The Culture of Doing Business in Dubai

dubai business cultureWhen doing business in a new place, whether it be Dubai or another part of the UAE, grasping Emirati business culture will prove fundamental in establishing the relationships that will take you far in your short- and long-term partnerships. What are the pointers you must take into consideration? With over two decades of experience in the UAE under our belt, take our advice with these pointers.


Cultural aspects of doing business in Dubai

Whilst 80% of the UAE’s population is from abroad, and you’ll find a wealth of cultures represented around the boardroom, this global city also considers local parametres in its business life. So, here do you start when considering the cultural aspects of doing business in Dubai? Let’s first start with negotiation. While it’s customary for Brits to take the approach of avoiding confrontation in an understated style, it can either render itself successful or be relatively inefficient. That’s in contrast to Americans who prefer to put their cards all out on the table. The Emiratis prefer a competitive (win/lose) negotiation style, but they’re seeking win-win situations that are typically the fruit of a collaborative negotiation style. 

Another nuance of Dubai and Emirati business culture is analysing the long-view when evaluating potential business collaborations. Why? They prefer to go with someone who can provide long-term benefits, and as such, they want to see those they work with as friends instead of business partners. They want to work with those they know (and like, of course), so you will need to put in the effort to cultivate those robust bonds. Therefore, networking is crucial for growing your business hive, and in-person interactions are the premium, rather than electronic introductions we may often have in the Western world. 

Among the other aspects to consider when examining Dubai business culture is looking at power distance. When Dutch organisational anthropologist Geert Hofstede studied cultures, he looked at various factors, including power distance. He used to refer to the deference people feel towards unequal power structures and authority. Why does this matter? Countries with a lower power distance (such as the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, and several Scandinavian countries) tend to find greater comfort negotiating in democratic structures where authority gets spread out. They also tend to only wield power in limited circumstances where it serves a purpose. This approach is opposed to the UAE, which is among the countries where their negotiations prefer hierarchical structures with a precise authority figure and discretion to exert power. 


Other Dubai business best practices of note

The UAE is one vast network. You may find that your ability to foster and take advantage of your relationships with Emirati locals becomes a critical part of their decision to want to go into business with you. Remember this as you stay patient; you may find the slower pace of going through negotiations in the UAE to be a surprise (and even a significant frustration) compared to back home. You shouldn’t open your negotiation with your best offer or present something with an expiration date; that could work against you, and being deemed impatient will be your detriment.

You also want to remember to dress in formal, professional attire. For women, modest clothing is best as it is a sign of respect, especially since local religious customs play a significant part in local culture. If they offer you refreshments, accept them, and remember to make small talk to ask about your counterpart’s family, friends or any of their hobbies (if you happen to know them). 

Take it from us; stay flexible, be patient, and your diligence and steady communication and demeanour will pay off into a full business life in the UAE.


What is a good business to start in Dubai?

Now that you have a primer about embracing Emirati business culture, you may have some questions about doing business in the UAE. What areas are the most promising sectors for profit? Perhaps your queries are concerning bureaucratic matters. You might need to learn about the business visa requirements from Dubai someone from the UK must meet. You may also want to know if there’s an investor required for business in Dubai. No matter the question, the company formation team at Europe Emirates Group combines its tailored approach and cross-cultural knowledge to present successful solutions. If you’d like to get started, don’t hesitate to schedule your initial consultation today. 


Written by
Adrian Oton
Adrian Oton

CEO, Europe Emirates Group  

Business Formation
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