Lebanon – learn to read the body language
Lebanon is a country in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Syria. The capital city is Beirut and it has a population which is estimated to be around 4.2 million. The name Lebanon originates from the Semitic root lbn, meaning “white” which is likely to be a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.
Lebanon is the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East with just over half of the population being Muslim and around 40% Christian and a smaller percentage of Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. Religion affects almost all areas of culture. Family laws such as divorce, separation, child custody, and inheritance are handled in religious courts and there is not a uniform system for all citizens. Arabic is the official language but most Lebanese also speak French or English fluently.
With its high literacy rate and traditional mercantile culture, Lebanon has traditionally been an important commercial hub for the Middle East. The agricultural sector employs 12% of the workforce and produce includes apples, peaches, oranges and lemons.
Industry in Lebanon is mainly limited to small businesses. Nearly 65% of the Lebanese workforce attain employment in the services sector. In 2009, the New York Times ranked Beirut as the No. 1 travel destination due to its nightlife and hospitality, but the Syrian civil war and tensions in the region have dented hopes of a tourism revival.
Business meetings which may start with some small talk to establish rapport and trust. The Lebanese tend to have an open-door policy, which means that people may walk in and out, telephone calls may be answered or someone may come in to take drink orders. It is best to be prepared for frequent interruptions.
Meetings can be conducted in French, Arabic or English so it is a good idea to ask which language the meeting will be conducted in prior to arriving as you may wish to hire your own interpreter.
The Lebanese have an indirect and non-confrontational communication style, which relates to the need to maintain personal honour. They rely heavily on the context to explain the underlying meaning of their words. The listener is expected to know what they are trying to say or imply. Non-verbal cues and body language are crucial to learn so you can more fully understand the responses you are given.
Share your Lebanese business experiences
Sources: Wikipedia, BBC, Kwintessential
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