It is easy to understand why doing business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is such an attractive concept. A predominately liberal trade regime has contributed to sustaining an impetus for growth in the UAE – which comprises of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. Doing business in the UAE is considered a fairly easy process by the World Bank’s standards, whilst the Index of Economic Freedom classifies the country as ‘mostly free’ from excessive administrative interference in business matters.

Reforms have created an efficient and well-functioning regulatory system with flexible employment regulations. In comparison to countries in the surrounding region, the UAE is considered one of the least corrupt nations. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as the capital of the UAE, are the most common states to set up a business. The 30 Free Trade Zones in Dubai, which enjoy benefits of tax exemptions, property ownership and confidentiality amongst other advantages, is another reason why doing business in the United Arab Emirates is an appealing prospect.

Misinterpreting the culture can negatively influence business relations with key contacts in a foreign country and jeopardise business success. Misunderstanding the culture in the UAE is no exception. The Emirates boast a predominately cosmopolitan population with over 80% of the people comprising of non-locals. It always pays to find the answer to the question: ‘who am I dealing with?’ when doing business in the UAE. It could be just as likely, if not more probable, that you are liaising with a German or English expat than a local.

No matter if you are dealing with a Western expat or a native Emirati you need to have a deep respect and understanding of the Islamic religion, which is enshrined in all aspects of society, including business life.

Business structures tend to be family-based and relationship driven. Preparation should be made to accept and give compliments (as the Arabic language is one of hyperbole which lends itself to praise and flattery). Be patient and respectful when meetings begin with trivial small-talk or you are invited out to a meal by a local contact – all are key to the all-important relationship-building process.

The World Business’ Culture website serves as the ideal dynamic resource to enable professionals doing business in the UAE to gain the knowledge needed for successful relationship-building and trading in the United Arab Emirates.


This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in the United Arab Emirates. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in the United Arab Emirates and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips