Local knowledge can be the key difference between success and failure for international companies looking to work in a new region. In this section we have consulted with our local experts for some points and tips to make sure you know the local customs for the Middle East. 


Working Hours

The official weekend in the UAE is Friday and Saturday. Government offices open at 7:30am and close at 3pm. Private offices tend to have longer opening hours.



Alcohol is only available in licensed hotels and restaurants. There is zero tolerance for drunken driving, and inappropriate behaviour while under the influence of alcohol.



A sub-tropical, arid climate ensures clear blue skies throughout the year, however winter may see a few rain showers. Temperatures vary from season to season: January can fall to a low of 15°C/59°F, while July can rise to a high of 48°C/118°F.


Good Manners

  • Good manners and courtesy are prized attributes. Always arrive on time for a meeting, however, know that punctuality is not considered a virtue in the Middle East, and people are often kept waiting before, or during, a meeting. Be patient, and do not take it as a lack of respect.
  • Always greet the most senior person first when meeting a group.
  • When greeting a member of the opposite sex who is Muslim, it is important not to offer to shake hands unless they extend their hand first – both men and women may prefer not to shake hands with the opposite sex due to religious reasons.
  • Take the time to chat and drink tea, coffee or a soft drink and use it as an opportunity to build relationships.
  • Hospitality is extremely important in the Middle East so it is always important to invite people on your stands for a refreshment. This will go a long way.
  • Meetings and business deals are often conducted over lunch or dinner. It is considered polite to return the invitation.
  • If you are hosting Muslim guests, do not offer them alcoholic beverages or pork.
  • Dress code is often important and it is recommend to dress conservatively.
  • Do not beckon or point with your finger, if you need to use a hand gesture, use the whole hand.
  • Public displays of affection should be minimal – holding hands is acceptable but kissing and hugging in public is not.
  • During Ramadan, non-fasting residents or visitors are expected to follow certain etiquette rules, make sure you know if you are visiting over Ramadan.
  • Photography should be done with care and be sure to ask first before taking a photo of a national or a resident of the UAE, especially if the subject is a woman.
  • Always have a business card handy– if possible with an Arabic language side printed as well.


Dubai is multi-lingual, with both English and Arabic as official languages. While English-speaking visitors will find it easy to communicate, knowing a few basic Arabic words and phrases will score some extra brownie points with locals, helping to make cross-cultural relations just that bit smoother.
How to say ‘please’:
Min fadlak’ 
How to say ‘thank you’:
These are the first words visitors are likely to pick up, and you will hear a lot over the public announcement systems. Practice when making purchases as this small gesture is always appreciated.
How to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’:
'Na’am'  – yes
La' – no
How to greet people:
'Marhaba'– hello
Ma'a salama' - goodbye or with peace
Ahlan wa sahlan’ - welcome 
Other useful phrases:
'Yallah' - let's go, hurry or go
'Khalas' – stop, finish, or done
'Affwaan' – sorry, excuse me
'Mabrook' - congratulations
'In sh'Allah' – if it is Allah’s will
'Ana afham’ – I understand
‘Ana la afham’ – I don’t understand
‘Mafi Mushkila’ – No problem

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