Embracing Culture and Custom when Starting an Offshore Company in UAE

Setting up an offshore company in UAE will provide you with the prefect opportunity to take advantage of a prime central location for international commerce, while also benefitting from a tax free environment and world class free trade zones. As with any offshore venture, there are things to adapt to in a foreign market. For yourself, and any other expat executives and employees, adjusting to Emirati culture will be essential.
The UAE is a progressive country with a long established Islamic culture, however the Emirates are made up of citizens from multiple nationalities and ethnicities, with a variety of religious backgrounds. While some parts of culture and etiquette are relatively conservative, the high number of tourists and expats means that the cultural learning curve is not as steep as in other areas of the Middle East.

UAE Culture – What to Expect

Expert consultants can help you to understand the business landscape when setting up an offshore company in UAE, but most of your cultural learning will come about through experience and immersion.

Religion has a large influence on the culture of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm al-Quwain, and Sharjah. These are the seven emirates that make up the UAE. In Dubai, the most popular tourist and offshore business emirate, there are many mosques throughout the city, and millions of people who actively practice the Islamic faith. Holidays, laws, and customs, are largely based on Islamic tradition and Sharia Law.

One way that new expats can become quickly acquainted with the culture of Dubai and the other emirates, is through guided cultural tours. One notable example is the Jumeriah Mosque tours that can be booked through the Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Specific holidays may limit what you can do around the cities during certain times of the year. Ramadan, for example, includes a period of fasting where neither residents nor visitors may eat in public places during daytime. Because there is a large number of expat workers and investors, the rules are relaxed in certain areas, such as malls and tourist resorts. If in doubt, seek clarification, because ignoring cultural and religious traditions can cause deep offense to the Emirati people.
Dress is also an important consideration when visiting areas in the cities of the UAE. Dress should be modest, with both men and woman covering the majority of their bodies. Smart business attire not only helps to conduct business, but is also a sign of respect. Loose fitting and tidy clothing made from light material, is always preferred to beach inspired fashion.

Residents of the Emirates are extremely hospitable, and when enjoying company or taking up invitations from clients and friends, it is important to show respect. Although expats will be used to handshakes in both formal business and social situations, these are not always as common in UAE culture. Wait to be offered a handshake, especially from women, and stand when welcoming a woman, elder, or anyone of high social or business standing. If you’re ever unsure of the etiquette, you can always ask your host, or follow the lead of others in the group.

Finding Harmony in Your New Surroundings

Setting up an offshore operation in Dubai, or any of the Emirates, can be a great move for the future of your business. Alpha Management Limited (www.alphamanagement.com) is here to ensure the smooth establishment of your company, and the easiest transition for you as an expatriate. Like any culture, traditions in the UAE are rich in history. Remember that you won’t get everything right first time, and locals will understand and recognize that you are a foreigner in a new country. Most importantly, be open to learning and adjusting, be respectful of the beliefs of others, and enjoy the company of your new business partners, clients, and friends.

You will find that the UAE is not only rewarding in a business sense, but also in the rich culture and warm people that make up the UAE population.

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