“Even in front of other peo­ple, Is­raelis tell their man­ager that some­thing is wrong”


Born in Tel Aviv, 42-yearold Os­nat Laut­man Man­soor stud­ied in Is­rael and the US. Part Ger­man, part Brazil­ian, Man­soor was shocked when her boss at an in­ter­na­tional US com­pany told her that she didn’t like her. Man­soor re­al­ized that she had made a lot of what she calls “cul­tural mis­takes”. This mo­ti­vated her to “ex­plore the topic of cross-cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion”. Re­search­ing her book Is­raeli Busi­ness Cul­ture: Build­ing Ef­fec­tive Busi­ness Re­la­tion­ships with Is­raelis (see page 32), she in­ter­viewed more than 100 peo­ple from all over the world, ask­ing them to share their ex­pe­ri­ences of work­ing with Is­raelis.

Can you sum up Is­raeli busi­ness cul­ture?

In my book, I have a model in which I use “IS­RAELI” as an acro­nym. Each let­ter rep­re­sents a word for an Is­raeli char­ac­ter­is­tic: I is for “in­for­mal”; S is for “straight­for­ward”; R is for “risk-tak­ing”; A is for “am­bi­tious”; E is for “en­tre­pre­neur­ial”; L is for “loud”; I is for “im­pro­vi­sa­tional”.

Ev­ery­thing in cross-cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion is about a spec­trum, and it de­pends where you are on this line. Be­ing straight­for­ward, Is­raelis are at one end of the spec­trum. At the other end are the Chi­nese, Ja­panese and In­di­ans. Even in front of other peo­ple, Is­raelis tell their man­ager that some­thing is wrong. There is a lot of emo­tion, too. When we look at the spec­trum, Ger­mans are right next to Is­raelis, mean­ing that Ger­man peo­ple also speak a very straight lan­guage. They are very di­rect com­pared to Bri­tish peo­ple or Amer­i­cans. But are there also dif­fer­ences be­tween Is­raelis and Ger­mans?

Even though both of them are di­rect, Ger­man peo­ple are very or­ga­nized. They are much more diplo­matic, even though di­rect. While Is­raelis are very pas­sion­ate and use a lot of emo­tion, Ger­mans don’t. This is why Is­raelis sound much more di­rect than Ger­mans.

How im­por­tant are trust and per­sonal re­la­tion­ships in busi­ness?

There is a spec­trum that ranks peo­ple as be­ing task-ori­ented or re­la­tion­ship-ori­ented, which con­cerns build­ing trust. At one end of the spec­trum are Amer­i­cans, who are very tasko­ri­ented. Is­raelis are much more re­la­tion­ship-based. This means that in Is­rael, re­la­tion­ships are the most im­por­tant thing: “I’ll do busi­ness with you be­cause I like you.” You can have a won­der­ful prod­uct, but if I don’t trust you per­son­ally, then I’m not go­ing to do busi­ness with you.

And it’s dif­fer­ent again work­ing with Bri­tish busi­ness peo­ple?

When work­ing with Bri­tish peo­ple, you need to learn how to read “the map” — in a way, you need to look for spe­cific words, dates and peo­ple. If it’s just “It’s been nice talk­ing to you” or “Let’s talk in the fu­ture”, that means: “There is no fu­ture.” You re­ally need to hear that “It was won­der­ful” and “Let’s sched­ule an­other meet­ing” on this date with this per­son. You need specifics — oth­er­wise, they’re just be­ing nice.

Os­nat Laut­man Man­soor

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