Understanding work culture in Dubai

Arab coworkers
Updated 2021-11-11 13:27

Dubai has become a second home for many nationalities from around the globe — which makes the work environment even more unique and interesting. Being exposed to various cultures and ideologies can encourage you to think outside the box in different scenarios. But to thrive professionally in Dubai, it's essential to understand the local work and life culture.


The traditional language in Dubai is Arabic, however, English is well accepted and quite widespread. You can even find road signs, directions, building names, etc., in these two languages: English and Arabic.

Culture and religion

Nearly 80% of the UAE population are expats while the rest are local citizens. Emiratis are traditionally conservative. Dubai is the most tolerant emirate thanks to its diversity of cultures and beliefs — which is why a lot of expats choose to move there. Islam is the official religion in the UAE, and it has a strong influence on laws, education and daily routines.

Working days

The working week goes from Sunday to Thursday while Friday and Saturday are rest days. In the Arabic culture, Friday is the day for special prayers and family gatherings. During Ramadan, working hours are shortened by two or three, depending on the organisation.


All restaurants and cafes are usually closed during the day and open after sunset in the holy month of Ramadan. To show respect to local culture and tradition, better to avoid drinking and eating in public, especially if your colleagues are Muslim. It's a sign that you understand and respect the culture of your host country. If you're planning meetings, it's better to schedule them outside the prayer time and major Muslim holidays.

Dress code

You should really be careful with the professional dress code. It is conservative, and the clothes should cover arms and legs for both men and women. Avoid flashy colours at work.


In the Arab world punctuality is not a significant factor. Sometimes you could keep waiting long hours for someone to turn out. However, it is less a lack of respect and more an aspect of the Arab culture.


'Inshallah', is a term that you will hear most of the time, regardless of the circumstances, which basically means 'If God will'. So don't be surprised to hear it from your colleagues and even your employer.

Phone calls

Doing business in Dubai like in the rest of the UAE requires a lot of patience. Other guests or telephone conversations might interrupt meetings, but again this is not a sign of disrespect.

General behaviour

Even though Dubai is a multicultural city, the way you approach men and women is very different. Adopting the right behaviour is essential. Unlike in Western countries, men cannot shake hands with women. Men are advised to avoid having eye contact with Arab women as it can be misunderstood and mistaken for flirting. It is always useful to learn about different cultures and behaviours, especially when you are doing business in a multinational environment.

Saying no

An Arab does not say no to your face, so you might consider the meeting positive and successful, but you will never know what is on your business partner's mind - which is why a follow up is essential.

Before arriving in Dubai, make sure to go through all rules, regulations and traditions in the United Arab Emirates in a way to make your stay more enjoyable.

Useful link:

Visit Dubai

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