Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Maldives - Answers & Video

Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Maldives

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Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business in Maldives

The Maldives, a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, is not only known for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters but also for its unique cultural heritage. As a popular tourist destination, the Maldives offers various business opportunities for those looking to establish relationships with local companies. However, it is essential to understand and respect the cultural etiquette when doing business in the Maldives. This article will guide you through the key aspects of conducting business in this enchanting island nation.

General Etiquette

  • Greetings: When meeting someone for the first time, a simple handshake is appropriate. After the initial greeting, Maldivians may greet each other with a “salaam” (Islamic greeting) by placing their right hand over their heart. It is important to reciprocate the greeting.
  • Dress Code: The Maldives is a predominantly Muslim country, and modesty in clothing is highly valued. Business attire should be conservative, with men wearing suits or long-sleeved shirts and trousers, and women opting for modest dresses or pantsuits.
  • Punctuality: While punctuality is appreciated, it is common for meetings to start a few minutes late due to the relaxed island lifestyle. However, it is advisable to arrive on time to show respect for your business partners.
  • Respect for Islam: The Maldives is an Islamic country, and Islamic customs and practices should be respected. Avoid discussing sensitive topics such as religion, politics, or criticizing local customs and traditions.
  • Business Cards: Exchanging business cards is a common practice in the Maldives. Ensure that your business card includes your full name, title, and contact information. When receiving a business card, accept it with both hands and take a moment to read it before putting it away respectfully.

Communication and Language

  • Language: The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi. While English is widely spoken in the business community, learning a few basic Dhivehi phrases can help you build rapport with your Maldivian counterparts.
  • Indirect Communication: Maldivians often use indirect communication styles, preferring to convey messages subtly. Be attentive to non-verbal cues and pay attention to the context to understand the true meaning behind the words.
  • Hierarchy and Respect: Maldivian culture emphasizes respect for authority and seniority. It is important to address individuals by their appropriate titles and show deference to those in higher positions.
  • Building Relationships: Building trust and personal relationships is crucial in Maldivian business culture. Take the time to engage in small talk and get to know your business partners on a personal level before diving into business matters.
  • Non-Confrontational Approach: Maldivians tend to avoid direct confrontation and prefer to maintain harmony. If any issues arise during negotiations or discussions, approach them diplomatically and seek common ground for resolution.

Negotiation and Business Meetings

  • Appointments: It is advisable to schedule appointments in advance and reconfirm them a day or two before the meeting. Maldivians appreciate formalities and may expect a certain level of protocol.
  • Meeting Agenda: Provide a detailed agenda before the meeting to ensure everyone is prepared. However, be prepared for deviations from the agenda due to the relaxed nature of business dealings in the Maldives.
  • Relationship Building: Building personal relationships is essential before diving into business matters. Meetings often begin with small talk and friendly conversations to establish rapport.
  • Consensus Decision-Making: Maldivians value consensus and prefer decisions to be made collectively. Be patient during the decision-making process and avoid pressuring your counterparts for immediate answers.
  • Follow-Up: After the meeting, it is customary to send a follow-up email summarizing the key points discussed and any agreed-upon action items. This demonstrates your professionalism and commitment to the business relationship.

Gift Giving and Hospitality

  • Gift Etiquette: Gift giving is not mandatory in Maldivian business culture but is appreciated as a gesture of goodwill. If you choose to give a gift, ensure it is of good quality and appropriate for the recipient’s position.
  • Accepting Hospitality: If invited to a Maldivian home or a business associate’s house, it is polite to accept the invitation. Remove your shoes before entering and bring a small gift such as chocolates or flowers for the host.
  • Eating Etiquette: If sharing a meal with your Maldivian counterparts, it is customary to eat with your right hand. Avoid using your left hand, as it is considered unclean. Try local dishes and show appreciation for the cuisine.
  • Alcohol Consumption: The Maldives is a Muslim country where the consumption of alcohol is prohibited for locals. Respect local customs and refrain from consuming alcohol in public or during business-related events unless explicitly offered.
  • Thank-You Note: After receiving hospitality or a gift, it is considered polite to send a thank-you note to express your gratitude.


Doing business in the Maldives requires an understanding and respect for the local culture and customs. By adhering to the cultural etiquette, you can build strong relationships and establish successful business partnerships in this breathtaking island nation.



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