Just in case any one is planning a trip the UAE in the near future, I thought I would share some basic etiquette guidelines with you. I discovered an article in the Saturday paper that outlined some interesting cultural guidelines of the Gulf region.
Handshakes: Arabs like to bond and this is why their handshakes are strong and long. Don’t release your hand from a shake until your host releases first. If you are a male meeting an Emirati woman, wait for her to extend her hand first. If she does not, then do not offer your hand, as many women don’t shake hands with men.
Prayer: Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day, so be understanding if one has to take a prayer break during working hours.
Appointments: Be considerate when scheduling meetings. Try to avoid the weekends, especially Friday. Friday and Saturday is considered the weekend and most consider it as family days. In Saudi Arabia, the weekend is Thursday/Friday.
Hospitatlity: Arabs take great pride in showing hospitality, never failing to at least serve coffee and dates, but preferring to present guests with a lavish choice of expensive delicacies. To refuse such hospitality is a no-no.
Right hand: To Muslims, the left hand is mainly used for bodily hygiene and thus is considered unclean. Shaking hands or handing over an item with one’s left hand is considered an insult.
Sitting: When sitting cross-legged, be careful not to display the sole of your foot or touch somebody with your shoe, as it is considered rude and disrespectful.
Personal appearance: Arabs believe in being clean and well groomed. Dress depends on the context, but it is mainly suits for business meetings. They would prefer that a woman should cover her shoulders and their knees.
As I run across other cultural do’s and don’ts, I will keep you updated.