Abu Dhabi Business Culture
The UAE is known as a highly cosmopolitan well-educated society, familiar with the methods and means of doing business worldwide. However, there are a few points that people not used to the Arabian business environment should keep in mind. Here, more than anywhere else, business is conducted on the foundation of personal relationships and mutual trust. It is vitally important to develop these.
Even though it is changing quickly and large firms are structured as in the rest of the world, organizations will often be a family affair, with the final decision-maker being the head of the family. Even if this is not the case, it is essential to clearly recognize the decision-maker. However, your initial meetings will probably be at a lower level. These are also very important as a way of building mutual trust. Print your business card in English and Arabic and be sure that all brochures and presentation material are full-colour and well made.
Good manners and courtesy are respected attributes. Nevertheless, although you should always appear on time for a meeting, punctuality is not regarded a virtue and you may be kept waiting before or during your meeting. Do not be impatient. Take the time to chat and drink the coffee, tea or soft drink that is always on offer and set up the relationships which will stand you in good stead. Do not be put off should your meeting be interrupted by other guests or telephone conversations. The upfront, hard-hitting approach is generally not welcome. Be aware that what might seem like evasiveness on the part of your host is usually an unwillingness to say no to your face. However, once a deal is created, orally or otherwise, an Arab businessman’s word is his bond and you are also expected to perform accordingly, regardless of whether the agreement is a verbal one. This can be troubling if you come from a business environment where verbal agreements are usually not binding.
Hospitality is a way of life in the Arab world and business is frequently conducted over lunch or dinner – more than likely in a hotel or restaurant. It is also considered polite to return the invitation.
Government offices are open from 7:30am to 3pm, Sunday to Thursday, while private businesses usually operate between 9am and 6pm. Some establishments have three to four-hour break from 1pm, and resume operations in the evening from 4pm or 5pm until 9pm. It is recommended to visit government offices in the morning and to make a call to confirm a meeting prior to leaving for the appointment.
Women and Business
In the UAE many professional women are often found in senior positions and are treated seriously, particularly if the woman acts in a confident and self-assured manner. It is advised to dress conservatively and maintain good grooming – all business people, male and female, are impeccably dressed. Patience and good humour will carry you through the majority of situations.
Arabic is the official national language, although English, Hindi and Urdu are also broadly spoken. Arabic is considered the state’s official business language but English is commonly used from the busy souqs all the way to the executive boardroom of the region’s blue chip companies. Customarily, the farther away you are from a business or city centre, the less English is used or understood. Therefore, it is not uncommon for restaurant menus, street names and road signs in the UAE to be written in both English and Arabic.