Business culture in Israel is diverse with surprising contrasts between warm hospitality, direct no-nonsense business approaches, aggressive negotiations and slow-paced meetings. Expats doing business in Israel should feel at ease in the casual culture, but should nevertheless prepare to be flexible and patient.
Israel ranked 35th out of 190 economies in The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, performing especially well in the categories of paying taxes (13th), protecting minority investors (16th) and starting a business (28th). However, the country fell short in areas such as getting electricity (83rd) and enforcing contracts (85th).
Important industries in Israel include technology and communications, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and tourism.
Typical office hours are 8.30am to 5pm from Sunday to Thursday, while many businesses also operate on Friday mornings.
International business is conducted in English, while local business is more often conducted in Hebrew.
Business casual is common in most jobs, although women should avoid wearing revealing clothing, especially if they work with religious colleagues.
Business associates usually greet by shaking hands. Expats should note that religious associates don't usually shake hands with members of the opposite sex. Business cards may be exchanged for convenience, often at the end of an introductory meeting. It is appropriate to have them printed in English.
Companies typically send gifts to their customers at holiday times. The holidays include Passover in the early spring and Rosh Hashanah in early autumn. Champagne or flowers may be appropriate after closing a large deal.
Israeli business culture is generally egalitarian and women are treated as equals. Despite this, Israel has a high gender wage gap and women tend to earn less than their male counterparts.
Israel is a young country with few natural resources and it frequently faces adverse conditions. These factors play into its business environment. Known as the 'Start-Up Nation', Israeli business is pervaded by technology and innovation. Israelis prize intelligence and creativity and show respect for experts and prominent specialists in their field.
Israelis are direct, assertive and persistent. Business can feel both informal and fast-paced and it is often conducted with an inherent urgency. At the same time, personal connections are of the utmost importance. Colleagues and business partners take time to get to know one another, socialise and drink coffee together.
Egalitarian work structure
The management style in Israel is often collaborative, and hierarchy isn't always strongly enforced. Israelis are interested in solutions and results, and everyone is given the opportunity to voice their opinion. The culture places an enormous emphasis on hospitality and Israelis will make an effort to be accommodating to other cultures.
When working with religious colleagues, it is important to be aware that they will not be available on the Sabbath (sundown on Friday until Saturday evening). It is customary to ask if there are special requirements when serving food or drink, as some Israelis observe the dietary laws of Kashrut.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Israel
Do be prepared to offer drinks when hosting a meeting and prepare snacks when hosting long meetings
Do respect diversity and individual opinions. Avoid politics in general conversation, as well as vocalising generalisations about Israel's culture and people.
Do be prepared for everything to be negotiable and be assertive
Don't offer to shake hands with a religious person of the opposite sex
Don't be surprised by sudden changes in plans
Do make polite conversation and be friendly, flexible and accommodating
Are you an expat living in Israel?
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