Israel Customs – To Tip or Not and Cultural Knowhow’s!
Israel is a liberal country, and yet sometimes awkward situations develop because one is not aware of the customs and traditions observed over here. Now, who would really take a stock of a nation’s mores before visiting it? That’s what friends are for, and if for instance you do not know anybody over here, you should try to find a bit about Israeli customs from online resources like this blog post before visiting.
It would definitely help in averting unwanted situations.
Israel Customs – Tipping in Restaurants
I have witnessed a couple of awkward situations myself where visitors had offended the waiter and vice-versa by leaving a tip which is seen as way down below average over here, and hence seen as a mark of displeasure. The general tipping rule is between 10% and 15% of the actual bill, with 12% being the average.
It is better not to pay anything rather than tip something which is seen as ungracious. And the waiters expect cash, preferably in Israeli currency, Shekels, so it is always good to carry a bit of loose change in your pocket for such encounters.
Israel Customs – The Local Color
Miranda, a colleague of my cousin from London was shocked because she was prevented from visiting a mosque in the Old City, Jerusalem as she was wearing a tank top.
You can wear anything you like over here, but you must keep your legs and shoulders covered, if you are visiting a sacred place. If it’s a synagogue/mosque that you are visiting, then you must also keep your head covered.
A traditional Jewish lady is not expected to shake hands with a stranger. Apart from this, a handshake is very much part of the tradition over here. If you are sitting in a room with others, and a woman enters, then all may stand up as a mark of respect. But this is mostly in homes where you are invited, or in traditional places. Hotel lounges or restaurant foyers don’t necessarily follow this custom.
Israel Customs – Shopping and Meetings
Israelis love to talk, and bargaining is part of our existence. If you are buying anything from the traditional markets, then expect a solid round of bargaining before you can get your hands on your chosen item. Don’t get irritated, and don’t feel frightened.
In fact, you may gain an admirer, and a friend in the shopkeeper, if you manage to drive a hard bargain. It’s seen as a skill, and treated with respect.
If you have a business meeting, be on time. Punctuality is a norm, and expect informal talks to open the meeting. It is always a good idea to schedule your meeting a couple of days in advance. In the case of high ranking officials, it would take even more time.
When I signed the lease on my apartment, myself, the landlord, my realtor, and the lawyer were all sitting in the lawyers office. For a few minutes everyone caught up on old times without even a mention of business. It creates a friendly environment and I’ve seen how it can make doing business easier.
Israel Customs – Gifts
Gifts are given and received over here as long as they are not too costly. You should not spend more than 20 dollars, if you want to gift your local business acquaintance. Flowers come in handy, as they cannot be seen as a bribe.
While these are just some basic Israel customs, they’re important and they go a long way. Be sure to check back for in-depth guides. And if you have a chance to check out more Jerusalem, be sure to read my article here about Discovering the Treasures of Jerusalem.