Lebanon flag Lebanon: Business Environment

Business Practices in Lebanon

Opening hours and bank holidays

General Information
Services for businesses, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Commisceo Global, Libanese business culture as per Commisceo Global
Opening Hours and Days
Administrations and Banks are open from 8 am to 2 pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks stay open until 5 pm. Some of them are open from 8 am to 11 am on Saturday. Public administrations close on Friday at 11 am.
The liberal professions have flexible hours according to the nature of the work.
 
 
 

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January
Feast of St Maroun 9 February
Labor Day 1 May
Feast of the Assumption 15 August
Independence Day 22 November
Christmas Day 25 December
The Good Friday according to the Catholic rite The Good Friday according to the Orthodox rite
The Good Friday according to the Orthodox rite Variable
Aid el Adha 70 days after the end of Ramadan, variable
Achoura Variable - 1 day
Muslim New Year Variable - 1 day
Birth of the Prophet Variable
Aid el Fitr (End of Ramadan) Variable
 
Holiday Compensation
There is compensation for Labor Day.
 

Periods When Companies Usually Close

Aid el Adha 2 days, 70 days after Ramadan.
Summer holidays It is not an official holiday period but everything slows down in August.
 

Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Lebanon is a Middle Eastern country that lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and as such its business culture is similar to that of other countries in the region. Muslim customs shape business practises, yet their scope of influence is limited compared to other predominantly Muslim countries owing to the multi-faith nature of Lebanese society. Regardless of religious or ethnic background, hierarchy is highly respected and all decision making is deferred to the senior who holds the most power in the company. Other factors including the language in which the meeting is conducted and the relationship with a female business partner can be impacted by the religious affiliation and cultural affinities of your Lebanese counterpart.

The hierarchical structure of Lebanese companies is largely vertical. Senior managers are usually the only business partners involved in the decision-making process and bear all responsibilities and consequences on behalf of their company. Important decisions can take several days or even weeks. Most Lebanese companies will be reluctant to plan things and decide major changes in advance, as political and social unrest renders most business plans obsolete in Lebanon.

Lebanese business partners seek long-term relationships and highly value personal contact when negotiating. Foreign counterparts are usually invited to restaurants or even to ones home to discuss business and it is considered impolite to decline such invitations. The Lebanese show interest in private lives of their counterparts and ask questions that may be considered too personal or unrelated to negotiations. Foreign business partners are expected to provide answers and ask similar questions in return to establish trust and loyalty.
First Contact
The Lebanese are reluctant to work with people they do not know. Foreign business contacts are required by law to work through a local agent and advised to find one that has contacts with firms in which they are interested. Direct personal contact is preferred over communication via email or phone and it is recommended to set up a physical meeting as quickly as possible to engage in negotiations.
Time Management
The Lebanese tend to have a looser sense of time than westerners and may be late themselves. Consequently you may be excused for arriving late. Meetings are rarely timed in advance and may run late.
Greetings and Titles
Greetings consist of a firm and lengthy handshake as well as direct eye contact. Foreign business contacts are expected to greet everyone in the room individually, starting from the host or the most senior person. Some Muslim men and women may be reluctant to shake hands with the opposite sex. If the Lebanese business contact is standing back it is advised to nod and smile instead of insisting on shaking hands.

The Lebanese tend to be quite formal in business setting and some business contacts will like to be addressed with their professional titles. It is recommended to use the titles Mr., Mrs., and Miss, followed by the last name until you are on a first name basis. Using the title “Ustaz” (Sir) is common when addressing male superiors.

Gift Policy
Gifts are not necessarily exchanged at initial business meetings. Large gifts are to be avoided as they may be seen as bribes. Nevertheless, Lebanese business contacts may expect to be granted favours and privileges (usually for their family or network) as part of direct personal relationship.
Dress Code
Formal work attire is common both among men and women. Men usually wear ties and suits whereas women wear dress and/or suits. It is advised to dress conservatively for women, especially in more religious parts of the country (no tight clothes, low necklines, dress/skirt above the knee, sleeveless attire).
Business Cards
Business cards are handed out quite extensively; however, there is not too much of a protocol regarding the exchange. It is advised to give and receive business card with the right hand as the left hand is considered unclean (especially among Muslims). It is important to treat the card with respect and foreign business contacts should not fold the card or write notes on it unless specifically instructed by their Lebanese counterparts to do so.
Meetings Management
Despite the formal setting of business meetings, social conversations tale place before negotiations. Meetings can be conducted in different languages (Arabic, English or French) and it is advised to bring an interpreter.

The Lebanese are open and used to doing business with foreigners, and tend to expect substantial concessions before agreeing to anything. Negotiations can therefore be quite extensive. It is advised to set a starting price at a point that gives you room to come down. It is considered amateurish to be honest about price.

The Lebanese tend to have animated meetings and it is common to have many interruptions and discussion regarding unrelated topics. Foreign counterparts should feel free to interrupt to make their point heard as this is not considered rude. It is advised to sit directly next to the business contact and make the business offer directly to that person. During a meeting, the Lebanese may also use an indirect language to tell they have failed a task for the purpose of protecting their honour. As in other Arab countries, the Lebanese may respond to the requests of their counterparts with “Inshallah” (God willing). This is a way of agreeing without making any promises and should not be taken as a full commitment. It is recommended to focus on hints of hesitation and pay attention what they say and omit to say.

Foreign counterparts are usually invited to business lunch and dinner, and are expected to accept at least a small quantity of food and drink to express esteem and trust. Business lunch and dinners can be offered as a way to build personal relationships; however, negotiations can also take place during that time. 

Sources for Further Information
Cultural Atlas - Lebanese Business Culture Career Addict - Lebanese Business Etiquette Culture Crossing Guide - Lebanon

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Latest Update: June 2022