Israeli Business Etiquette Tips


Israel is generally an informal country, even when it comes to business. Essentially, following western style conventions will do the trick, as long as you pay attention to local subtleties.

General Business Etiquette
  • It is useful to provide your host with an agenda and reconfirm pre-planned appointments since Israelis tend to multitask around their chaotic schedules.
  • Israeli business card etiquette is generally Euro-American; cards printed in English are routinely exchanged during meetings and informal get-togethers. Visitors shouldnote the titles of Israelis since frequently terms for management positions differ from American standards.
  • Sales brochures, corporate portfolios, meeting agendas, and other documentation including routine email communications should be in English, the core global business language in Israel. Presentations should also be composed and delivered in English.
  • Business hours are typically 9AM to 6PM Sundays through Thursdays. Fridays are normally reserved for private activities such as shopping and family activities, but Israelis will accommodate business activities during Friday mornings if necessary. Lunch hours are typically between 1pm to 3pm, and it is common to “meet over lunch” for business purposes.
  • Plan to be on time for scheduled business meetings and activities. Transportation can be problematic in certain areas due to heavy traffic. If you are late for a meeting, call and inform your host or schedule a different meeting.
  • Handshakes are routine with men as well as women, however if you are hosted by an Orthodox religious Jew, avoid physical contact with women.
  • Dry erase boards and presentation projectors are commonly used, but do inquire ahead to ensure that you have the visual aids you require for any presentations.
  • Cell phones are abundant in the Israeli business world, and it’s the norm for calls and visitors to be accepted during meetings. Be patient.
  • Women must make certain concessions to Orthodox Jews, who can normally be recognized by their black clothing and hats. Orthodox Jews will avoid touching women, even accidentally. When handing a business card, for example, a woman must lay it on a table rather than hand it straight to an Orthodox Jew.
  • September and October are crammed with Jewish holidays, so it may be a good idea to ensure that your trip is not scheduled on those off-days.
  • If your host is Muslim, during the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and work hours are shortened.

Dress in Israel

  • In most Israeli business environments casual dress or business-casual are the norm, inquire with your host. Israeli men will wear polo shirts, short or long-sleeved fabric shirts and cotton trousers or jeans, and women will wear dresses, skirtsand blouse-pant combinations.
  • For the first meeting, dress in the same manner that you would dress at home. Israelis expect foreign guests to dress in higher quality that reflects their country’s standard for high-end business-casual attire. You are different; make that statement to be respected for it. Dress down after your initial meeting if you wish.
  • In the banking, financial, legal and political sectors, day to day men’s wear consists mainly of jackets, open collared long sleeve shirts and slacks. Dress for formal events in this environment is mostly jacket and tie and suits are reserved for the most official and high-level venues. Female executives normally wear dresses and pant suits.
  • For women interacting with conservative or Orthodox Jews, or when visiting certain areas of Jerusalem, modest, non-revealing clothing should be worn, with elbow length sleeves and dresses that extend past the knees.

Negotiating in Israel

  • Invest resources in researching your Israeli partner. Make sure that language will not be a negotiation challenge. Communicate in an attempt to understand their needs and expectations.
  • Use empathy to your advantage. Limit the amount of de-motivating elements such as control and dictation, creative limitation and reduced significance, and make concessions on secondary issues that may be important to your Israeli counterparts.
  • During meetings, seating arrangements are not governed by cultural norms and are at the discretion of both visitor and host.
  • Agreements and contracts should typically be supervised by legal experts fluent in both language and international law.
  • During business discussions Israelis may get loud and argumentative. It is perfectly acceptable for you to behave in a similar manner. Don’t be surprised if an agreement is suddenly reached, but final decisions take time, so expect a few meetings to be held in the process.

General Guidelines in Israel

  • Addressing people by their first name is common and important for creation of a comfortable communicative atmosphere.
  • A friendly invitation for coffee or a soft drink can be expected as a meeting begins. If you are hosting the meeting, ask your guest if they would like something to drink.
  • If you are invited to lunch or dinner, make your preferences known. Israelis are sensitive to their guest’s culinary enjoyment and fulfillment.
  • If you host a business dinner, or visit a restaurant it is useful to find out ahead of time if your counterparts observe Kashrus. This would mean that they will not eat pork or certain kinds of seafood, and that they will not mix meat and dairy. An appropriate restaurant or menu should be selected accordingly.
  • Israelis do not strictly separate business and pleasure. Conversation will commonly gravitate to business even during social occasions.
  • Thank you letters are very much appreciated by Israelis who view them as “foreign graciousness”. Such letters can be effective. Business summaries and documentation should be sent separately.

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