DON’T DRESS DOWN Hot or not (the weather, not you) in Dubai, a suit and tie is de rigeur for anyone associated with a resort. Since the whole emirate is more or less a resort, that dress code applies to everyone else as well. Women in Dubai on business should dress modestly. While Dubai is very cosmopolitan, always be cognizant of its roots in Islamic culture.
DO TREAT EVERYONE LIKE A SHEIK When a man puts on a dishdasha — the flowing robes that function as business suits, weekend wear and everything in between — you never know who’s the assistant and who’s the CEO. Maybe that’s the point.
DON’T BRING UP BUSINESS Your first meeting with a Sheik or high-level Emirati may be a general, non-specific chat or even a garden stroll. When it’s time to talk business, your host will bring it up. It might not happen until the second meeting — if you get one.
DON’T AUTOMATICALLY SHAKE Some traditional Muslim women may not feel comfortable shaking hands. Because you can’t be sure who will and who won’t be (their dress, traditional or western can be a clue, but may not be 100% reliable indicator), it may be best to let her offer you her hand first. This applies in a business context, even, as if often the case, she is running your meeting or is, in fact, your client.
DO SHAKE YOUR COFFEE CUP It’s the polite way to signal that you’re done. Otherwise, you will be stuck in an endless cycle of refills from a “coffee boy,” who will stand beside you until you’ve finished. This is true of “Arabic coffee” that is brought to you by your host in a small cup…not your traditional cup of Joe.
DON’T TRUST YOUR TAXI DRIVER Dubai has sprung from a desert to a major metropolis in the last twenty or so years, much of it in the last decade. But there are no street numbers. Chances are, your driver (a new immigrant himself) will have no idea where he is going; you could be circling for hours and he still won’t admit it. Don’t bother with Google maps — new buildings are going up so fast your destination might not be on it. Ask the hotel concierge for directions before you go.
DO FLY IN ON SATURDAY If wait until Sunday to fly in, you’ll miss the beginning of the work week, which runs from Sunday through Thursday.
DON’T GO IN JULY OR AUGUST Most the decision-makers are vacationing then, because it’s phenomenally hot and humid. Dubai has the opposite of “wind chill.”