NATIONAL CHARACTER: Emiratis are known for their warm hospitality, a feature that is embedded in traditional culture, as well as modern business practice. They also take pride in their rich heritage.
ETIQUETTE: Long greetings are generally preferred in both social and business circumstances, and the Western “get down to business” attitude may not fit the tempo of the emirate. A handshake is the norm between men, but it is advisable not to shake a woman’s hand unless she initiates the gesture. Abu Dhabi is generally conservative in terms of public behaviour and this applies particularly to dress code. The majority of Emiratis wear traditional thobes and dishdashas. All visitors are advised not to wear excessively revealing clothes. Business suits are standard clothing for most meetings.
LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language, but English is also widely spoken in all spheres of society. Legal documents, however, must be written in, or translated into, Arabic before they can be submitted to government agencies. As a result of the large Indian and Pakistani expatriate population, Hindi and Urdu are widely spoken throughout the UAE. Tagalog is also widely used in certain areas because of the large number of Filipinos residing in Abu Dhabi.
CLIMATE: Adapting to the weather of the Arabian Peninsula is one of the biggest challenges for visitors, especially between June and September when the temperature rarely drops below 40° C. The climate is arid and sub-tropical. Travellers are advised to spend most of their time indoors in air-conditioned places and find ways to exercise that do not involve venturing outside during daylight.
CUSTOMS: In the arrivals area of Abu Dhabi International Airport, luggage is x-rayed and DVDs, videos, CDs, magazine or books may be held temporarily until approved by officials. Travellers may carry Dh100,000 ($27,220) of undeclared money into the country, or the equivalent in any other currency.
BUSINESS HOURS & PUBLIC HOLIDAYS: The weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. The UAE National Day is on December 2. The normal hours for government offices are from 8.00am to 2.30pm, but during the month of Ramadan office hours can vary, so it is advised to check business schedules in advance. Muslim holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and occur 12 days earlier each year.
VISAS: Citizens of the US, Canada Australia, Western Europe and some Asian nations, like Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, can receive a free-of-charge visit visa on arrival at the airport. Citizens of other countries require the sponsorship of a UAE resident, hotel, travel agency or firm, which costs Dh110 ($30). Citizens of GCC countries do not require a visa to enter. It is advised that all non-GCC nationals check with their local UAE consulate or embassy to learn about the most up-to-date visa regulations.
ELECTRICITY: Electrical outlets in Abu Dhabi use the UK-style, square three-pin sockets, while the electricity supply is 220/240V at 50 Hz.
HEALTH: It is recommended to have health insurance before visiting the country, as the free public health system is available to Emirati nationals only, excluding cases of emergency. Health care facilities are in line with international standards in Abu Dhabi and most have English-speaking staff. The World Bank ranks Abu Dhabi as the third-most-popular medical tourism destination in the region.
FOOD: Eating is a central social activity and while some local delicacies may not immediately appeal to Western tastes, being invited to a traditional feast, where food is shared by all from a communal plate, remains a unique cultural experience. When offered tea or coffee in the emirate, it can be perceived as impolite to refuse, and it is important to use only your right hand when eating or accepting food. Abu Dhabi also provides an array of different restaurants to suit all taste and budgets, from Lebanese mezzeh and Mongolian grill to a variety of Asian cuisines.
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