Many parts of Lebanon, such as Beirut, are very modern and cosmopolitan, while at the same time, some parts of Lebanon are more traditional and conservative.
Lebanon is a unique country, because it's influenced not only by traditional Middle Eastern culture, but also French culture. Many parts of Lebanon, such as Beirut, are very modern and cosmopolitan, while at the same time, some parts of Lebanon are more traditional and conservative. Throughout your trip, you will learn that the Lebanese are very friendly and enjoy having guests to their country. Impress them by learning a bit about their country and their etiquette!
In Lebanon, both Western-style cuisine and Middle Eastern cuisine are common. When being served Western food, you may eat with a fork and a knife; however, when being served Middle Eastern cuisine, you should eat with your hands. In order to eat with your hands, you should use bread or lettuce to scoop the food up, but never eat with your left hand! It's considered unclean, so always eat with your right.
1. Dress Attire
- DO understand that dress codes may vary by region. In cities like Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and along the coast, Western clothing is the norm.
- DO dress more conservatively when visiting rural areas, Tripoli, or the south suburb of Beirut, especially if you are a woman.
- DO dress neatly and stylishly.
- DO dress formally for business occasions.
2. Table Manners
- DO expect to be offered food repeatedly, even if you initially decline. It is considered customary and polite to refuse.
- DO eat Western style food with a fork and knife.
- DO eat Middle Eastern cuisine with your hands. Use your right hand only, and scoop the food up with bread or lettuce.
- DO leave some extra change at a restaurant, but note that a 15% tip is usually included in the bill.
- DO leave small change at a bar as a tip.
- DO tip taxi drivers 10%
4. Body Gestures
- DO signify "yes" with a downward nod of the head.
- DO signify "no" with an upward nod of the head. This may be accompanied by a click of the tongue. Another way of signifying "no" is by shaking your index finger side to side with your palm facing out.
- DO NOT use your index finger to point or beckon someone. If calling to someone, you may wave all of your fingers with your palm face-down.
- DO NOT give or receive things with your left hand.
- DO NOT show the bottoms of your feet.
- DO NOT engage in public affection.
- DO shake hands upon greeting, and inquire about the person's health and family.
- DO cheek kiss with close friends or relatives. The cheek kiss is more of kissing the air while brushing against the cheek. In urban cities, all people will do this, but in rural parts only members of the same gender will do this, unless it's a relative.
- DO keep in mind that observant Muslims may not shake hands with the opposite sex.
6. Visitors Etiquette
- DO accept offers for coffee or tea.
- DO bring a gift for the host, such as flowers or a dessert.
- DO stick around for a while after you are done eating. Leaving as soon as the meal is over is considered rude. For lunch, stay until about 4 PM, and plan to stay all evening for dinner.
- DO NOT discuss religion or politics in a Lebanese home.
7. Language Etiquette
- DO understand that although Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, French is also commonly used. English and Armenian are also common languages in Lebanon.
8. Business Meeting
- DO exchange business cards in a business meeting.
- DO use personal contacts to your advantage when doing business in Lebanon.
- DO arrange meetings in advance, although meetings made on short notice might be accommodated as well.
9. Religious Etiquette
- DO NOT enter a mosque or church while a service is being held.
- DO seek permission before entering a mosque, unless you are Muslim.
- DO take your shoes off before entering a mosque.
- DO NOT visit a mosque during Ramadan unless you are Muslim.
Although the Lebanese are warm and welcoming to tourists, it is important to learn a bit about their etiquette out of respect for their traditions. You'll also find that you'll blend in much better! Enjoy your trip to Lebanon!