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Basic business customs, Part II

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business_customsWestern businessmen very often have mixed emotions about doing business with United Arab Emirates. Some of them think that UAE is still very closed civilization and some that the whole world is globalized and works in the western way. However, the truth is in the middle.


Some of business customs in UAE have root in culture and some in climate condition. For example, the work week here runs from Sunday through Thursday. That means if you come to UAE on Friday, you won't be doing any business on that day. July and August are months with very high temperature, the climate is hot and very humid. Most decision-makers are on vacation during those two months, so it is not the time for important conversations.

But when you are there, no matter how hot there is, in Dubai a suit and tie is a must. That stands true for the whole emirates, and businesswomen should dress modestly. UAE is very cosmopolitan country, but it has deep Islamic roots.

Businessmen from UAE will spend some time to learn something about you. If they like you, you can be sure that you will reach the agreement. Of course, that means that you will be at several business meetings talking about everything except business. Don't rush your partner, first there must be some trust between you.

Your first meeting with a Sheik or high-level Emirati may be a general, non-specific chat or even a slow walking on the streets. Always let you partner mention the business first. Always.

Maybe it will sound as a joke, but when UAE businessman puts on a dishdasha, the flowing robes that function as business suits, a western businessman often think that he is a sheik. So, there's no need to say "your excellence" to everybody.

Some traditional Muslim women may not feel comfortable shaking hands. So, it may be best to let her offer you her hand first. This applies in a business context, if she is running your meeting or is your client.

If you shake your coffee cup this is the polite way to signal that you're done. Otherwise, you will be stuck in an endless cycle of refills from a "coffee boy," who will stand beside you until you've finished. That is also a signal that you gave your final proposition and are waiting for the answer.

Once the deal is done, a handshake will make it strong as cement. You will sign the contract, of course, but you don't have to wait for it to start work. The deal once reached and sealed with handshaking will not be broken by UAE side.

Italy is the Mediterranean country which means one word: warmness. The businessman from Italia is energetic, fast, and he likes to improvise. They speak fast with many large words and symbolic pictures, and gestures are here all the time. They have an unofficial motto "Better higher goals and less execution, than small goals and small achievements".

So, be prepared for very high goals that will not be achieved. Businessman from Italia like new and challenging business ideas, they are not afraid of "impossible" and they like to make decisions spontaneously.

The companies from Italy enter partnership very easily but they keep control. Many successful companies are in family ownership and that means that relationships between mangers are like relationships in the family. In the other hand, that also means that sometimes it is hard to know who the boss is.

During the very first meeting you will hear very informal "Ciao", on the second meeting you may expect a kiss in both cheeks, and lots of talking about the family and football. However, when you get a business card read it immediately - that shows your respect - and never leave the table if somebody is still eating. Business lunch must not be turned down, never, but to call somebody just by the first name is allowed after you know him very well and for a long time.

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