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Embracing Emirati Work Culture: Essential Etiquette and Customs

Embracing Emirati work culture requires understanding and abiding by the essential etiquette and customs. In this article, we will explore the key elements that will help you navigate the professional landscape in the United Arab Emirates, ensuring a harmonious and successful working experience.

Emirati Workplace Etiquette: A Cultural Overview

The Emirati work culture is rich in tradition and customs, reflecting the values and heritage of the United Arab Emirates. When operating within an Emirati workplace, it is essential to understand and respect these etiquettes to foster strong relationships and create a positive working environment.


Punctuality is highly valued in Emirati workplaces. Arriving on time for meetings and appointments demonstrates respect for others’ time and shows professionalism. It is advisable to schedule your day wisely to ensure punctuality is maintained.

Dress Code

Emirati work attire is typically conservative and modest, especially for formal or traditional occasions. Men are expected to wear a kandura (long white robe) with a headscarf (ghutrah), while women commonly wear an abaya (black cloak) over their clothing. It is important to adhere to the dress code to show cultural sensitivity and professionalism.

Respect for Hierarchy

Emirati workplaces usually have a hierarchical structure, with clear divisions of authority and seniority. It is important to show respect for authority figures and follow protocols when interacting with higher-ranking individuals. Avoid interrupting or challenging their decisions publicly, as this may cause loss of face and disrupt harmony.

Personal Space and Relationships

Emiratis value personal space and may have a more formal approach to building relationships. It is essential to maintain a respectful physical distance, especially with individuals of the opposite gender. Building trust and rapport takes time, so be patient and avoid rushing business connections.

Social Customs

Emiratis have rich social customs, and it is advisable to familiarize yourself with them. Accepting offers of Arabic coffee (gahwa) or tea (chai) is a sign of hospitality and should be done with the right hand as a gesture of respect. It is customary to accept and exchange business cards using both hands.

Furthermore, discussing sensitive topics such as religion, politics, or personal matters should be avoided unless the Emirati counterpart initiates the conversation.

Communication Style

Emiratis value politeness and indirect communication. It is crucial to use tact and diplomacy when expressing opinions or giving feedback. Avoid direct confrontation or criticism, as it may cause loss of face and hinder effective collaboration.

Saying “Thank You”

Show gratitude and appreciation by saying “thank you” (shukran) when appropriate. It is a simple gesture that goes a long way in building positive relationships and fostering mutual respect.

Building Relationships in the Emirati Work Environment

Building Relationships in the Emirati Work Environment

When it comes to embracing Emirati work culture, understanding the essential etiquette and customs is crucial, especially in building strong relationships within the Emirati work environment. By learning and respecting these fundamental practices, you can establish meaningful connections and excel in your professional journey. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. Respect for Hierarchy

Respecting hierarchy is an integral part of the Emirati work environment. Superiors are highly regarded, and it is important to acknowledge their authority and follow their guidance. Addressing them with proper titles, such as “Sir” or “Madam,” and using appropriate formal language demonstrates your respect.

2. Importance of Personal Relationships

In the Emirati culture, personal relationships hold significant value. Take time to build genuine connections with your Emirati colleagues by showing interest in their lives and traditions. Engaging in small talk and attending social events outside of work can help foster these relationships.

3. Patience and Flexibility

Patience and flexibility are highly regarded virtues in the Emirati work environment. Emiratis appreciate individuals who remain calm and composed, even in challenging situations. Adapting to unexpected changes with a positive attitude is also essential for maintaining harmonious work relationships.

4. Adherence to Islamic Values

The Emirati work environment is influenced by Islamic values and ethics. It is important to be mindful of this and show respect for Islamic customs. Dress modestly, be aware of prayer times, and avoid scheduling meetings or important discussions during religious practices.

5. Embracing Cultural Diversity

The Emirati work environment is diverse, with individuals from various cultural backgrounds. Embrace this diversity and strive for inclusivity. Learn about different cultures, traditions, and practices, and show respect for them. This understanding will help create a welcoming and harmonious workplace for everyone.

6. Effective Communication

Clear and effective communication is crucial in any work environment, and the Emirati culture emphasizes this as well. Be attentive and listen carefully during conversations, ask clarifying questions when needed, and communicate your thoughts respectfully and concisely.

By incorporating these practices into your work life, you can build strong and lasting relationships within the Emirati work environment, fostering a positive and fulfilling professional journey.

Embracing Islamic Customs in the Workplace

When it comes to working in the United Arab Emirates, it is essential to understand and embrace Emirati work culture. The UAE is a country deeply rooted in Islamic traditions and customs, which have a significant influence on the way business is conducted in the workplace. By familiarizing ourselves with these customs, we can create a more respectful and harmonious work environment.

Dress Code

The dress code in the UAE is conservative, especially in professional settings. It is important to dress modestly, avoiding any clothing that is too revealing or tight-fitting. Men are expected to wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, while women should opt for loose-fitting clothing that covers their arms and legs. Additionally, it is customary for women to wear a headscarf or an abaya, a traditional black cloak.

Greetings and Interactions

Emiratis value politeness and respect in their interactions, and greetings are considered a crucial aspect of business etiquette. When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to offer a handshake. However, keep in mind that some Emirati women may prefer not to shake hands with men. In this case, it is best to wait for them to initiate any physical contact. It is also important to address individuals by their titles and surnames until given permission to use their first name.

Observing Prayer Times

Prayer is an integral part of the Islamic faith and is observed five times a day. It is common for Emirati employees to take short breaks during working hours to perform their prayers. As a non-Muslim, it is respectful to be mindful and accommodate these breaks in scheduling meetings or events, ensuring that prayer times are not disrupted or overlooked.

Eating and Dietary Restrictions

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. As a gesture of inclusivity and respect, it is best to refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours. Non-Muslim colleagues should also be mindful not to consume food or drink in front of those who are fasting.

Body Language and Gestures

Non-verbal communication is equally important to consider in Emirati work culture. Avoid crossing your legs or showing the soles of your feet, as they are considered disrespectful. Additionally, pointing with your finger is considered impolite, so it is better to use an open hand gesture.


By embracing Islamic customs in the workplace, we show our respect for Emirati culture and values. Understanding and incorporating these customs not only fosters positive relationships but also promotes a more inclusive and harmonious work environment.


Embracing Emirati work culture requires understanding and respecting the essential etiquettes and customs. By following protocols regarding dress code, punctuality, communication styles, and modesty, individuals can integrate seamlessly into the Emirati workplace. Additionally, building positive relationships and exhibiting cultural sensitivity will foster a harmonious working environment and enable professionals to thrive in the unique Emirati work culture.

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