Traveling to another country always entails some modification of behavior to fit in with the local culture. Traveling for business adds on another layer of pressure and complexity to the process since your livelihood depends on those meetings going well–one ignorant move can get in the way of you building those key relationships. Since Dubai is becoming a popular hub to do business, here are some tips on how to make the best of your business trip to Dubai…
Emiratis (people of Dubai) usually expect others to be on time for meetings. However, they are bad at being on time. So if you schedule a meeting with Emiratis, be there on time, but expect to wait at least fifteen minutes.
If You’re a Woman in Business
Shaking hands is a common way to greet, but if you are a woman, wait to see if your counterpart extends a hand first. Some Muslim men won’t touch women who are not their spouses or relatives. If the man doesn’t extend his hand, just make eye contact and nod politely to greet. You should also dress conservatively and make sure your clothing is a bit loosely fitted.
A lot of Emirati businesses are family-run, and you may not get to meet the decision maker until you have built up a relationship with junior employees of the company. This is similar to doing a sales call in Australia and building the relationship with the assistants before they will open the gates to the decision maker.
Business meetings in Dubai are usually mixed with some rapport building before discussing business. Before commencing the meeting, it’s normal for participants to drink a non-alcoholic beverage and chat for a while to build trust and get a sense of where each person is coming from. Many times, business will be done over a meal there, so if you get invited to a meal, you should accept it even if you might feel that it is wasting too much time to mix pleasure with business.
In the United Arab Emirates, verbal agreements are taken a lot more seriously than they are in the Western world. So be sure to mean what you say when agreeing to business terms.
When assembling print collateral to bring to meetings, eliminate any pictures of pigs, pork, women dressing provocatively, people drinking alcohol, or alcoholic beverages. When speaking or presenting, don’t point, because pointing is considered rude. When you present your prices, know that you are expected to negotiate, so make sure your initial offer takes into account the negotiations to ensue. And most importantly, address everyone in the group when you speak, since the quiet person is usually the key decision maker.