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Mastering Cross-Cultural Gifting Etiquette

Mastering Cross-Cultural Gifting Etiquette

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a global business hub, attracting people from across the world. It is a modern melting pot of Arabian values intertwined with diverse multicultural influences. In this dynamic setting, mastering cross-cultural etiquette, particularly in the context of corporate gift-giving, is key to successful business interactions. This undertaking involves navigating local traditions (social and religious), while being aware of global trends.


Corporate gifting is not just a simple exchange of gift items; it serves as an avenue for building successful business connections. In the UAE, this essentially also involves an understanding and appreciation of cultural norms and sensitivities, in particular an adherence to Islamic values and Emirati customs . 


Any business aspiring to succeed in the UAE must understand and respectfully adhere to Emirati cultural norms. The first step in this process is to familiarise oneself with local customs and Islamic traditions. This knowledge about acceptable dos and don’ts, the local festive calendar, and gifting traditions will empower your team to develop a successful and culturally sound gifting strategy. As an example, given the UAE’s status as a devout Islamic nation, it is advisable to choose alcohol-free gifting options. Instead, opt for beautifully crafted, personalised gifts that are bound to be better appreciated in this market. 


While businesses must adhere to local traditions and values when operating within the UAE, it is also important to recognise that this is a multicultural melting pot, attracting talent from all corners of the world. Therefore it is important for corporates to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their gifting strategies in the UAE. 

Gifts that transcend cultural boundaries will have a greater appeal across larger cross-sections of the workforce in such complex groupings. At the same time, by comprehending internal dynamics, businesses can also celebrate subgroups within the workforce, showcasing a deep understanding and appreciation for the unique identities that contribute to the success of the team. 


As is the cultural norm across the Middle East and Asia, the UAE also demonstrates profound respect towards senior members within the establishment. This respect is directed towards an individual’s age as well as their standing in the organisational hierarchy as well. Understanding this dynamic is crucial for successful interactions and connections in this market. Keeping this in mind, when engaging in corporate gifting practices in the UAE, it is culturally appropriate to begin the process by acknowledging the senior most member present. This gesture goes a long way in setting the right and respectful tone. 


The UAE is a sophisticated market with an enviable standard of living. Given these realities, the selections of gift items, the care put into the presentation of said gifts, the attention to details, and any thoughtful personalisation made, all impact the success of one’s corporate gifting policy. These details add a layer of finesse to the gifts and are reflective of the respect the sender holds for the recipients. Unique gift items that are beautifully presented are more likely to create a positive impression, which in turn, will influence customer retention, strengthening of working partnerships and improved employee engagement. This will help the brand stand out in a very competitive marketplace.


Along with cultural norms, it is also essential to understand the legal and ethical frameworks that regulate how business is conducted across the UAE. Typically, governing bodies impose rigid guidelines with regard to maximum gift values to ensure transparency and prevent the onset of corrupt practices. Being aware of and compliance with these set rules ensure that the business successfully operates on the right side of proceedings.


Having successfully worked in the ever-evolving UAE corporate gifting market for over thirty years, our team at Genesis Gifts is well-versed in the social and legal complexities associated with gifting in this market, which makes us an excellent gifting partner for your business. Not only will we help your business navigate the rules and regulations, but we will assist your team in selecting the best gifts to ensure enduring partnerships and successes for your brand.

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