Every country and its people are unique in their own particular way, and Israel is no different. For a savvy businessman it helps to know the local flavor of etiquette so as to conduct themselves better and avoid most pitfalls.
While you will undoubtedly want to research Israel before you start to carry out any business there, these 5 tips should help make sure you know what to expect:
Dress formally for a good first impression
On the whole Israelis are known to be a bit less formal than some Western countries in terms of appropriate work-dress, but as a foreigner it is always best to err on the side of caution. Wearing a suit and tie or formal blouse and skirt for your first meeting is a good policy, and then as you start to become more familiar with the lay of the land you can relax your dress somewhat.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say
As a people Israelis are known for their direct and open communication – which is why you should do the same. Don’t couch your points in vague subtleties or understate them, as this could confuse your counterparts. Because of the open and frank communication it is also expected that you will mean exactly what you say and anything less many be interpreted as untrustworthy or dishonest.
Prepare Hebrew translations of key documents
Although English is widely-used in business dealings, Hebrew is the official language and it will go a long way if you have prepared Hebrew translations of important documents in advance. If nothing else it will lend to the appearance that you respect the local culture, which is definitely the right impression to make.
Shake hands in greeting – but observe religious taboos
It is common practice to shake hands in greeting – though normally only with the right hand as the left hand is considered unclean among some segments of the local population. Also some of the more religious counterparts that you’re dealing with may not shake hands with members of the opposite sex, so be aware of this taboo and react accordingly.
Prepare drinks and snacks for long meetings
Just as in any business culture it is appropriate for you to offer drinks when you’re hosting a meeting. Typically coffee, water, and perhaps some cold drinks would be appropriate. Additionally if the meeting is expected to be a long one you should also prepare a small selection of snacks.
As you can see there’s really nothing too outrageous or difficult about doing business in Israel. It would help to keep abreast of Israeli news, just in case the topic of conversation veers into current events, and so you know the latest on the political and financial front. That being said as a foreigner it would be best if you avoid initiating any political discussion.
At the end of the day as long as you’re respectful, honest, and follow through on any promises that you make – you should have little or no problems conducting business in Israel. It won’t take you long to figure out the lay of the land, and before you know it you’ll be used to the local business culture.