Situated in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. It is the second largest city in the Emirates and runs almost two-thirds of the UAE’s economy.
The country’s economy was mainly dependent on its huge oil and gas reserves. But now the government is moving towards diversification and investing in sectors such as retail, industry, finance, tourism and real estate.
Abu Dhabi considered as an important business hub in the UAE and it is not uncommon for overseas professionals to visit the city for work. Since Islam is deeply ingrained in all aspects of life in the UAE, it’s a good idea for visitors to have basic knowledge about the behaviours and etiquette prevalent in Abu Dhabi.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re visiting the city for business purposes.
Arabic is the official language of Abu Dhabi and is widely spoken among its citizens. Overseas workers from the subcontinent have also made languages like Hindi, Urdu and Malayalam common in the city.
Official documents are almost always in Arabic so it helps to have some knowledge of the language. English might be used in written communication and translators are also available to help overseas visitors.
2. Business Dress
Both male and female visitors in Abu Dhabi should wear modest business attire with arms and legs covered.
Men can wear suits with a tie and women can wear a pantsuit or skirt with hems below the knee. It’s not necessary for non-muslim women to wear a headscarf. As a general rule, visitors should avoid wearing native clothing.
3. Business Greetings
When you attend a meeting, introductions begin with a handshake and you should greet each of your Emirati counterparts individually. Greet them by saying “As-salam Alaikum” which means “peace be upon you”. The reply to this greeting is “Wa alaikum as-salam” which means “and peace be upon you”.
Don’t shake hands with a woman unless she extends her hand first.
4. Work Days
As opposed to the West, the work days in the UAE range from Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday is considered as the weekend but some people work on Saturday too.
It’s common to schedule business meetings two weeks in advance. Sometimes meetings start at a later time or go on for longer than anticipated so it’s always a good idea to set aside two or three more hours for each meeting.
In addition to the greeting, you’ll come across various religious expressions during your conversations with your counterparts. The most common of this is “In’shAllah” which means “God willing”. It’s okay to use these expressions because it tells your Emirati colleagues that you respect their language and religion.
You can also ask them “how are you” by saying “kaif halak”. If you’re speaking to a woman then you should say “kaifik halak”.
As compared to Westerners, Emirati people are not very direct about their concerns because they don’t want to offend their guests. Therefore it usually takes longer to resolve all issues in business gatherings. Avoid discussing religion and don’t criticize the host country.
6. Meeting at Home
It’s normal for your Emirati counterparts to invite you to their home to conclude business meetings. Remember to be respectful to your host at all times. Remove your shoes before entering the house and don’t roam around the house without permission. Always accept food and second helpings at the dinner table to show respect.
Many Abu Dhabi businessmen are educated from western universities. They can speak English fluently and also have some western habits like consuming alcohol. However, you should not assume that they will openly exhibit this behavior in their home country. Avoid drinking in front of your host unless he invites you to do so.
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