The United Arab Emirates is one of the most dynamic places to do business in the middle east. It is a multicultural centre and relatively modern compared to its neighbouring countries, making it the ideal location for anyone looking to expand their business.

While the country is still evolving towards adopting a western business culture, it is vital always to remember that there are huge cultural differences in how people do business in the UAE. The UAE is a Muslim country, and everyone needs to recognize their culture so as not to offend the professionals in the country.

Here is a look at some of the key pillars is the UAE business culture:

Hierarchy and Decision Making

work culture in Abu DhabiThe local business culture in the UAE is very hierarchical. Most companies have vertical hierarchy order, with the older employees having top positions and being in charge of making most of their decisions. The lower employees do not have much input in the decision-making process. They remain very subordinate and follow whatever orders come from above.

Money, age and family connections play a vital role in a person’s position in a company. There is a stronger preference for working with males over females, especially at high levels.

Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR, or corporate social responsibility, is a massive part of the business culture in the UAE. The government introduced the CSR law in February 2018, forcing companies to report all their CSR activities and offering CSR incentives.

Exemptions and financial privileges are also awarded for showing great social responsibility. CSR is now compulsory for all companies in the UAE. While there is no one way of fulfilling your CSR duties, most companies will adopt different strategies. 

Some will adopt environmentally friendly policies, while others invest in developmental projects. Other companies will have the companies volunteer in the local communities with paid time off.

Corruption in The United Arab Emirates

According to transparency international, the UAE is the least corrupt country in North Africa and the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates has a penal code for embezzlement, bribery and abuse of function. These laws ensure that corporate crimes do not happen often.

However, it is essential to note that money laundering can sometimes be an issue. The Transparency International Report also noted that most of the real estate in Dubai was bought in cash with no or few questions asked. It is also common to see visa and labour fraud taken in the form of improper visa details and contract substitutions. To avoid these crimes, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the visa processes and local employment contract laws. If you find any irregularities, you can report them to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MHRE) or your local UAE embassy.


united arab emirates cultureThe UAE primarily uses Arabic for communication, followed by English, Russian, French, Hindi and others. All official documents, laws, forms and decrees are in Arabic, so it helps to have a working knowledge of the language.

Residents also use English, and it is sometimes common to find correspondence in English. However, most public sector organizations prefer to use Arabic as their official communication form.

Dress Code

You will find most locals in traditional clothing in business settings. Men will be in their long white shift while women will be in their abayas. While ex-pats are not expected to adopt the local dress code, they always ensure they are modestly dressed and not too revealing.

Men should always be in a suit, while women should always pay close attention to their clothing. They should always have their shoulders, knees, upper arms and chest covered. Long dresses and skirts are great options paired with a loose shirt or a light blazer. If you opt for trousers, you can have flowy trousers, avoid heavy perfume, or wear flashy jewellery.


The business culture in the UAE can appear laid back, but that does not mean that Emiratis are not strategic business thinkers. A lot of research and planning goes into creating different businesses before coming up with one that works.

References and Resources