UAE Business

Customs and Traditions for Companies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Uae flag with business men shaking hands

The UAE is constructed and prides itself on being well versed and educated on all that is business and certainly conducts themselves as such. Business relationships for the Emirates are based solely on the premise of trust and the infrastructure of the personal relationships of which they nurture with great care.

Many of the businesses located in the UAE are structured in a chain of command manner, with one person being identified as the ultimate decision maker. Many, particularly the smaller business sectors, are family owned and operated, being passed on from generation to generation.

Punctuality and other Customs

Nothing is more of value to Emirates business entrepreneurs than manners, respect, courtesy and formality for these are all the attributes on which trust is based and makes for lasting and formidable business relationships.

Non-locals and Internationals will have more than a few customs to acclimate to when conducting business in the UAE.

Most notably, for all their rigidity that can be apparent at times, Emirate business owners surprisingly do not place much stock in punctuality; in fact, it is not uncommon to be kept waiting for a business meeting to begin should other tasks or phone conversations arise prior to or during a scheduled meeting.

This is not as much a sign of disrespect, as it is most important to Emirates to please as many people as possible at one time, coupled with their fierce loyalties towards their religion, family and friends. It is best when this occurs to go with the flow, have refreshments, be social and wait your turn patiently.

Frequently meetings may be canceled without notice. This is primarily because Emirates hold personal relationships well ahead of business obligations.

Business Hours in the UAE

While in other parts of the world the typical work week begins on Monday and closes on Friday, the UAE business world is much different. Their work weeks start on Saturday and end on Wednesday.

Thursdays and Fridays are considered to be days of rest.

Working hours are also distinct and often do not begin until 9:00 a.m.

Employees will then work four to five hours and break until 4 or 5:00 p.m. and work well into the evening.

Relationship Building

a meeting in abu dhabi


In the UAE, status is very based on the individual, whom their family members are and age. It is not uncommon for numerous family members to work within one company, with the head decision maker being a father or grandfather.

Since status is prominent, referring to people by their proper titles is vital. These titles include Shaikh, translated as “master or chief,” Mohandas or “engineer” and Ustadh translated as “professor.” The Sheikh is always to be greeted initially by a firm handshake and eye contact; this is generally the eldest person in the room, but not always so it is wise to inquire first. It is also not customary to shake hands with any female in the room unless they initiate this.

Since Emirates prefer to work with individuals that they know, it is a good idea to have someone who is already in the Emirate corporate world to do introductions first, generally taking your business card to present to the head of the business.

After that all meetings should be planned to occur in person; it is rare that any business deals or ventures are discussed via phone.

Finally, once a business partnership has begun with Emirates it is frowned upon to lose contact with those resources and people, even if business ceases for a period of time. Remember that the UAE is solely based on forged and long lasting relationships with trusted associates, so it is considered rude and hostile to not nurture those relationships for the duration.

See also: Starting a Business in Abu Dhabi

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UAE Business Guide