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Saudi Arabia and Lebanon Cultures Comparison


Saudi Arabia is one of the dominant nations in the Middle East region with its capital city in Riyadh (Ryan, 2010). The dominant religion is Islam while the government is run by a monarch system. Its current population stands at slightly above 25 million people. It has great temperature extremes with a harsh and dry climate almost throughout the year (Civitello, 2008). On the other hand, Lebanon has a population size of close to 4 million people. About 95 percent of the Lebanese population is made up of Arabs while Armenians are the minority group. Arabic is also the formal language used in Lebanon. This paper offers a succinct comparison of the cultural communication norms between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The analyses in the paper are also linked to Hofstedes 5 Cultural Dimensions.

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Table of comparisons

Aspect Saudi Arabia Lebanon
Meeting Etiquette Conducted mostly in Arabic Conducted in English, Arabic or French
Dining Etiquette Eating done with the right hand only
Sitting cross-legged while taking meal from the floor
Dress conservatively
Eating can be done with the left hand
Not mandatory to cross legs and take meals on the floor
Dressing should be decent but conservative
Time keeping Foreigners might be kept waiting for long Time is well kept and punctuality is valued for both locals and foreigners
Business Etiquette and Protocol A lot of hierarchy and protocol Minimal hierarchy and protocol
Relationships & Communication Greeting in Arabic language Greeting using both Arab/Islam and French
Business Meeting Etiquette Initial meetings in hotels Initial meetings can be done in homes
Business negotiating Very slow decisions
They set very low prices while buying and extremely high prices while selling
Rather quick decisions are made
Dress Etiquette Conservative dressing style Liberal dressing style
Business cards Given selectively Given to anyone


Meeting Etiquette

Men can shake hands while greeting each other among the Saudis (Idris, 2007). In addition, individuals who consider themselves to be great friends can kiss each other on the cheeks. In regards to females, they are allowed to hug one another as a formal way of greeting. Besides, close female friends can kiss each other. Public greeting is not permitted between males and females who do not come from the same family background. The latter is not the case with the Lebanese cultural norms (Conley, 2010. Owing to the liberal culture in Lebanon, greeting can take place in public between males and females from different families. Greeting among the Saudis may also be prolonged compared to the Lebanese greetings that are usually short.

Dining Etiquette

Saudis do not entertain foreigners in their homes at the first meeting (Marcus, Gould & Wigham, 2011). Dining with foreigners is carried out in hotels and restaurants in order to allow enough time to establish trust. After adequate trust has been established, a person might be invited to an Arabic home. In addition, Saudis do not allow both sexes to be in the same entertainment spot. In contrast, the Lebanese culture permits both males and females to entertain themselves in the same room.

A person is also expected to remove shoes before entering a Saudi house for dinner. Dressing at the dinner set should be conservative. These are not applicable or mandatory practices in the Lebanese culture. Moreover, the Lebanese can talk a lot in the midst of taking meals compared to their counterpart Saudis who would rather prefer to remain silent while taking meals.

Saudis prefer the culture of taking meals on the floor with their legs crossed. This may not be a common cultural practice among the Lebanese people. While some alcohol might be served to guests among the Lebanese, Saudis do not allow alcohol consumption.

Time keeping

Saudis hardly keep time when meeting for the first time with foreigners or unfamiliar individuals. This is aimed at establishing enough trust. However, Lebanese are generally good at keeping time even when planning to meet unfamiliar persons.

Business Etiquette and Protocol

Saudis do not rush in making deals while conducting business meetings with partners. There are several layers of approvals that have to be made before conclusions can be made. However, the Lebanese people can make business decisions quickly and they may not easily overturn decisions like Saudis. Hierarchy and bureaucracy are not common in the Lebanese culture.

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Relationships and Communication

When planning to meet a Saudi, it is crucial to have a another Saudi sponsor in order to gain accesses to the country. On the other hand, it is quite easy to meet a Lebanese national in Lebanon without the services of an intermediary. The Lebanese culture also requires adequate personal space when two or more people are communicating (‘Lebanon’, 2014). The Lebanese may also work with total strangers contrary to Saudis who prefer to be in a communion with people they understand very well.

Business Meeting Etiquette

An appointment with a Lebanese can be made within a very short notice (Coleman, 2013). Saudis on the other hand require long-term appointments before they can eventually meet their clients. Saudi government officials do not settle on a fixed timeframe within

Business negotiating

As already hinted out, Saudis have a culture of setting very high selling price for their products and extremely low buying price when purchasing from clients. They are known to be very skilful negotiators. The Lebanese do not set extreme prices while negotiating for business deals.

Dress Etiquette

Long white robes are worn by Saudi nationals. It is almost mandatory to dress conservatively among the Saudis. The latter is not the case in Lebanese culture since decent dressing in form of suits can be worn. In addition, Lebanese women can wear slightly tight fitting clothes contrary to the Arabic women.

Business cards

Lebanese can issue business cards to anyone interested. However, Saudis can comfortably give their business cards to individuals whom they fully know and trust.

Hofstedes 5 Cultural Dimensions

According to this model, it is necessary to comprehend various workplace scenarios across the globe. Five cultural dimensions discussed by this model include long term orientation, uncertainty, masculinity, individualism and power distance (‘Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions’, 2014). Thorough understanding and appreciation of these dimensions can assist in enhancing and propelling business growth between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Impacts and solutions to communication differences

The differences in cultural communication norms between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon cab be felt when conducting business. For instance, foreign investment in Saudi Arabia can be more difficult than in Lebanon owing to the conservative nature of the society. On a positive note, cultural erosion cannot easily take place in Saudi Arabia. The conservative culture ensures that ethical values and principles are maintained. In order to overcome these challenges, it is necessary to create a regional trading bloc or organization that can harmonise the differences. Free movement of people and goods should also be allowed between the two nations (‘Saudi Arabia’, 2014).

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In recap, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have fairly unique cultural norms that have hampered smooth business operations between the two countries. Through the Hofstedes five Cultural Dimensions, it is possible to comprehend the magnitude of these differences and develop alternative measures that can boost business growth. Nevertheless, the creation of a free trade regime between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon can boost business growth in the wider Middle East region.


Civitello, L 2008, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, Wiley & Sons, Hoboken.

Coleman, DY 2013, ‘Culture and Arts’. Lebanon Country Review, pp. 219-220.

Conley, KA 2010, Lebanon, Abdo Publishing Company, New York.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions 2014, Web.

Idris, A.M 2007, ‘Cultural Barriers to Improved Organizational Performance in Saudi Arabia’. SAM Advanced Management Journal, vol. 72 no. 2, pp. 36-53.

Lebanon 2014, Web.

Marcus, A, Gould, E, & Wigham, L 2011, ‘Conducting a culture audit for Saudi Arabia’. Multilingual, vol. 22 no. 4, pp. 42-46.

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Ryan, M 2010, Cultural Studies: A Practical Introduction, Blackwell Publishing, West Sussex.

Saudi Arabia 2014, Web.

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