How to talk to the UAE

Updated: Oct 5

You are super excited to speak with a new colleague in the UAE. You've learnt all you can about them before the call, know your agenda and are ready with your game plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Use these 7 tips to make sure you don't blow it, not because you weren't ready for a new colleague but because you weren't ready for a new UAE colleague.

  1. Work on your salutations in Arabic. Salaamaleykum is answered by Wa'alaykum salaam to say hello. To part, the easiest is Ma'al assalemah. It'll show effort and respect even if you use just these two expressions and depending on their status, get your titles right.

  2. See this man? Do not sit like him. A common curse in Arabic is to call someone a shoe. Showing someone the sole of your shoe is insulting. Keep them footsies down.

3. Signing a deal? (Mazal tov!/Mabruk!) Wear a suit and tie or a closed neck dress. You don't have to dress like someone you are not but if you were to enter a mosque, you'd take off your shoes, right? So this is just the same. It's respectful.


4. All business runs on trust and personal connection. The further you venture into warmer climates, the truer that is. In most Arab countries, business IS personal. Prepare to ask and be asked about your family, your health, etc., and theirs. It's part of getting to know each other. Giving and getting favors may be part of this process. If you are already family, that's what family do for each other. If you can't fulfill the request, do what you would do in any situation like this, inform them about the efforts you have made.


5. What's the time, Mr. Wolf? Not everyone runs on the same sense of time. The warmer the climate, the looser the sense of time. Don't be insulted if your contact is a little late. Lateness is relative. Individuals may be more or less punctual but generally speaking, certain cultures have a greater emphasis on arriving on the dot than others.


6. If you are meeting in person, show your respect by standing when you greet them and if your colleague is from a different gender to you, wait for them to offer to shake hands rather than holding out your hand to them. It can be considered too forward by a woman to initiate this action to a man.


7. Listen more than you talk. That's not unique to potential colleagues from the UAE, that's just good for building relationships in general. And if you disagree, don't do it publicly. Again, not unique to the UAE, that's just social intelligence.


Lastly, if you are looking to pitch, present or channel a little emotional intelligence, talk to me. Again, this tip is not connected to the UAE, it'll just be great for your next important conversation whoever it's with.



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