Lebanon's Business World

The country of Lebanon frequently does business with Syria and Switzerland, and Lebanon also manufactures things like jewelry, textiles, and construction materials. Foreigners who want to do business in Lebanon should be aware of the country's quite conservative etiquette, in order to make that all-important first impression.

* Professional attire is a must. Western-style business clothing is appropriate when conducting business in places such as Beirut or Mt. Lebanon. Dark blue or black suits are acceptable for both men and women, and women are allowed to wear pantsuits. Good grooming is a must; women should wear full makeup and accessorize well. More rural Lebanese areas carry a more conservative dress code- women's clothing should not be form-fitting, skirts should fall below the knee, and sleeveless tops are not appropriate.

* Offer a good professional greeting. When businessmen in Lebanon greet each other, a firm handshake is appropriate. If greeting someone of the Islamic faith, one should say "Salaamu Aleikum" which means "peace be upon you". In professional settings, women shake hands with each other, but may also kiss the cheeks three times. Practicing Muslims don't shake hands with the opposite sex; when greeting a Muslim businessperson, a simple nod will do-especially if their hands are crossed.

* For business meetings, call ahead. Most business meetings are scheduled well ahead of time, but meetings on short notice can be arranged, especially if such a meeting will bring about a good deal. While meetings generally come with a set time, it is quite common for your Lebanese counterparts to be late. When negotiating, it's not considered good form to offer an outright price for a good or service, since bargaining is part of Lebanese business culture.

* Business cards must always be exchanged at meetings. There is no formal method for doing this, but the cards you get should always be treated with respect. When addressing a Lebanese professional, use a title such as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, with the person's last name (unless invited to use a first name). Those of higher rank should be addressed as "uztaz"- meaning "sir" and their last name.

* It is not the custom to exchange gifts at a first business meeting with Lebanese counterparts. It's not appropriate to offer a gift with the left hand, as this is taboo in the Muslim culture. Any gift given should not be costly, as expensive gifts are often seen as an attempt at bribery. If you are invited to the home of a Lebanese business professional, bringing flowers, pastries or sweets is appropriate, especially if invited for a meal. Bringing candy for any children in the home is considered a nice gesture as well.

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