The Do’s and Don’ts of Israeli Culture

We are always talking about the amazing sights to see in Israel, the food to eat, and the words you must know before you come to see this incredibly diverse country for yourself. These materials aim to give you a hand when comprehending how varied Israeli culture truly is, so when you finally visit the land of milk and honey not everything is a humongous surprise.

Hebrew vocabulary will improve your experience undoubtedly, but when you come to Israel you will be immersed in an entirely new culture. Therefore, in the lines to come you’ll have a glimpse of how Israelis think and act. Are you ready to receive some of the most useful advice for your next trip to Israel?

We are going to share a list of helpful tips about Israeli culture so that you can be sure to know what will flatter or offend a local.

Do’s

Here are some things we encourage you to do when you come to Israel. When meeting locals, you will want to practice these tips to make sure you are greeting them and interacting in the best way possible.

Do interact with the people you see. Israelis are not afraid to speak their mind, and not afraid to do anything really. When walking down the street, if an Israeli smiles or talks to you, this is just their way of acknowledging you and it is part of being a natively outgoing culture. It is polite to smile back or respond in a respectful way.

Do try and practice your Hebrew skills. Although a lot of people in Israel speak English, this is not true for all. If you know at least a little bit of Hebrew, try and use it as a way to communicate. If an Israeli replies in English don’t be offended, it’s just their way of making things easier on both of you because they know English. Don’t forget Israel is a country full of immigrants from all over the globe. Numerous Israeli citizens (or their ancestors) came to Israel from another country and -— just like you — didn’t know Hebrew at the very beginning.

Do ask for directions. You are in a new country surrounded by places you have never been to before, and sometimes that means directions can get really confusing. If someone is around, ask them! Israelis are happy to welcome tourists and will tell you the best way to get anywhere.

Do try food before you buy it. If the option is available, it is common for shoppers to want to try something before they buy it, specifically at the market (or the “shuk”). All of the products are usually laid out without any wrapping or cover, so if you want to try a fruit or a pastry, just ask! Even when getting cheese at the supermarket, you can ask the staff to try a piece, to make sure you’re making the right decision on food products. Make sure you try all of the best Israeli foods and specialties as often as you can because you will not want to miss out on all of the delicious flavors Israel has to offer.

Do fall in love, either with the city, with the breathtaking entrepreneurial scene, or with a gorgeous Israeli you’ll meet at one of the beautiful Israeli beaches. Living and creating your own rom-com in Israel is an experience one day you’ll share with your grandchildren. Don’t you think?

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Don’ts

Here are some things we recommend you think twice before doing when visiting Israel. You don’t want to run into trouble with any locals, so just be aware of the cultural differences when interacting with others.

Don’t be offended if a native Israeli uses a strong tone with you or seems like they are angry. Hebrew is a very tough-sounding language, and it makes local Israelis sound even tougher. There have been many stories where visitors become startled by the rudeness of locals, but the intention is not to be rude, Israelis just have a very straightforward culture. After what seems like an argument, an Israeli would probably invite you to their house for Shabbat dinner.

Don’t put your feet up on things. This one may seem quite odd, but it has been something that visitors usually have to learn the hard way. When on a bus or in a taxi, try not to put your feet up on any part of the car or the seat. Israelis can be quite particular about this, so you’ll want to make sure that you respect their space. The last thing you will want to deal with is an Israeli yelling at you for something you didn’t know was an issue!

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Israelis are very direct with what they say, and other cultures may not be used to this. If something makes you feel a certain way or you feel the need to say something to an Israeli, go for it. In the workplace, a restaurant, or even a store you should always feel comfortable requesting something that you need. Israelis know that their culture is different from others and that they are more outspoken so they will listen to you and appreciate that you are being straightforward with them too.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Whether it’s getting out of your comfort zone and taking a day trip or trying new food, don’t be afraid to explore! Israel is all about experiencing as much as you can in your time here, so don’t be afraid to do it. With all the different cities to go to, people to meet, and foods to try there is no way you will be disappointed with what Israel has to give.

Don’t greet people with a kiss. It is common for people in many other countries to welcome each other with hugs and one or two kisses on the cheek as a greeting, even if they have just met. In Israel, the setting is a bit more formal, so when you meet people, a simple handshake will do (although this may not be advised during an epidemic). If you are close with a friend or family member use the greetings you feel comfortable with, but otherwise, try and remember to use something a bit more proper when meeting a new person.

Don’t speak about religion or politics. Even though Israelis will have no problem speaking about these subjects, there are as many political postures as there are Israelis. If you speak about the career of some famous politician, be ready to receive both hugs and slaps. Keep in mind that Israelis speak their mind openly, are not ashamed of anything, and they will have no issue sharing their deepest thoughts and, on the way, try to convince you. Avoid conflicts, do not touch sensitive topics… at least in the very first minutes.

Dive into the Culture Even Further. Learn Hebrew.

Hopefully, these tips gave you an inside look as to what to do and what not to do in Israeli culture. When you actually visit Israel, you will discover more cultural differences and understand more do’s and don’ts as you go along.

If you want to make sure you are getting the best experience possible and to explore the Israeli culture even more, learn Hebrew today by signing up for our live, online Hebrew courses. Discover your potential, explore a new culture, and learn a new language by signing up today! You are one step closer to mastering the language of our matriarchs and patriarchs. Ready?

About the author

Rachel WeissRachel is a Content Marketer and a third-year Public Relations student in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Understanding the benefits another language can add to your life, Rachel is currently working toward becoming fluent in Spanish, and wishes for others to see how useful communicating in another language can be.

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