skirt with the hem below the knee. It is not necessary for non-Muslim women to wear the hijab unless they plan to visit a religious site.

How to greet

In the Muslim culture, you have to acknowledge and greet the most senior person in the room first — it is a sign of respect. Greetings expressions are very elaborate. The customary greeting is 'As-salam alaikum" (peace be upon you), to which the reply is "Wa alaikum as-salam' (and upon you be peace). When entering a meeting, start the introduction with a handshake. Emiratis usually bring noses together in a kiss on both cheeks. You should greet each of your Emirati counterparts individually. Avoid any physical contact with women, just make a courtesy gesture.


The first meeting frequently starts with an informal talk on the trip, family, etc. You should ask for the family in general, but avoid topics like politics. If you want to exchange business cards, it's best to give and receive cards with your right hand. Do not offer your business card at the beginning of the meeting — it's better to wait for them to give theirs.

It is preferable that you have two languages on your business card: one side should be in Arabic and the other one in English; the Arabic language side should be presented first.

When you are on business in the UAE, Arabic coffee and dates will often be offered to you in offices or Arab's homes. This is a symbol of hospitality. Status is important and must be acknowledged, so make sure to use the correct title when addressing someone. People are addressed as Mister, Sayed, Sheikh, etc., followed by their name. The title of Sheikh is used by high-ranking people, who do not belong to the Royal Family. The title Your Highness is used for members of the Royal Family while Excellency is used for Government ministers.

Business lunch or dinner

These are very frequent. Emiratis are used to inviting people over into their homes. On the other hand, if a foreign negotiator wants to invite local business partners for dinner, these are typically held in hotels.

Try not to refuse food or additional helpings during lunch or dinner as it may be considered rude. Business discussions start when the meal is over. Remember, that Muslims do not drink alcohol and do not eat pork. So it's better to avoid both. If you are hosting dinner, you are responsible for the bill, however, never try to pay the bill if you are invited by a host.


Giving presents is usual, either on the first contact or when closing a deal. It is, however, difficult to find a suitable present since all kinds of products are already available in the city. Gifts related to your host's background or hobbies could be a great idea.

Knowing the culture and traditions of the country or city you are moving to has a lot of benefits. Try learning a few words or sentences from the local people to be able to impress your business partners and show your interest in their culture.

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