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15 insights to survive and thrive in Dubai, UAE

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15 insights to survive and thrive in Dubai, UAE

While it’s the start of a new fiscal year for our Dubai office, it’s also the one-year work anniversary of Peter Krikhaar, our Regional Managing Director for the MENA region. We thought it the perfect opportunity to catch up with him and see Dubai through his Dutch eyes. So here are Peter’s top 15 insights on how to survive and thrive in Dubai (whilst soaking up the sun!)

1. Dubai no El Dorado

Many of us view Dubai as the land of bling, shopping, beaches and the sun: THE place to live the high life. The truth is, yes, it is a wonderful place to live and work but it doesn’t come easy and you’ve got to work long and hard and really give it your all to make your business work.

2. Patience pays

What does it take to make your business work in Dubai? Coupled with the financial capability to sustain yourself for the long run, you will need lots of patience to catch the right wave -to be in for the ride. So, if you think you can make yourself a fortune in a quick couple of years, you best be forewarned!

3. It doesn’t snow here but

There are sandstorms! If you think a sandstorm looks like the one in Mission Impossible 4 with Tom Cruise still managing to be all-heroic, you are mistaken. On a particularly bad day, schools get shut, flights get cancelled and it’s no more business as usual. And in those times, wearing a Kandora (the white Arab attire) will probably look like a wiser choice than a crisp formal suit.

Below, you can see before, and after.

Dubai sandstorm - Endpoint

4. Competition galore

Although a late entrant, Dubai has fast caught up with Western markets and has attracted great talent and expertise from across the world to build the world-class city we see today. The competition is stiff from both local and international players, as everyone wants a slice of this booming real-estate & construction market. And that’s exactly what keeps us excited, on our toes, and on the look-out for what we can do differently to help our clients here.

5. Linguistic trickeries

Arabic is a rich and complicated language to learn as well as write. Add to this the different dialects and interpretations depending on where you come from (UAE, KSA, Egypt, Morocco or Lebanon) and it can be a challenge to ensure that your translations are 100% accurate! Our wayfinding project with Dubai Tram, with some complex naming across 11 tram stations, taught us a lot about these finer nuances.

6. Local presence and consistency

It helps that Endpoint has been established in the Gulf region for almost a decade. We’ve been a steady presence,co-ordinating a number of major brand change and wayfinding programmes from registered offices in both Dubai and Doha. It is often taken as a sign of stability that we have a local office with a stable leadership team -we have been able to sustain ourselves through the rough economic & political phases witnessed by the region.

7. Procurement vs. marketing?

In most companies around the world, ‘marketing’ budgets sit with the ‘Marketing’ department who are responsible for aligning it with the company’s marketing vision and hiring the most suitable consultants to get the job done. In Dubai however, the ‘Procurement’ or ‘Purchase’ department is where the buck stops, which in a sense gives rise to often-stringent qualification criteria and budgets. This presents an interesting challenge of how best to showcase your expertise and full potential while remaining within the procurement guidelines!

8. Business and friendship go hand-in-hand

In Dubai -more so than in many places -building strong relationships and getting referred is paramount. Our appointment for the brand implementation project with First Gulf Bank (FGB) was strongly influenced by recommendations from a competing bank that we had worked with in the past. In the Arab world, business and friendship go almost hand-in-hand. If you are well-liked and found to be trustworthy, you are one step closer to being appointed.

9. Decision-making can take a while quite a while!

As a newbie in Dubai, you may respond to an ‘urgent’ Proposal request with lots of enthusiasm, biting your nails in anticipation of the result. I will ask you to relax. It is not uncommon to wait a year or longer – as we have done recently with a couple of our projects. Roll with it, it is simply how things are done and adjust your business planning accordingly.

10. A balancing act

Sometimes decision-making can look a lot like a football match, with your quotation being the ball, and departments and Heads Of Departments, the players. After a fair few rounds of discussions, clarifications and negotiations – and when you eventually reach the key decision-maker – you may be told to scrap the original concept and go back to the drawing board with new specifications. Again, roll with it!

11. A deal is a deal

There is a bit of a myth in the West about sometimes not getting paid in the UAE. Our experience is quite the opposite. We have always had our contracts honoured, even in 2008/9 during the global financial crisis. A deal is a deal.

12. Where the streets have no names

Navigating your way around Dubai can be a challenge. The traffic, the taxis, the missing street names and numbers can all conspire against you getting to your meeting on time. Recent investment in infrastructure,through the Dubai Tram and Metro,have certainly helped, but my top timekeeping tip would be allow two hours where you think you may need one!

13. Move over Cappuccinos and Lattes

If you are invited over to a local office and offered the traditional Arabic saffron coffee, don’t turn it down even if you had your cuppa just 5 minutes back. You are being invited to get a taste of their local culture. This may sound obvious, but it really is important! Even if it is not ‘your cup of tea’, make it so!

14. Smart and green

‘Green’ may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Dubai. But it is a hot topic in the region, as is ‘smart’. Did you know that 80% of UAE’s population is using a smart phone, the highest percentage worldwide? Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have the ambition to be one of the smartest cities in the world within the next 5 to 7 years! As frontrunners in ‘smart’ digital wayfinding solutions, we know this is going to bring great benefit to our clients and life generally in Dubai.

15. Dubai – a melting pot of cultures

There are more nationalities in Dubai than there are countries in the UN. Dubai is home to around 200 nationalities so it isn’t at all surprising that at Endpoint here in Dubai, we have a mix of 4 very different nationalities. While we all interact in English and act professionally in the office (generally!), it is our phone calls to home in our native tongue where our diversity is most apparent. Diversitydrives creativity at work, bringing different cultural perspectives and views.

Endpoint Dubai team