Things to know about Beirut
Beirut is very culturally diverse, and thus, multilingual. Lebanese Arabic is the native language but everyone speaks Standard Arabic, the official language, while English and French (especially the former) are also spoken by most people.
Shop signs are in both Standard Arabic, English and French. Most restaurant menus, event listings, and such are also in English alongside Standard Arabic and sometimes in French. Road signs, however, are in Standard Arabic and French.
Some areas of Beirut have a friendly atmosphere, and some Beirutis have a reputation for being very sociable and outgoing. The locals are used to the sight of foreigners and would be happy to show you around the city, if you ask them.
Sectarianism is still prevalent in Lebanon, as a result of the French colonial legacy of divide and rule, which leads some Christian Lebanese to identify culturally with Europeans, particularly the French, and some denying Arab identity altogether; preferring to identify themselves as Phoenician (referring to their ancestral roots in ancient Phoenicia.) Many Muslim Lebanese identify culturally and ethnically with other Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East.
It is helpful to display some basic courtesies. A simple Bonjour when entering a cafe or shop can work wonders, and might even get you a special rate, or when hopping into a taxi, might just keep the driver from overcharging you. Say Merci when given or offered something, and if you'd rather not accept, then say La'a merci and smile; otherwise you might be taken as rude, even though you're not.
Most Beirutis love going out. If (and when) you go out at night, depending on the venue, dressing up well will most certainly get you some respect. The locals like to see that foreigners are doing what they can to fit in. Expect to be offered a drink or a cigarette. Alcohol is very cheap in shops and supermarkets, yet in night venues, prices can rise up to European standards (aka: 8,000L.L/Beer, 15,000L.L/Cocktail))
Smoking is very common in Beirut, a large portion of the people smoke both outdoors and indoors. However, most restaurants and bars have now abided by the new law forbidding smoking indoors.
Due to Lebanon's diverse religions and sects, many public holidays are celebrated, some of which more than once: New Year's Day, Armenian-Orthodox Christmas (6 Jan), Eid al-Adha – Feast of Sacrifice, celebrating the last day of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Al Hijrah – Islamic New Year, Feast of St Maroun (9 Feb), Eid Milad Mnabi – Prophet's Anniversary, Good Friday and Easter Monday (Apr), Labour Day (1 May), Liberation of the South (25 May), Assumption (15 Aug), Eid al-Fitr - Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, All Saints' Day (1 Nov), Independence Day (22 Nov), Christmas Day (25 Dec). Based on the lunar calendar, Islamic holidays move forward approximately 11 days every Western year.
Anything goes in Beirut. Shorts and T-shirts are perfect for the summer heat, for both men and women, while heavier clothing is necessary during the winter. You should cover up if visiting religious sites, such as mosques and churches. Some neighborhoods are more conservative than others, so bear that in mind when exploring the city. Going out at night is a smart affair, so dress fashionably to fit in, although this does not mean dressing up in a suit; you will find many men in sporty T-shirts, dark jeans, and smart running shoes at even the trendiest nightclubs.