Sooner or later, a lot of internationally active business people take a trip to Dubai, which has developed into an economic power of international importance over the last few years. In today’s blog post, you’ll learn what to keep in mind when you head there on a business trip.
Dubai is economically the most significant city in the United Arab Emirates [UAE], and it thus holds a special status. It’s consequently not surprising that a lot of business trips are taken there. Yet despite its high degree of internationalization, Dubai is part of the Arab world and thus has its own cultural customs. When you go there to meet Arab business partners or customers, keep the following things in mind.
First and foremost, you should know that establishing and retaining business relationships in the Arab world requires considerably more time than in some other countries. This is mainly because Arabs tend to want to build trust in their partners before getting down to business. Trust is the basis of all collaboration for most Arabs, which is why they almost exclusively transact business with people they know very well.
Invest the time – it’ll be worth it!
What does that mean for you? When you’re there, don’t arrange too many meetings [a maximum of two per day]. Instead of rushing from one meeting to the next, you should take an extensive amount of time for your Arab business partners, meet together [more than once, if possible], get to know each other as people, avoid business topics in the beginning and talk more about private issues such as families, sports, food or hobbies.
Another important tip with regard to meetings is that time is handled relatively flexibly in the UAE. This could mean that appointments are spontaneously postponed. Don’t take this personally, and ask in due time whether the arranged appointment is still happening.
If you’re visiting a partner or customer in Dubai, you’ll most likely be looked after very attentively. Hospitality is a top priority in most Arab states, including the UAE, and it’s also firmly rooted in business culture. Rejecting this would be a gross affront to your Arab business partner and may strain your business relationship.
Be a guest!
Since Arab hosts feel responsible for guests’ well-being, you should assume the role accordingly. Allow yourself to be picked up from the airport, to be driven around the city, to be treated to meals, etc. Withdraw a bit more than you normally would, and show the same generosity and attentiveness when receiving an Arab guest at home. A small gift for the host would also be a nice gesture [e.g., a traditional culinary treat from your home country or something decorative].
Keep the “rule of three” in mind here: invitations are earnest if they have been offered multiple times. If you politely refuse the first two invitations, you’ll find out whether they were just a polite gesture.
Finally, we’d like to give you three more practical tips for your time in Dubai:
- People don’t work on Fridays for religious reasons, yet they do work on Saturdays and Sundays. Plan your appointments accordingly and keep the country’s other religious traditions in mind [Ramadan, etc.].
- If you have a little free time, don’t miss out on Dubai’s diverse sights: impressive skyscrapers [e.g., the Burj Khalifa, which is 828 meters tall], museums, modern architecture, markets and desert excursions are just a few ideas.
- Dubai has a good transportation infrastructure. If you want to go out in the city on your own, you’ll have a lot of options, including buses, trains and abras [small wooden boats]. It’s nevertheless not unusual for your partners or customers to provide you with a driver.
As you can see, a business-related stay in Dubai holds a lot of opportunities for you. We would once again like to emphasize that Dubai – because of its high degree of internationalization – is constantly transforming and is accommodating more Western customs. The abovementioned points will thus not necessarily apply for every Arab partner and customer. On top of that is the fact that Dubai’s population is very culturally heterogeneous. We would ask you to keep this in mind at all times. For your international undertaking, we’d be happy to support you with one of our custom-made cross-cultural trainings.