1 Talk the talk
Arabic is spoken by some 250 million people around the world and is the language of social interaction throughout the Gulf. Even the basics – hello, thank you, goodbye – will be appreciated. But know your limits – don’t try to follow detailed business discussions in Arabic. Encourage your Arab-speaking colleagues to switch to English for complicated issues. It is the universal language of business throughout the region.
2 Don’t offend her
Women are taking an increasingly active role in business in the region, especially the more progressive centres like Dubai. But there are still religious and cultural factors at play. Do not shake hands with an Arab lady, especially in traditional abaya, unless she offers her hand first; do not get too close; do not look too long at her dress; and don’t open doors for her – she will expect to follow the man.
3 Ditch the loud shirt
Western men are expected to wear business suits on most work occasions – never shorts or loud shirts. Ties, despite their association with the cross of Christianity in more traditional areas, are the norm, even in stifling heat. “It may take some getting used to in 40-degree heat but wearing a tie is seen as a mark of respect by your Arab hosts,” says Iraqi-born media executive Mustafa Al Rawi of Dubai.