Dubai may well be a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic city, but it is necessary for those who do business here to respect the local culture and customs. As Ramadan approaches it is important for everyone living and working in the UAE to understand what this means and how best to conduct ourselves at home and at work to ensure we continue to be productive and develop our business relationships.
During Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat, drink, chew gum or smoke during daylight hours. They wake up early in the morning to eat before dawn (suhoor), and stay up late after breaking their fast at sunset (iftar). Bearing this in mind, it may seem like Ramadan will throw your business schedule off-kilter, but it doesn’t have to. All you need to do is be a little accommodating of your Muslim clients and business partners. Hopefully these tips on Ramadan business etiquette should help you respect traditions, customs and expectations and ensure continued success throughout the Holy Month.
- Don’t schedule a business lunch/breakfast or coffee catch up
This may seem obvious as most people are well aware that Muslims don’t eat during daylight hours in Ramadan. But for the forgetful, this is an important tip to keep in mind. Instead, if you are invited to an Iftar, be sure to go. This communal breaking of the fast is a gesture of hospitality, so don’t miss the opportunity. If you want to host a corporate meal for your Muslim business acquaintances, you could host a Suhoor, which is the early morning meal consumed before dawn, but often held late evening in Dubai, or you could host an Iftar of your own at sunset.
- Avoid meetings in the late afternoon
Let’s face it, people who have been fasting since dawn are going to be tired and probably irritable and not as focussed by late afternoon. Be considerate of those who are fasting, and avoid scheduling a meeting after 3pm. The Holy Month certainly doesn’t mean all meetings must be postponed till after Ramadan, just make sure you schedule meetings around 10am or 11am, and you can get work done as usual with just a little thoughtfulness.
- Respect prayer times
Make sure events, meetings, etc. are not held during prayer time, and certainly not on a Friday during this month. Prayer is a big focus of Ramadan and has to take priority, be aware of that if you are trying to reach someone by phone or email. Be mindful of Ramadan working hours, make sure you adhere to these, and that many offices are flexible with how these hours are filled, so there will often only be a skeleton staff and people may be harder to reach.
- Be patient
Ramadan is not held at the same time every year. The Holy Month is dictated by the moon, and when Ramadan falls in the hot months of summer as it does at the moment, it can be hard on Muslims at the workplace. Try to be patient, remember that it’s hot, people are hungry and tired. Try not to lose your temper and don’t expect people who are fasting to be fully capable of making big decisions on important matters.
Overall, it’s quite easy to respect Islamic customs during Ramadan, and it’s a great time to strengthen business relationships and differentiate yourselves by being culturally aware and sensitive. Be a little flexible, and you’ll find business can go on during Ramadan.