Dining manners are an important part of business etiquette in Dubai, with many deals made over lunches or dinners. Meals are often a formal affair, where meticulous table manners are expected from all of those in attendance.
Arrive on time and if you are ahead of your host, don’t feel tempted to check their progress until they are at least 15 minutes late. If you are first to arrive, wait to be seated as it is likely your host may want to indicate where you should be placed at the table.
Once you are seated you should unfold your napkin and place it on your lap, leaving all utensils in the order they have been laid and avoid putting any bags, phones or other items, such as sunglasses, on the table.
Most Arabic menus in Dubai are heavily influenced by simple Lebanese dishes, such as grilled meats, salads and flat breads, but if you are confused about what to order, it’s wise to let your host decide.
It’s important that you do not ask for pork products, which are not consumed by those of the Muslim faith and that you do not ask for alcohol, with is rarely drunk during business meals in Dubai and is only sold in hotels. Although Emiratis tend not to drink in public, you should follow the lead of your host.
Try to begin eating once everyone else at the table has already started, using both your knife and fork and avoiding using your fingers. Good table manners, such as maintaining a good posture and keeping our elbows off the table are important and even if you are left handed, you should only eat with your right.
It is polite to taste your meal before making any additions, such as seasoning, avoid speaking with your mouth full and try to end your meal at the same time as your fellow diners. If you need to draw a problem to the waiter’s attention, do it discreetly. When you have finished, place your napkin to left of your plate and your utensils facing upward in the middle of your plate.
While it is not common be invited to dine at a Muslim colleague’s home, if you are it’s important to respect Islam’s rules of cleanliness and courtesy by removing your shoes and placing them in an appropriate spot in an orderly fashion.
In general whoever is hosting will be expected to pay the bill, although it can be wise to decide beforehand how it is to be paid if this is unclear. The host will usually also cover the service charge and tip an additional 10%. While it can vary according to location, excellent service may warrant around 15-20%.