Business Dress Code in Dubai and the UAE

Business Dress Code in Dubai and the UAE (Guest Post)

Did you, a Westerner, receive a business offer that simply can’t be refused and you need to travel to the UAE and Dubai? That’s truly wonderful because these places can skyrocket your career and allow you to bring a hefty check home.

This is a guest post from Fiona, a lifestyle blogger based in Melbourne, Australia. She’s in love with good coffee, croissants, and fashion magazines. In her spare time, she plays tennis and travels around the world. You can read more from her on her blog High Style Life.

However, Western and Emirati cultures are much different and you as a guest don’t want to be impolite, both with the way you act and the way you dress. So, before you start packing for your trip, it’s a smart idea to get informed about the business etiquette, and especially the business dress code in Dubai and the UAE. Here are some most useful tips on how to dress for your meetings and workdays in Emirati. 

General info

Religion and tradition are very important in the UAE, so make sure to be respectful of your hosts’ religious culture and dress in accordance with laws. The business attire should be very modest and formal, both for men and for women.

Business Dress Code in UAE

Aside from dress code laws, you also might want to keep in mind that the region is very hot for most of the year (evenings often offer some relief) so you want to consider wearing lighter fabrics and colors and bring one or two spare shirts with you—you’ll most likely need to change. 

Throughout the Emirates, work clothing is always formal, but some places have “casual Thursdays” with a more relaxed dress code. However, casual days are nothing like in the West. Most Emirati business people still wear suits or very smart business casual wear. Women are always expected to look modest with their shoulders, upper arms and knees covered, especially during Ramadan. 

Good to know: the UAE is located in the Middle East where summer temperatures rise to boiling points, so that’s why every workday has a break between hours (this is a common practice in all Dubai offices). A typical work week starts on Sunday and lasts to Thursday while the workday starts around 8 am and last to about 1 pm. From 1 and 4 pm (or 5 pm) there’s a siesta time and the work recommences after the temperatures have dropped and lasts until 7 pm. Work hours are two hours shorter during Ramadan

Dubai Dress Code

Even though there are over 200 nationalities living in Dubai, this city still has a firm albeit silent dress code that leans to the conservative side. For men, business suits are a must for offices and business meetings. Shorts are only appropriate for swimming and other sports, so keep your legs covered. Collared shirts and ties are expected in many places, so keep that in mind when packing. 

Abu Dhabi Dress Code for Business

Women are expected to wear formal office jackets and trousers to cover arms and legs. Short skirts and low necklines are deemed more or less inappropriate even though Dubai is the most liberal of all Emirates. Shorts and tops can be seen in various places, but make sure to check with your company and inquire about any rules.

It’s smarter to dress conservatively when you arrive. Having light and basic clothing in your suitcase is always a good idea since it will look very modest and appropriate. If you need to make a quick transition from an informal to formal setting, just throwing a jacket over your top will be more than enough. 

Casual business meetings usually take place in informal places like restaurants, but you still need to respect dress codes and look respectful (this tells a lot about your work ethics and your customer relations). 

If you need to visit any sort of office related to the government (driving license renewal, hospital, visa office), make sure to dress more conservatively. While this is not your place of work, it’s still smart to look presentable. If you’re a woman that dresses conservatively, you can be served by both men and women and you can expect to get your procedures done quicker, so it’s something to keep in mind if you’re a busy businesswoman. 

Rest of the Emirates Dress Code

Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai and its residents place greater importance on social relationships when doing business. It should not be underestimated how far a host or a client is willing to go if you’re not respectful—oftentimes, being dressed inappropriately is enough to be a deal-breaker! 

When in Abu Dhabi, make sure to wear formal business attire and not Emirati native clothing. Both men and women need to dress modestly, with arms and legs covered. It’s very respectful for men to wear a suit and a tie.

Western women should wear pants suits and jackets—this is the most respectable option for offices and business meetings. Even though most women in Abu Dhabi wear the hijab or headscarf, it’s not necessary for non-Muslim women. Closed-toe shoes are the preferred footwear for both men and women. 

Hijab Business Suit Woman

People from the Emirates do not expect westerners to wear their traditional clothing. While women of any nationality can wear the hijab and the abaya, only Emirati men can wear traditional long garments. If you try to pull off local clothing without any prior knowledge or consideration for the form and fit, you can look quite strange, so it’s better to just wear your own clothes. 

The way you look at the office or during a meeting directly reflects on your business or your employer. In the UAE you can expect to work with not only local people, but hundreds of other nationalities, so it’s good to be respectful and look smart and presentable in your business attire. While casual days are the norm in the West, jeans and sneakers are never welcome in the Emirati office. 

Good to know: outside of their house, Emirati women wear abaya or a long black robe, cover their hair with sheyla or a scarf and some even wear niqab or a full-face covering. On the other hand, local men dress in white dishdash or thawb, a traditional long garment covering arms, with a white gutrah or headscarf. The scarf is held in place with a black band called agal.

Final thoughts on UAE and Dubai Dress Code for Business Travelers

As long as you dress respectfully, you can basically wear what you wear at your office at home during your visit to the UAE. Expect to make amazing connections and come back full of new knowledge and business proposals—Emirati people are born businesspeople! 

This is a guest post from Fiona, a lifestyle blogger based in Melbourne, Australia. She’s in love with good coffee, croissants, and fashion magazines. In her spare time, she plays tennis and travels around the world. You can read more from her on her blog High Style Life.

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1 comment on “Business Dress Code in Dubai and the UAE (Guest Post)

  1. Liam James

    Very helpful post! In next week, I am going to visit Dubai first time for some office work. Seriously, I was thinking about what type of clothes to carry from last week. Finally, I got the idea. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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