Here is an in-depth look at understanding the business culture and customs in Israel. It is good to learn about the specific customs before arriving on your business trip to Israel in order to be well-prepared.
Dress code for doing business in Israel
In general, the dress code for business in Israel is very casual and there is no formal dress code for offices. Due to the extremely hot temperatures, most workers dress comfortably and wearing jeans to work is very common. Revealing clothing and beachwear is not acceptable in the workplace. It is also important to be mindful of religious observances which means dressing modestly.
Another thing to remember is that every office in Tel Aviv has the air conditioning on at all times, so while it may be hot outside, it is good to bring along a light sweater or jacket. No need to wear a suit and tie, but make sure you are still polished and put together and do not be surprised by the casual attire of business partners in Israel. The idea is to dress “business casual” for doing business in Israel.
Business Formalities in Israel
Arrive on time – but do not be surprised or frustrated if the meeting starts late. Meetings in Israel are much less formal and as such can sometimes have a 10-15 minute delay. It is very common to start late, however, it is still good practice to arrive on time.
Shaking hands – is common practice and a formal and polite way to greet each other when doing business in Israel. However, if you are interacting with a religious person, it is important to know that it is not permitted to shake hands with the opposite sex. Do not be offended and best to be aware of this custom.
Business communication – it is very common for Israelis to answer their cell phone and take calls during meetings. Do not be surprised or offended as this is a part of the culture. In general, you will see people speaking on cell phones at all times and in all areas like public transit and in restaurants and this is very common.
Business hours in Israel – the work week in Israel goes from Sunday to Thursday. Some businesses will be open on Friday mornings and some international companies will remain open on the weekends, but in general, people do not conduct business on Friday after sundown and Saturday as this is Shabbat. General business hours in Israel are from 8:30/9:00 am until 18:00 and the average person works a 9 hour day or 45 hour work week.
Business Language – International business is conducted mostly in English, although Hebrew is the national language. If possible, try to familiarize yourself with some basic expressions, or at least the pronunciation of Hebrew names of business associates.
Gift exchange – it is common practice among most companies in Israel to give gifts to customers and employees during the holidays. Most specifically Rosh Hashanah (usually in September) and Passover (March/April) it is appropriate to give gifts. If you are attending the home a business colleague, it is polite to bring a gift or gesture to the host such as flowers or wine. Always remember the rules about kashrut (kosher).
Religious observance – if you are working with somebody that is religious it is important to be respectful of their traditions. This includes not working on Shabbat and keeping kosher. In terms of gifts, if you are visiting a kosher home make sure bring kosher wine. When setting meetings, you can select restaurants that are kosher ensuring that everyone will be able to eat off the menu.
Finding your voice – business meetings in Israel can sometimes be very informal, and you will find that people will speak as they please rather than waiting their turn. If this is the case, do not be offended if people interrupt and be prepared to speak up in order to get your point across.
Keep your opinions private – it is best to keep your political, cultural and religious opinions to yourself and do not bring these ideas into business. Israel is a very diverse country with a lot of differing opinions, so if possible it is best not to make generalizations or assumptions.
Meeting in cafes – it is quite common to have a business meeting in an informal cafe over a cup of coffee. Do not be surprised if you are invited to a meeting in a cafe as this is quite common. On the same note, if you are invited for a casual drink or coffee after the meeting, this is because Israelis are warm and hospitable. It is good to take the invitation and enjoy the experience outside in a cafe or bar.
Networking for business in Israel
There are often meetups or networking events held in Tel Aviv and sometimes in Jerusalem for different industries. This is an excellent opportunity to meet, collaborate and network with potential partners. Take a look online to see if there are any meetup events as this is a great way to make connections in Israel.
Co-working Spaces in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is filled with co-working offices and many companies work in these work hubs. If you are looking to find a place to set up shop and get some work done while in Tel Aviv, read about co-working spaces in Tel Aviv.
Staying connected while doing business in Israel
Tel Aviv has wifi almost everywhere, from your business hotel to the beach so accessing wifi is easy. Many cafes offer free wifi and will let you work for hours while enjoying a coffee. Renting a SIM card and renting a phone is sometimes a suitable option that is cost effective.
Immerse yourself in the Israeli culture
Most importantly, when doing business in Israel, the best way to connect to the country is to experience the sights, sounds, and flavors that Israel has to offer. Tel Aviv has a world-renowned culinary scene, pristine beaches along the Mediterranean sea and world famous night-life.