The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos – A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z: ISRAEL
Most Israelis speak at a much closer distance than North Americans may be accustomed to so do not move away.
There is also more physical contact, and conversations often involve gestures and touching. Nevertheless, women business travelers should avoid initiating physical contact.
The standard greeting is “Shalom” or a cordial “Hello”, followed by a handshake.
Observant Orthodox Jewish men, whose appearance is usually distinguished by their skullcaps (yarmulkes) or hats and black clothing, do not shake hands with women.
If an Israeli holds your hand, take it graciously as a gesture of friendship.
For Israelis, constant gesturing is acceptable. But pointing is considered rude.
Refrain from any gesture that requires you to extend the thumb, as this is considered offensive (i.e. “thumbs up”/“thumbs down” signs, the hitchhiker’s signal, etc.).
Business cards are considered important, and should be printed in English. As an added touch, some visitors have the reverse side printed in Hebrew.
Given the diverse nature of the population, business practices may reflect North American, European, Russian, or other cultural influences.
Expect business to be straightforward and emphasize the “bottom line.”
In general, the pace of business is slower in Israel than in many places. You will have to exercise patience and tolerance.
Subjective feelings tend to form perceptions of the truth. Faith in the tenets of Judaism, including the conviction that the state must succeed, can also be a profound influence in thinking. Feelings and faith are supplemented by empirical evidence and other substantial facts.
Many Israelis tend to be confrontational and, at times, intensely emotional negotiators.
In the Israeli business culture, it usually takes a longer time to arrive at a final decision.
Israelis may delight in argument and tend to be opinionated. However, you don’t have to feel compelled to openly agree with what they say.
There is a tendency among Israelis to downplay their professional titles.
It’s likely that you will quickly be invited to move to a first-name basis in business.
The Jewish Holy Day, the Sabbath, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.
5 Key Topics or Gestures to Use in Conversation
- Family, however don’t mix with business
- Travel is always a good topic
- Politics (if you know what you are talking about)
- Sports – especially soccer, basketball and swimming
- Food and drinks
5 Key Topics or Gestures to Use in Conversation
- US aid in Israel
- Religion in general
- Israel and Palestine
- Sex and roles of the sexes
- Any controversial social issue in Israel
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Contact EMMY AWARD WINNER, Gayle Cotton for your next meeting or conference to help your business become more successful in today’s Global Business Marketplace. Gayle is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Training & Executive Coaching. She is the author of the book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communications’. She travels worldwide as a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Gayle’s vast experience living and working abroad will entertain and inspire any audience with her fresh, unique and humorous approach to Cross-Cultural Communications! Having worked with companies of all sizes and industries, including 50 Fortune 500 companies, Gayle has successfully helped them grow their businesses internationally. Success in the global business arena can only be accomplished with awareness of the various distinctions in communication styles, business strategies and approaches to cultural etiquette in different countries.
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