Lebanon Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Lebanese business culture similar to that of other countries in the region. Muslim customs shape business practices, but their scope of influence is limited compared to other predominantly Muslim countries due to the presence of many religions in Lebanese society, which is approximately 30% Christian. Hierarchy is highly respected and all decision-making is subordinated to the superior who has the most power in the company. Other factors, including the language in which the meeting takes place and the relationship with the female business partner, may be influenced by the religious and cultural background of the Lebanese counterpart.

Lebanese business partners strive for long-term relationships and highly value personal contact in negotiations.

Addressing

Lebanese are reluctant to work with people they do not know. Lebanese law requires foreign business contacts to work through a local agent, and they are advised to find one who has contacts with the companies they are interested in (note that a good agent charges a commission of 5% of the transaction). Direct face-to-face contact is preferred over email or phone communication, and it is recommended to arrange a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible. More than email, Facebook and Whatsapp are used in Lebanon, Lebanese people like and often record voice messages.

Greetings include a firm and lengthy handshake and direct eye contact. Foreign business partners are expected to greet everyone in the room individually, starting with the host or the oldest person. Some Muslim men and women may be reluctant to shake hands with the opposite sex. If a Lebanese business partner does not shake hands, it is recommended to nod and smile instead of shaking hands. Lebanese people tend to be quite formal in a business environment and some will be happy to be addressed by their professional titles. It is recommended to use the titles Mr., Mrs. and Miss, followed by the last name, until you switch to ticking and calling each other by your first names. The use of the title “Ustaz” (Sir) is common when addressing male superiors.

Business meeting

Lebanese tend to have a looser perception of time than Westerners and are often late. Tardiness is tolerated in Lebanon. Meetings rarely have a predetermined time limit and can be long.

Gifts are not necessarily exchanged during initial business negotiations. Large donations should be avoided as they can be considered bribes. However, Lebanese business contacts can expect to be given benefits and privileges (usually for their family or network) as part of a direct personal relationship. Gifts in the form of alcohol should be avoided in the case of Muslim business partners.

In Lebanon, in general, it is appropriate to respect the customs of the area (Muslim, Christian) in which you are currently moving. Basically no restrictions apply in the Christian parts. Lebanese people like to dress elegantly, according to the latest fashion and expect the same from their partners. They indulge in designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Formal work attire is common in the workplace for both men and women. Men usually wear ties and suits, while women wear dresses and/or suits. He takes care of overall grooming (hair, manicure, accessories). In Muslim and more religious parts of the country, it is recommended to dress conservatively – especially for women, no tight clothing, plunging necklines, dresses or skirts above the knee, and sleeveless clothing.

Business cards are distributed quite widely; however, there is not much protocol regarding the exchange. It is important to treat the business card with respect and foreign business contacts should not fold or write notes on the business card unless specifically instructed to do so by their Lebanese counterparts.

Despite the formal setting of business meetings, informal social conversation is common before the actual meeting. Meetings can be conducted in different languages ​​(Arabic, English or French) and it is recommended to bring an interpreter. The Lebanese are open and used to doing business with foreigners and tend to expect substantial concessions/concessions before agreeing to anything. Negotiations can therefore be quite long. It is recommended to overestimate the initial price so that discounts are possible. Honesty about the price is considered amateurish. Lebanese tend to gesticulate animatedly and take breaks in the conversation during which unrelated topics can be discussed. Jumping into the conversation is not considered rude. It is recommended to sit right next to the business partner and make a business offer directly to him. As in other Arab countries, the Lebanese may respond to the requests of their counterparts with the word “Inshallah” (God willing). It is considered an expression of non-binding consent. When negotiating, it’s a good idea to focus on signs of hesitation and pay attention to what they say and what they don’t say. Foreign counterparts are usually invited to business lunches and dinners and are expected to compliment the meal to show respect and trust. A working lunch or dinner can be offered as a way of building personal relationships; however, negotiations may take place during them. Mobile phones are generally not switched off during negotiations. It is common for Lebanese to handle calls in the presence of a business partner.

A Czech businessman is usually surprised by the length of negotiations, price negotiations and social conversations about non-work matters that precede business negotiations.

It is not by chance that the Lebanese have a reputation as excellent negotiators and businessmen. Some Lebanese businessmen consider negotiations successful only when they negotiate a price as low as possible from the original offer. This needs to be kept in mind during the initial evaluation of the offered goods/services.

Lebanese businessmen – especially Arab Lebanese – do not always separate their emotions from the subject of negotiations and often mix their feelings into the professional environment. From their point of view, the expression of emotions has the potential to give them seriousness and increase influence in negotiations. If this happens, be patient. Appeal to logic and counter emotional arguments.

The number of members of the negotiating team depends primarily on the size of the Czech company. The participation of a higher representative of the company is desirable, especially when dealing with company owners and representatives of state institutions. Age and gender composition of the team do not play a major role, however, more trust is in favor of older men.

Communication

Meetings can be conducted in different languages ​​(Arabic, English or French) and it is recommended to bring an interpreter. English is used more and more as the language of business, today less French. All Lebanese traders speak at least one of these languages. Visit Animalerts for more information about Lebanon culture and traditions.

It is advisable not to comment on religious customs and conditions in the country and, as far as possible, adapt your behavior to the confessional affiliation of your business partner.

A personal meeting is essential in negotiations with a Lebanese partner. Traveling to the country is relatively simple, visas can be obtained upon entering the country at the airport. To speed up communication, we recommend using the phone and Whatsapp rather than e-mail.

Recommendation

Recommendations for Czech companies and enterprises that are about to enter the Lebanese market are as follows:

  • Monitor political and economic developments in the country
  • Consider business risks well
  • Find a local agent
  • Be patient when communicating with authorities and banking houses (expect corruption, non-transparency of licensing procedures and complex customs procedures)
  • Accept only an irrevocable confirmed letter of credit or advance payment as payment instruments.

Public Holidays

Public holidays in Lebanon in 2022:

  1. 1. New Year
  2. 1. Christmas holiday – Armenian Orthodox
  3. 2. Day of St. Maroon
  4. 2. Day of the memory of Rafik Harírí
  5. 3. Annunciation of the Virgin Mary
  6. 4. Good Friday

17.4. Easter Sunday

  1. 4. Easter Monday
  2. 4. Good Friday (Orthodox)

2Easter Sunday (Orthodox)

  1. 4. Easter Monday (Orthodox)
  2. 5. Labor Day
  3. 5. Easter (Orthodox)
  4. 5. Eid Al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)
  5. 5. Day of resistance and liberation
  6. 7. Eid Al-Adha

1Eid al-Adha

  1. 7. Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year)
  2. 8. Ashura
  3. 8. Assumption of the Virgin Mary
  4. 10. Birth of the Prophet Muhammad
  5. 11. Independence Day
  6. 12. Christmas

Lebanon Culture of Business