United Arab Emirates' Business World
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of 7 states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain. Each UAE state has its own characteristics and cultural identity, but they all have a great deal in common. When doing business in the UAE, consider the population's cosmopolitan nature. Over 80% of the population is not from the UAE, so you will probably be doing business with a foreigner instead of an emirati. Before starting a project, ask who you will be dealing with.
No matter how Westernized the United Arab Emirates seem to be, the country is still of the Muslim faith. The teachings and culture of Islam permeate every aspect of life, and business is no exception. When doing business with your Emirati colleagues, show respect for the culture of Islam; to fail to do so could mean the end of your business deal.
Business meetings can be time consuming and confusing, as they are always subject to unexpected interruptions and changes. Punctuality is not a priority in the Emirates; don't expect the Western approach to organization. A meeting slated to begin at 10 will more often than not start an hour late or more, and go on for hours.
It's not at all uncommon to arrive at the meeting site to find the host in talks with several other people, who are most likely meeting your host about something completely unrelated to your business topic. This can be a little frustrating for Westerners who are used to having the meeting host's undivided attention. For these situations, it's advisable to arrange a meeting at a nearby hotel, where drink and food service are automatic and interruptions are less likely.
Women in the UAE's business world will find many more opportunities than women in neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia. In the Emirates, there's an increasing entrepreneurial spirit among women, meaning that the business landscape has changed greatly in the past decade.
Although some Emirati men still display some gender bias (mostly older, more experienced men, who tend to be decision-makers), it's becoming more and more common to see women in all levels of business. Changes have been driven by the foreigners who live and work in the area, and the international businesses who operate there, bringing along their practices and beliefs about gender equality and other forms of diversity.
As is the case in most other Middle Eastern countries, in the United Arab Emirates, personal relationships are vital. Meetings often begin with small talk; do not underestimate its importance in the building and maintenance of your business relationship. Patience in meetings and an understanding of the United Arab Emirates' business world will allow your business to be more successful.
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