22 August, 2023
Compared to the West, the business culture in Dubai is a completely different ball game due to the cultural, language and religious differences. The etiquettes of conducting businesses are different, relationship forming is complex and the business sense is derived from the Islamic system which pervades everything in the city. The most important thing to understand about Dubai culture is that it all comes down to respect. You must respect the elders, your business leaders, partners and women. To pay respect is to be on time, wear the proper attire, follow the common culture and always show the right attitude towards those in charge. However, as the time passes and more and more expatriates from all over the world call Dubai their place of work and home, attitudes are changing. But to adapt fast with the contemporary culture, you must understand what exactly is about the Dubai culture that you must integrate in yourself before moving there.
Business in Dubai has emerged exponentially in recent years. Just in 2017, the country has registered over 131,000 businesses, most of which were owned or contributed by foreigners. The FDI had also increased to over USD 10.3 Billion as of 2018. But as the new decade rolled, the investment and businesses in Dubai have only grown due to lax tax laws and a welcoming expat culture. Aside from the taxation breaks, the UAE government is heavily aiming at foreign investment by removing restrictions on ownership and offering long-term visas for investors.
Dubai is known for its oil and gas industries, as these were the industries that put the city on the map. However, several other industries are also growing rapidly including renewable energy, automotive industry, and aerospace industry, etc. Tourism has always been a focus of the Dubai economy and is responsible for 20% of its GDP, so hospitality is another industry that is growing rapidly in the city. If you or someone you know wishes to be a part of these growing industries and attain a foothold in the Dubai market, then you must first understand the proper business etiquette in the city and how to best integrate yourself in the local community so that your business prospects can grow to the heights that you wish they would.
Since UAE is an Islamic country, all their laws and culture is a derivative of the Sharia Law. This is the reason why the business culture in the city is so conservative as compared to that of US and Europe. The weekdays begin from Sunday rather than Monday and end on Thursday instead of Friday. The weekends lie on Friday and Saturday rather than Saturday and Sunday. For the people, relationships come first and then business is done, and for this reason alone forming real relationships with people and becoming a part of social groups is so important in Dubai. However, as things are changing and more and more people are coming to the city the culture is becoming a melting pot of different cultures.
Due to this blending of cultures, Emiratis are now forgiving to foreigners as they understand that the West has much more relaxed attitudes towards businesses. The most important aspect of the business culture in Dubai is loyalty and thus expats must pay more attention to small talk, etiquettes and respect while dealing with Emiratis.
Like most western countries, the workday in Dubai rings from 9am to 5pm. However, unlike western nationals the work week runs from Sunday to Thursday. On the other hand, most people only work six hours a day during the holy month of Ramadan. Emiratis are a culture of punctuality and honesty in all relationships. The city also focuses on maintaining a good work/life balance and thus most businesses in the Emirates offer up to 30 days of annual leave and 90 days of sick leave alongside the public holidays. Additionally, women are also allowed up to 45 days of maternity leave at full pay and get special considerations when they return to work.
Dubai’s work culture, traditionally, has been adamant about flexible working arrangements but things are slowly changing. Just in 2019, the government announced two different resolutions to encourage flexible working. The first amendment, regarding part-time work, enables employers to fill labour gaps. The second one is about remote working that came into effect during the pandemic and is aimed to help Emiratis have a better work/life balance.
The Business etiquette in Dubai is far different from that of the Western nations and its effects are adamant in several aspects including communication, dress codes, official gifting and business card exchange. Following are some of the etiquettes that an expat should know before starting a business in Dubai: