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Etiquette and Social Security in UAE

Before you start working in the UAE, you will have to consider various things, from business etiquette to social security, so as to avoid unpleasant surprises. Our InterNations Guide on working in the UAE helps you make your entry in the business world of the Emirates a breeze!
Foreign business women often enjoy a special status in the UAE.


Knowing the correct way to greet your business partners is essential. Generally, businessmen greet each other with a handshake, saying assalam alaikum (peace be with you). Foreigners should then reply with walaikum salam (may peace be with you, too). The following embrace and kiss on the cheek may appear unusual to some foreigners.

This greeting ritual only takes place between men, though. Women should be greeted with a higher amount of restraint. Hence, men should only shake a woman’s hand if she offers it. Further body contact is strongly discouraged.

Business Women in the UAE

Although women do have access to higher education in the UAE, dealing with women in the business world may still be rare. This is due to the division of responsibilities between men and women in traditional Emirati society.

Even though women in the UAE have begun to enter the workforce in a wide range of professions, men may not be used to their presence yet. In many local offices, for instance, men and women do not work side by side, but separately. Business women in charge of companies often use front men to take care of business for them.

For foreign business women, it is therefore harder to get a foot on the ground. However, it is not impossible. Although Emiratis in particular may feel somewhat uncomfortable around them when doing business, they may also be particularly respectful and protective of them. Foreign business women often enjoy a special status in the UAE. While they are hardly on equal footing with businessmen from abroad, they also tend to enjoy a different status from local women.

Work and Residence Permits for the UAE

Expats can only receive a residence visa if they are employed by a company in the UAE or if they are dependents of an employee in the UAE. Companies that want to hire foreigners have to provide medical statements to prove that their employees are healthy and physically capable of doing the work assigned to them.

When expats lose their job or when their contract ends, they also lose their residence permit and have to leave the UAE. This is not a country for retired expats who wish to spend their remaining years in the sun, but rather a place for business people whose career involves a job in the UAE.

Social Security in the UAE

The UAE does not have a social security system comparable to the standards expatriates from other countries may be used to – at least none that foreign employees have access to. Expats should consider this when negotiating their work contract with their employer and, where appropriate, seek compensation. Thus, your work contract should definitely include perks to cover additional insurance costs.

There is no unemployment insurance for expats in the UAE, as unemployment will also lead to the loss of your residence permit. Pension schemes are not available to expats, either, for the same reason. While expats are at a disadvantage when it comes to social insurance, locals have now enjoyed a pension plan and social security regulations since 1999.

Health Insurance in the UAE

Foreigners can purchase a health card which covers basic medical treatment. For full medical coverage, however, an additional health insurance policy makes more sense. In many cases, the employer will cover the costs for the health card, and sometimes for an additional medical insurance as well.

Abu Dhabi is a special case. There, foreign employees are covered by a relatively recent medical insurance plan. As of February 2014, it is obligatory for employers to provide their employees with health insurance. The system is still confusing, however, and it is not always clear what exactly will be covered in terms of medical costs.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Peter B. Krehmer

"There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together. "

Suzanne Payne

"Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats. "

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