Observations: Israeli Business Culture
This summer I am interning for FlowMed, a startup in Haifa, Israel. The business culture in Israel is very different from the United States. Below is a list of the things that have stood out the most for me in my time in Israel so far:
1. The work week is different
I had to redefine my notion of weekend. Whereas in America our weekend starts after work on Friday and includes Saturday and Sunday. In Israel the weekend
is Friday and Saturday and begins Thursday after work. The Israeli weekend is laid out as such because it is based around Shabbat. Despite my attempts to
fully embrace my new weekend, I am not completely satisfied.
As a Reform Jew used to the hustle & bustle of New York City, it is difficult to acclimate to a few things; due to Shabbat most public transportation
comes to a screeching halt around 3pm on Friday and doesn’t start back up again until late Saturday night. Following in accordance are most stores and
shops. At times this can feel frustrating and restraining. Furthermore, the work week now starts for me on a Sunday, which creates an internal conflict. I am not going to lie, the bizarreness of going into work on a Sunday still hasn’t worn off
2. Internships are not a thing in Israel
Unlike back home where it seems like getting an internship can make or break your career, internships are not common in Israel. However, since internships
are rare, the experience is far more valuable. In my time at FlowMed, I have been given tasks that actually contribute to the success of the startup. My
responsibilities are significant and challenge me to learn and grow.
3. Hierarchy does not extend beyond a label
The great thing about working in Israel is that hierarchy in the workplace is not oppressive. I, as an intern, speak directly with my CEO. This
unfortunately is a foreign concept in the States. Aside from reporting directly to my CEO, he speaks to me as though I am an esteemed colleague of his. I
am not spoken down to nor am I cast aside because of my position as intern. I have been welcomed as part of the team. I am approached for my input on
decisions and my word has a lot of weight. It is truly a unique experience and I am far more invested in my work because of it.
4. Business Formal is not normal
To be quite blunt, since arriving in the Holy land, I have seen more people in suits at the Kotel than in offices. It’s just not part of the business
culture. Business casual is the appropriate attire for working in Israel, although sometimes that too can be a bit over dressed.