Doing Business in Dubai & Dubai #2 multicultural societyThe Different Cultures in Dubai

[4-mins read]

Continuing from our part 1 on doing business in Dubai, let’s take a closer look at the different cultures working side by side in Dubai. But let’s make it a bit more specific and map out the differences following more or less the first four dimensions of Professor Geert Hofstede. In the table below you can see the differences in the first four cultural dimensions (Hierarchy, We versus I or Individualism, Process versus Goals or Masculinity, and Anxiety Avoidance). If you want to read more on these dimensions, click here.

  Emirates Western Expats (UK) Indians Pakistani’s Filipino’s
Hierarchy 80 38 74 60 89
We versus I 29 90 48 24 37
Process versus Goals 51 65 65 55 63
Anxiety Avoidance 81 36 43 69 41

Anything more than 10 points difference is something that you will notice as being “different“.

Impact on Doing Business in Dubai

Let’s look at each dimension and see what some of the impacts can be on doing business and working in Dubai.


As you can see the UK scores relatively low on hierarchy compared to all the other cultures, they are also the most Individualistic. The notion of equality in business and private life as Western European know it is not common in all other cultures in Dubai. In terms of doing business in Dubai, it is important to realize that a paternalistic management style works better than a consultative management style. Opposing your boss directly is something that is not done in the UAE, India, Pakistan, or the Philippines. You might complain about your boss in those cultures, but not directly in his face. To a Western European it might come across as barking orders when an Indian manager commands another Indian or Pakistani. However, this is not the case. It is simply done this way.

We versus I or Individualismdoing business in dubai #2; Dubai water taxi

The fact that the Emirates score is relatively collectivistic expresses itself in the fact that they own most of the businesses and/or are in the top positions of (bigger) organizations. This does not mean that they don’t work. It is just more accepted that others work for you, or you can command others to do work for you. All cultures in Dubai, except the Western expats, have so-called in-groups. In other words, if you’re part of this group, you’re not part of the other group. For example, if you’re an Indian, you’re not part of the Pakistani circle. But also, if you’re an Indian from West Bengal, you might not mix with the group of Indians from Punjab. This doesn’t mean that people can’t work together. It is just that the importance of the group and belonging to a group is more important than the individual, as it is in the UK.

Process versus Goals or Masculinity

The cultural differences when doing business in Dubai are the least on this cultural dimension. All cultures mentioned in the pyramid score are more or less equal.

Anxiety Avoidance

This is by far the most difficult dimension to understand when it comes to cultural differences. It often leads to a lot of confusion, because high-scoring cultures should have a lot of rules while the observable experience often displays the contrary. For that reason, I have even written a book on these dimensions. You can get it here. Otherwise, you can read a post here and here. Or listen to the specific podcast on this dimension. When it comes to the management style of doing business in Dubai, being specific towards Emirates and Pakistanis is important. At the same time, a more unstructured approach will work in the UK, India, and the Philippines. High-scoring cultures will appreciate more detail and structure than lower-scoring cultures.

Wrapping it Up

I have tried to illustrate just a couple of cultural differences in the descriptions above and haven’t gone into great detail. And as we all know, the devil is in the details and when it comes to cultural differences often the subtle details will cause friction when working together. But as Dubai has shown, working together in the multicultural metropolis is very well possible. If you’re working in Dubai or plan on doing business there you might want to follow a specific workshop covering the cultural differences. Find out more by clicking here.

To get more statistics on Dubai, click here.

An article on task orientation and relationship orientation can be found here.

I’m curious to hear your experiences and questions are always welcome.


Get a Taste of How Chris Presents, Watch his TEDx Talk



9 + 15 =

call culture mattersCall Direct: +32476524957


whatsapp culture matters directlyEuropean Office (Paris) Whatsapp: +32476524957


The Americas (USA; Atlanta, GA; también en Español):  +1 678 301 8369

Book Chris Smit as a Speaker

If you're looking for an Engaging, Exciting, and Interactive speaker on the subject of Intercultural Management & Awareness you came to the right place.

Chris has spoken at hundreds of events and to thousands of people on the subject of Cultural Diversity & Cultural Competence.

This is What Others Say About Chris:

  • “Very Interactive and Engaging”
  • “In little time he knew how to get the audience inspired and connected to his story”
  • His ability to make large groups of participants quickly and adequately aware of the huge impact of cultural differences is excellent”
  • Chris is a dedicated and inspirational professional”

In addition, his presentations can cover specific topics cultural topics, or generally on Cultural differences.

Presentations can vary anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours and are given World Wide.

Book Chris now by simply sending an email. Click here to do so.

Read more about what Chris can do for you.

  • Percentage of People Rating a Presentation as Excellent 86% 86%
  • Rating the Presentation as Practical 89% 89%
  • Applicability of Chris' presentation 90% 90%

About Peter van der Lende

Peter van der Lende International business development

Peter has joined forces with Culture Matters.

Because he has years and years of international business development experience joining forces therefore only seemed logical.

Being born and raised in the Netherlands, he has lived in more than 9 countries of which most were in Latin America.

He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) with his family.

You can find out more at

Or find out what Peter can do for you here.

Chris Smit
Latest posts by Chris Smit (see all)
We're looking for new Podcast Guests!

We're looking for new Podcast Guests!

If you think you or someone you know would make a good guest for our Culture Matters on International Business, drop us an email.

(make sure you or the person you know will be able to talk about International affairs!)

Thanks, we'll be back to you soon!