Balsam Al Khalil is Chief Representative Officer at the Bank of Beirut in the UAE and Gulf region. Born in Lebanon, she spent her career in the corporate banking world, working her way up to the position she holds today. Balsam has a keen interest in business investments in the region, which is something she specialises in. As well as her day job, Balsam also studied Etiquette and Fashion Styling and Image Consultancy at London College of Fashion. She then became a certified Business Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant. Today she uses the knowledge she gained from this to write articles and books on manners and lifestyle. Her book Travel Etiquette is a guide for the modern traveller containing travel tips and advice.
Describe your morning routine.
I’m an early riser, I wake up as early as 5.30am. I check the weather, I check the birds in the garden, I have a quiet moment, and then I head to my office. I drink green tea and matcha tea followed by black tea.
How has your corporate background helped to shape your career today?
Actually I’ve been in banking for so long and I started in Lebanon and moved to Dubai in 1993. The Bank of Beirut is like my baby, I established it in the Gulf region, so although I have started something else, banking has been my career for so long.
So what then drew you to etiquette and image consulting?
The diplomacy world was always a dream. I was supposed to be an ambassador back in 1992 and then I moved to Dubai and was so busy with banking in a sense that I forgot that for some time. It has been always a passion so I went back to it, started studying again, went to finishing school, from there to Brussels to Protocol School and I was the first woman to have a degree in this region and I wrote books. I got more and more involved in the etiquette world.
How important is etiquette and good manners in today’s society?
It is the top priority. Unfortunately we’re seeing a lot of things, and keeping good manners at all times is a must.
What do you think defines good manners?
Politeness, being kind, doing things the proper way, treating people as you wish to be treated yourself. Kindness doesn’t cost anything, but rudeness might cost you everything so it’s not really very difficult to be good mannered. It’s something you have to teach your kids from early morning, and the juts do it.
Tell us a little bit about your book Travel Etiquette.
That’s my first baby and I love it, it’s a very cute book. Being a frequent traveller I see lots of things on board, at the airport, so I thought ‘I can’t handle this anymore, I have to tell them one way or another ‘please don’t do this, don’t do that’. It was my first experience, I wanted to be light so I created a character, it was a cartoon character called Ms B. Ms B is basically me in that character, who tells people how to behave properly. She’s fun and the book was all about travel from the moment you start to travel up to the destination, so it was done in a light way and it was well received.
What are the three tips you always follow?
Be friendly, polite, but always professional.
Who would you say is your professional mentor?
I can’t say that I have one, but I’m always impressed with anybody successful, anybody polite, anybody well-behaved even if it’s a child.
What do you still want to achieve?
I think I would like to see my etiquette school in the Gulf region.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
What would you tell yourself 10 years from now?
I will tell Balsam that you’ve done a lot and it’s time to chill out.
Complete this sentence: I’m happy when…
I see positive results in whatever I’m doing.
Describe your personal style?
Classic and chic.
What do you say ‘no’ to?
Anything that bothers me, anything that is not genuine.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Becoming by Michelle Obama.
How do you want the world to remember you?
As a special lady.