Lebanese Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette
  • It is considered rude or bad manners to give someone an object to hold (for example, while you do something else). Historically, this was a way of non-verbally declaring another person to be of servant status, and it is still interpreted as inappropriate or lazy.
  • Objects should be received and passed with the right hand only or with both hands together.
  • It is best not to cross your legs with your ankle on your knee as it is offensive to point one’s foot at another person.
  • Men in Lebanon rarely swear in the presence of women.
  • The Lebanese take pride in their hospitality. It is considered an honour to host guests, therefore invitations to attend dinner or events at Lebanese homes are often offered quite early on in friendships. People also enjoy ‘showing off’ their friends or family to their peers and may invite them over to do so.
  • Punctuality is not strict in Lebanon. People are commonly about 20 minutes late to appointments and meetings.

As the Guest
  • When invited to a Lebanese home, it is customary to bring a gift (such as cakes and sweets).
  • On arrival, greet people in order the order of their age, beginning at the oldest.
  • You will likely be offered tea or coffee. It is good manners to accept this as it shows esteem in their friendship as well as their hospitality.
  • When at a dinner, try to taste all the dishes offered as a sign of respect and gratefulness.
  • It is common for the host or hostess to urge their guests to have multiple servings. Having second servings shows that you are enjoying their hospitality. Therefore, serve yourself less on the first helping so you don’t fill up and are able to show the good gesture of accepting multiple.
  • The Lebanese are exceptionally hospitable, sometimes being so generous that they actually embarrass their Australian guests or make them feel awkward. For example, there is often an expectation that the guest will accept what is offered. If you refuse something, it may be seen as a token protest made out of politeness, and thus, a Lebanese person may insist that you receive what is given instead of accepting your refusal. This can lead to awkward situations in which an Australian can feel the offer is being forced upon them. The closer you are to a person, the more acceptable it is to decline their offers of tea, coffee, food, etc.
  • The Lebanese socialise around meals for long periods of time. If invited for lunch, guests usually stay past 4pm. Those invited for dinner are expected to remain all evening, and it would be inappropriate to leave directly after the meal.

Gifts
  • Gifts represent friendship to the Lebanese, and therefore they care little about the monetary cost of the object. That being said, consider whether the timing of a gift is appropriate or not as well as the gesture of friendship that it offers.
  • Offer gifts with either the right hand only or with both hands, and receive them in the same way.
  • Appropriate gifts to bring a host are flowers, sweets, small gifts for their children or alcohol (however, be aware that Lebanese Muslims may not drink alcohol).
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