Cultural Etiquette


Time:18:30 - 21:00
Venue:Intercontinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi

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On a rainy day in Abu Dhabi, around 50 people braved the traffic to gather in the Intercontinental Hotel to hear Nasif Kayed – CEO and Founder of The Arab Culturalist speak about cultural etiquette in the business world.

Walking past and hearing the laughter from the audience, you could have been forgiven for thinking that this was a purely social event. But Mr Kayed was discussing a topic that’s important for anyone wanting to do business – or even just live – in the Gulf region; cultural etiquette.

After a few minutes of myth-busting common Arab stereotypes, Mr Kayed shared his secret to good etiquette: Be aware of who you’re dealing with, where they are from and what value systems they adhere to, but don’t forget that above all we are all similar creatures with the same wants and needs.

Mr Kayed’s recommendations for putting this into practice include being willing to suspend judgement and reflect on your misconceptions, never stereotype a group of people based on one or two encounters and stay away from negative gossip, reach out and make an extra effort to learn about the local culture.

Great advice that we should all keep in mind in business dealings, but how about a few practical tips for making sure you don’t offend your local clients and partners? Mr Kayed shared some of those as well, including:

  • In the West, it is ‘ladies first’ in doorways but in Arab culture, it is more polite to let the lady follow.
  • If you’re meeting an Emirati of the opposite gender, wait for them to extend their hand to be shaken. An alternative may be to place your right hand on your heart as you greet them.
  • Whether in a board room or dining room, always allow the host to sit closest the door.
  • Small talk is important, schedule the time in to chat before and after business discussions and you’ll be rewarded in trust and loyalty.
  • Respect the call to prayer. Don’t schedule meetings or call people on the phone at prayer time. If you have a longer meeting or training session, raise the issue at the beginning of the meeting and ask your guests if they’d like to break at any time to pray – and then stick to that schedule. 

With an open mind and a willingness to do things a little differently, the opportunities for great business relationships and friendships are fantastic. You can find out more about Nasif Kayed and The Arab Culturalist at

AusBG hosts regular Knowledge Series events in Abu Dhabi. Find out more and become a member at: 


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