Getting Jobs in Israel

By Eric Hammer

Moving overseas and especially to a country where you don't speak the language and the culture is quite different from what you're used to makes for a very difficult experience in finding a new job. Such is the case when trying to find jobs in Israel. The language is fairly unusual, being spoken only in Israel and in no other country and the culture, while somewhat European is fairly unique given the experiences that Israelis have had growing up. This means that you have to learn how to adapt.

Here are a few things to know about jobs in Israel which will also help you when you decide to move to another country with a fairly different culture and language than the one you grew up in.

Getting a Job Before You Get There Is Very Hard

The first thing to know about jobs in Israel or anywhere else in the world that you happen to want to move to is that getting a job before you get there is generally very difficult to do. That’s because, unless you've been transferred by a multi-national corporation, you're unlikely to be able to interview with a company over the phone and get a job. Most companies, especially in Israel prefer to meet you in person rather than hire you sight unseen.

You'll Need to Speak the Local Language

Most Israelis speak fairly good English and can generally understand what you have to say when you speak in your native language (if it's English). However, at the same time, even when they clearly speak fluent English, they prefer to speak in Hebrew. In the course of a day to day working environment, this becomes a very real issue since people want to be able to speak in their own language to you. As an immigrant to the country you then need to adapt to the local language and culture rather than demanding that it adapt to you.

The Army Creates a Built-In Network Immigrants Don't Have

Israelis have a very unusual culture born of the rather unique experiences that people born in that country go through. Israel is one of the very few democratic countries on the planet which requires all 18 year olds to enlist in the army or do national service (there are exceptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs, who can volunteer but are not required to do these things). This shared experience means that there tends to be a built in “old boy’s network” which comes from the shared experiences in the army. As someone new to the country, you won’t have that old boys network and will have to work harder to build your connections.

Independence Is Prized

Israeli soldiers are also taught to be very independent which means that Israelis as a whole tend to be much more independent and free thinking than many other people. This simple fact has led to Israel’s reputation as the so called “Start-Up Nation.” However, it also means that those who were not brought up in that culture tend to have a tougher time adapting to the Israeli work place since many other large companies in other countries tend to be much more hierarchical in nature.

Seemingly Rude, Really a Family

Israelis also have a reputation for being very much like their national fruit, known locally as a “sabra” and in English as the cactus fruit. The cactus fruit has a very prickly outside but a very sweet and soft inside. Israelis too have a reputation for being gruff and rude. However, once you get to know them, they tend to be some of the kindest, gentlest people you’ll ever meet. This is because Israel is again somewhat unique in the world as being the nation state of the Jews. This means that Israelis, especially those of the older generation tend to think of each other as family; and just like a family, they may fight with each other, but they ultimately still love each other.

The Culture Clash

This dichotomy of the Israeli culture means that many Americans, especially those from the Midwest and more laid back regions of the country have a tough time adapting when they take jobs in Israel. That’s because they find that they’re not used to the idea that a screaming match could ensue during a business meeting but that after the meeting is over, everyone could be the best of friends once again. While other country’s cultures may not be quite as unusual as Israel’s, this does mean that, like everything else, it’s important when looking for a job abroad that you adapt to the local culture. Or, to paraphrase an ancient saying, when in Israel, learn to do as the Israelis do.

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