Today, more than ever, business professionals and corporations are able to operate in a world that is nearly without boundaries thanks to the marvel of technology.
It’s simple to dash off an email to someone anywhere across the globe, at any time. This sense of constant communication can be extremely advantageous when operating a company from a continent or two away, but it can also be a detriment if you’re not adapting your messages and nuances to the cultural norms of the recipient.
As a global citizen and professional that travels frequently between Dubai and the United States, I’ve become extremely adept at navigating these sometimes unwritten rules between these two cultures. I’ve been fortunate to parlay my knowledge and experience into helping organizations and individuals that hope to take advantage of the thriving economy of Dubai by consulting them on the cultural cues that are absolutely critical to understand when doing business in the UAE.
I’ve seen many a professional ruin their opportunities in Dubai merely because they weren’t aware of how important it is to be educated on the cultural aspects of doing business in Dubai.
For example, Dubai operates on a workweek that is Sunday through Thursday, and the time zone here is 8-12 hours ahead of time zones in the United States, depending upon time zones and daylight savings time. If you’re in the States and send an email to someone in Dubai on a Thursday morning, there is a good chance that you may not hear back from them until Sunday. This is important to keep in mind, as family is incredibly important in the Middle East and weekends are generally spent with them.
Another social miscue that I have seen many individuals make is assuming that the norms of business carry over in Dubai. Take for instance the employee of a high-end corporate hotel line that breezed into a meeting wearing “business casual” attire. While he was well-heeled and likely would have gotten accolades on his smart outfit in the States, he was very out of place in Dubai, since business attire is always formal there.
He was smart enough to recognize his mistake immediately and tried to quietly take a seat, but in his effort to stay in the background, he made the faux pas of trying to quickly breeze through handshakes…another big error that Westerners often make when doing business in Dubai. Since building relationships and trust is a foundational block of professional relationships, handshakes usually last much longer than in Western culture and are not to be something to be raced through as a formality; they are essential in the business culture in Dubai.
It is extremely rare for Emirate’s to enter into any form business with someone that they don’t know, or who isn’t highly recommended by a close associate, so the importance of first impressions cannot be understated.
One of my favorite cultural norms in Dubai is that the elders in the UAE garner great respect. (I don’t think we see that enough in the United States.) When someone of an older age walks into a room, you will see everyone rise to greet them. The greetings are warm and sincere and never rushed.
Are you interested in doing business in Dubai? Do you have any questions about the societal norms and cultural codes that are embedded in the professional world? I’d be thrilled to help you navigate within this thriving atmosphere.
I’d love to hear from you!