Business Gift Guide: Dubai

Giving a gift to a business contact is customary in Dubai. Here’s a guide for what to bring and how to properly present it – just make sure to brush up on your corporate gift-giving policy before you do.

“Westerners do business company to company. Here, it’s person to person,” explains Dr. Tommy Weir, a Dubai-based author and leadership consultant who helps companies break into emerging and fast-growing markets like the Middle East. “Listen to the other person, identify a point of commonality and find something meaningful. You should focus on the relationship more than the gift itself.”

While this guide applies to most of the Gulf countries, bear in mind that it’s a vast region where customs and cultures vary. “Places like Dubai are diverse, so find out where your counterpart is from when arranging a present,” advises Pamela Eyring, president of The Protocol School of Washington, which provides cross-cultural and business-etiquette training around the world. Give thought to the gift you’re going to bring, and avoid flowers as they don’t last and are usually reserved for special occasions.  

For your first meeting

Consider high-end chocolates – such as ones by Middle Eastern brand Patchi – for everyone in the office to share. Make sure to wrap your present in an elegant box – so your hosts remember you – and save it for the end of the meeting when you’ve established the relationship. You might even want to wait until after the meeting to send something. An added touch: Include a note inviting the other person to coffee or tea; it will get you out of the transactional aspect and help you build a stronger rapport.

For subsequent visits

Knowledge is valued, and beautiful books by upscale publishers like Taschen or Assouline make great gifts. Select a title about one of your counterpart’s interests, or your home country, for a more personal touch. For high-level executives, opt for pens, cufflinks or items of small jewellery from upscale brands. While quality is important in order to show how much you value the relationship, make sure you respect your company’s corporate gift-giving policy. “You’re not trying to buy the deal – you’re expressing your interest to pursue the relationship further,” notes Eyring.

When invited to someone’s house

Bringing a gift to your host’s home is an opportunity to create a lasting impression. In this case, consider offering a plate, a serving dish or a vase that could be useful in their home. And don’t forget to reciprocate your colleague’s invitation. You don’t have to do it right away, but it will show that you appreciate the broader local etiquette.