Understanding UAE Business Etiquette – Kavan Choksi

With its economy booming and population growing, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an incredibly attractive market for businesses looking to expand their operations into new markets. However, experts like Kavan Choksi say that before doing business in the UAE, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the country’s customs and etiquette.


In the UAE, greeting people with a handshake and a warm smile is customary. However, when greeting someone of the opposite sex, it is important to wait for them to extend their hand first. Men usually greet each other by shaking hands and patting each other on the shoulder with their free hand. Women usually greet each other with a hug and a kiss on each cheek.

During initial introductions, it is considered impolite to ask personal questions such as someone’s age, salary, or marital status. However, once you have established a rapport with someone, you can ask these questions. Greetings are an important part of UAE culture and should not be taken lightly. Following these simple etiquette tips ensures that your interactions with locals are respectful and friendly.

Business Cards

Business cards are an essential part of doing business in the UAE. They are exchanged after the initial introductions have been made, providing a way to keep in touch with business contacts. It is considered rude to write on someone’s business card in front of them; wait until you’re alone to make any notes. Business cards should be kept in a business card holder or wallet to be readily available when needed. When receiving a business card, take a moment to look at it before tucking it away. This will show that you value the card and the person who gave it to you.

Meetings and Negotiations

UAE culture places a high value on hierarchy and respect for authority figures. Always respect your UAE counterparts, even if you disagree with them. When addressing someone, always use titles such as “Dr.,” “Engineer,” or “Sheikh,” followed by their last name unless they invite you to do otherwise.

UAE residents generally prefer to do business with people they know and trust, so building personal relationships is an important part of business in the UAE. Relationship-building often happens outside of the office over meals or at social events.

Business meetings usually start and end with pleasantries instead of getting straight to business. In addition, it is not uncommon for meetings to be canceled or rescheduled at the last minute due to religious holidays or other events; try not to take this personally.

Business negotiations in the UAE can be slow and protracted; don’t expect to agree quickly. Patience and flexibility are key when doing business in the UAE.


Doing business in the United Arab Emirates can be extremely rewarding; however, it’s important to take the time to learn about the country’s customs and etiquette before getting started. By understanding common practices such as proper greetings and exchanging business cards, you’ll be well on your way to successfully doing business in this thriving market.