Lebanese Culture

Business Culture

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Meetings

  • The Lebanese have a looser sense of time and may be late themselves, so you will most likely be excused for arriving late. Nevertheless, make an effort to arrive on time.
  • You are expected to greet everyone in the room individually, even if the group is large. Greet the host of the meeting first, and from there you can greet people in order of oldest to youngest, or from the left of the room and to the right of the room.
  • Receiving Business Cards: Only use the right hand to receive a business card as the left hand is considered unclean and is used for the removal of dirt and cleaning. Do not put the card away immediately, but regard it carefully and place it before you on the table until everyone is seated. Do not put it in the back pocket of your pants as that could be taken as you sitting on their face. Similarly, do not write on a card unless directed to do so.
  • Presenting Business Cards: Only use the right hand when presenting a business card, and make sure that the writing is facing the other person. Do not deal out your cards as if you were playing a game of cards as this risks being interpreted as rude.
  • Allow social conversation to pass before mentioning business.
  • The Lebanese tend to be much more formal in the business setting, however they still tend to conduct very animated business meetings. Expect many interruptions and tangents to unrelated topics as they often conduct multiple conversations at once when talking in a group. Be patient and feel free to interrupt in order to make your point heard. They should not find it rude. To avoid distraction or deflection from your proposal, sit directly next to the businessperson you are interested in and make your proposition directly to him or her.


Relationship Oriented

Personal relationships play a large role in Lebanese business culture. The Lebanese prefer to work with those they know. They base one’s credibility on personal qualities rather than on financial aptitudes, and will therefore be seeking an honest commitment to the relationship from you. For them, trust is key to good business and so their priority is to expand their network with those they can rely on. They often build strong friendships with potential partners to do that.


Considering this, they generally want to know a great deal about their partners in order to build the trust and loyalty that is needed to support business in the future. As an Australian, you may consider many of the questions asked to be too personal, detailed or unrelated to the point at hand. Try to be patient regardless, and provide answers for the sake of the business relationship. It would be even more beneficial to, ask them similar questions in return. The Lebanese greatly appreciate it when their colleagues show interest in their personal lives.


If you offend your business partner, do not ignore the fact that you’ve done so as this will likely jeopardise your relationship. If you are unsure of what to do, it is a good idea to get your senior to apologise on your behalf.


Exchanging Favours

Your business partner may expect you to grant them privileges on the basis of your friendship and vice versa. These usually involve favours for their family or entail networking. Try to be flexible in receiving and extending such favours as they will greatly appreciate this and will help you generously in return. Agree to do something even if circumstances later render it impossible as they will still be grateful for your initial response.


Considerations

  • Lebanese people defer all decision making to the senior who holds the most power in their company; this individual bears all responsibility and consequences on the company’s behalf.
  • It may take two days or up to weeks to receive an answer regarding large decisions.
  • Those Lebanese who are accustomed to the economy in their home country may be wary of planning for things far in advance as political and social unrest easily renders business plans obsolete in Lebanon.
  • When talking business, Lebanese people—particularly the Arab Lebanese—do not always separate their emotional investment from the subject at hand, and may intermingle their feelings into the professional setting. This is because displays of emotion have the potential to give a Lebanese person esteem or leverage in an argument. If this happens, remain patient. Appeal to logic to combats arguments of emotion, but try not to be a typical ‘stiff and cold’ Westerner if you wish to engage in negotiations with them.
  • In Lebanon, people prefer to agree by contract and adhere to them on the basis of trust. A Lebanese will usually keep word-of-mouth promises, so be clear that what they are say is what they mean (see next point).
  • For the sake of protecting their honour, an Arab Lebanese may avoid directly telling you if they have failed to complete a task. Therefore, focus on hints of hesitation, paying attention to what they say, but also to what they don’t say. Double check with them to see if they have completed things, and if they have not, take it as a sign that they cannot.
  • An Arab Lebanese may also respond to your requests with ‘Inshallah’ which roughly translates to mean "If God wills/allows it to happen". This response is a way of saying yes without making any promises, inferring "I will try my best, but in the end it is up to God to make it happen". Therefore, if you are unable to achieve what you’ve agreed to, it is not your fault or anyone else's, but it is God’s will.
  • People are often invited to discuss business in more personal settings such as restaurants or even a in one’s home. In these situations, they will begin any serious discussion with small talk and refreshments. Accepting at least a small quantity of drinks expresses esteem and trust. If you decline refreshments, the host will likely offer them to you at least two more times before accepting your rejection.
  • The Lebanese are generally hard workers and aim to please in business. There is a well-known proverb in Lebanon that advises to “work until you are exhausted rather than be humiliated”.
  • The Lebanese tend to be big bargainers in business. Some Lebanese business people consider successful negotiations to be achieved when they bargain their counterpart the furthest away from their original offer. Therefore, it may be wise to start at a figure that is not close to your ideal offer so that they can have the illusion of achieving their goal and end negotiations closer to your preferred figure.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2016) Lebanon ranks 136th out of 176 countries, receiving a score of 28 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.
Lebanon
  • Population
    6,237,738
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Languages
    Arabic (official)
    French
    English
    Armenian
  • Religions
    Islam (54%)
    ~ Shia (27%)
    ~ Sunni (27%)
    Christianity (40.5%)
    Druze (5.6)
    Other (0.1%)
    [2012 est.]
  • Ethnicities
    Arab (95%)
    Armenian (4%)
    Other (1%)
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 75
    Individualism 40
    Masculinity 65
    Uncertainty Avoidance 50
    Long Term Orientation 14
    Indulgence 25
    What's this?
  • Australians with Lebanese Ancestry
    230,869 [2016 census]
Lebanese in Australia
  • Population
    78,653
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Lebanon.
  • Average Age
    48
  • Gender
    Male (51.7%)
    Female (48.3%)
  • Religion
    Islam (43.9%)
    Catholic Christianity (36.6%)
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity (9.4%)
    Other (7.6%)
  • Ancestry
    Lebanese (82.5%)
    Arab (3.8%)
    Australian (2.4%)
    Other (7.5%)
  • Languages
    Arabic (89.3%)
    English (7.4%)
    Armenian (1.3%)
    Other (1.2%)
  • English Proficiency
    Well (76.8%)
    Not Well (22%)
  • Diaspora
    New South Wales (73.6%)
    Victoria (20.8%)
    South Australia (1.9%)
    Queensland (1.7%)
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (79.9%)
    2001-2006 (8.9%)
    2007-2011 (5.7%)
Where do we get our statistics?
Country LB Flag