Arabian Social Conduct
Getting your social etiquette right can be crucial in establishing relations, whether business or personal in the UAE. To be aware of the local rules, practices and customs and to familiarise yourself with them can go a long way, and with minimal effort. In this section we highlight a number of different customs that may differ from social norms in the West.
How are you? Always answer with 'Al hamdulillah' which means All praise is do to Allah. What this means is, essentially is that all is as it should be, since your wellbeing is governed by Allah. Even if you are very ill, you would answer with this phrase.
The sole of the foot is dirty When sitting cross legged, never point the sole of your foot in the direction of an Arab. The foot is considered dirty, and what this act is saying is the same as giving someone the finger - or even worse.
Crossing legs is a no go sometimes Crossing your legs in front of someone of high importance is considered disrespectful and should not be done
Don't give them your back If someone is talking in your direction, you should always turn to face them. And not just in this part of the world. It's just rude otherwise.
I wanna hold your hand Shaking hand is the normal greeting with a male. But having your hand held for longer than usual is a sign of brotherly bonding, not that of homosexual tendencies.
I wanna hold your hand some more Your hand may even be held for longer than usual, while walking down the corridor, for example.
Always shake hands If you don't shake hands when meeting or leaving, it could be considered rude.
The right hand is clean In most instances, the right hand is clean, and the left hand is dirty, so, when accepting food or drink, do it with your right hand. The left hand is resigned for picking your nose, we assume, unless it is held while walking down the corridor
Shaking female hands is not done Although some do in this part of the world, it should never be assumed that a female will shake your hand which could lead to an awkward moment. A better suggestion would be to wait if a hand is offered by the female. Females do shake hands with each other, and occasionally a kiss kiss is shared.
Show respect to females always Females demand a certain respect in the Muslim world. Always give women the option to sit down where she wishes to sit, stand when she enters the room, and let her go through the door before you. The basic rules of chivalry work well.
Culture demands respect of elders Always respect your elders. It's even more important in the Arab world.
Never give the finger Yes never, but never beckon anyone with one finger pointing up. If you do need to beckon, use your full hand pointing downwards
Say yes to drink, always When offered something to drink, always say yes. Saying no would mean rejecting someone's hospitality. Drink more than one small cup (tea, arabic coffee) but never more than anyone else.
Never express admiration Be very careful when expressing admiration for an Arab's possession. You may find that he or she offers the object to you. (using "itfudul" - my pleasure) And then declining becomes a problem, followed by offering something back at a later date. Stating that you like your friend's Porsche Cayenne is somewhat risky therefore.
Polite chit chat can last for numerous meetings. When initiating business, it may be necessary to meet with a contact numerous times for him to scope you out, before committing to talking shop.
The office coffee shop It is not uncommon for offices to contain a number of sofas, and for many people to come by while you are sitting in a meeting
Your office coffee shop Bear in mind that while you may pay someone a visit, the pleasantries requirement may be sprung upon you, with numerous people popping by for a gossip.
The closest position is the most important When visiting others' office's you will be invited to take a seat according to your perceived level of importance. This might mean that someone gets up to make room for you. But you may have to move later if you drop down the pecking order!
Patience is a virtue Business may move at snails pace, but patience can buy you a big amount of respect.