Back in the days

I clearly remember working in my very first DDP (distributed development project) back in 2004. It was a strategic, XXL, mission-critical new breed of application that laid the path for Composites at SAP. That was in the early days of SAP NetWeaver and as such we brought together a diverse bunch of people to make it happen. We had people from the US, Germany, India and Israel on our roster. It surely was an ambitious goal resulting in a very busy time, yet also very rewarding and interesting at the same time. Looking back now, I tend to think that it also started my thinking about cultural awareness….

One of the things I clearly remember are the great discussions and conversations I had with some genuine colleagues from the NW Advisory Office: Amit, Nir, Avi, Itai… as we spend quite some time togther being locked up in our war room – sooner or later we exchanged more than just professional topics. At one point the time the question came up when I would come to see Israel…

It’s been my first time working with Israelis and the way I got to take them was as very analytical, passionate, motivated and straight-foward people. All characteristics I appreciate a lot and feel comfortable with. So, my answer was that I would love to do that, yet a feeling of insecurity would be there. Ouch…

They were gentle on me and kindly switched topic. Yet, a day later I got the following email and it gave me great insight. I think, such a guide for all involved regions and cultures in every DDP would surely help. Sure, it’s only a guidance and some sense for international socialising is still required. Yet, coming from an Israeli it sure helps you in setting a playing field.

So, here is – Thanks again to Amit for re-sending it!!!

Tips for establishing effective relationships and communication with people from Israel

Present ideas clearly and concisely, getting right to the point and using clear logic. Expect to be cut off regularly during a presentation. Israelis prefer to ask questions and discuss issues immediately rather than wait until the end of a presentation, and it is best to pause and respond to them. Be prepared with plenty of supporting facts to support your position. Keep presentations shorter than what you may normally give to allow for questioning and side discussions.

Israelis are generally fond of debate and will typically discuss any topic very passionately, and visitors are often taken back by the tone or loudness of the discussion. In most cases, this passionate expression should not be mistaken for anger, but viewed rather as a culturally appropriate form of expression.

It is best not to bring up politics in Israel, but if the topic arises, listen, be respectful, and avoid antagonistic responses. Be sensitive to the fact that most people have experienced some tragedy related to the political conflict in Israel. Safer topics of conversation are travel and popular sports such as swimming, soccer (which is called football) and basketball. It is appropriate to discuss your personal life in conversation but try to limit the details to general information. Polite inquiry about the family of your Israeli counterpart, however, shows an interest and is generally welcomed.
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  1. Luis Felipe Lanz
    Hi Matthias,

    Just reading this post my mind goes back in the time till 2005, the first time i’ve the chance to work with our colleagues there.

    Then, the business dynamic give me the chance to visit 3 times the SAP Labs in Israel (Ra’anana), and i’m so glad to be there very soon again.

    The experience become complete when you move your body to Israel, beside the insecurity image you have by the News Media, you will see a different country with a nice and professional people in a lovely and safe place.

    It will broke all your paradigm about the Middle East and as well as working with German Colleagues, the chance to be in the site, working together, face to face make very effective your work and you get fastest results than do it remotelly.

    If you want my personal recommendation, take a plane as soon as you can and visit them, you will never forget that experience!

    Kindest Regards from Madrid,

  2. Paul Hardy
    I worked for two years in Tel Aviv on an SAP project and it was great. it also taught me not to trust the worlds’ press as when I was there I found that all the news stories were wildy exaggarated.
    You soon get used to all the arguing and loud shouting and learn to realise that it is not real anger. That article if right about presentations, no-one pays attention in the way you might be used to, and being remotely on time to a meeting is not considered important either. A big plus is the dress code i.e. no suits, jeans and t-shirt is the go.
    The project was a huge success, and this I think is in part to the willingness of people in Israel to try new things, especially when it comes to the latest technology. For example in a company car you did not have to go in to the service station and pay, a sensor in the fuel pump reads the chip in your fuel tank and then bills your company. And this was in 1999.
    There was none of the resistance I have found in the UK or Australia where the end users want to stay with the old system. It is the opposite in Israel, the end users desperately want to be using the latest technology so the new system is welcomed with open arms.
    I agree with the other post, if you get a chance to work there, jump at it.

    Cheersy Cheers


  3. Natascha Thomson
    Thanks for sharing. I was not aware of all this information and it would be great to get advice on “more nations”. I am originally from Germany but have been in the US for a long time – should I write a blog about what Germans should know about Americans and vice versa?
    1. Matthias Steiner Post author
      Hey Natascha,

      I usually answer “YES” to the question “should I blog about it?” 🙂

      I’d be interested in reading that – so you already have one reader right here 🙂



      PS: Karin and Paul – thanks for your comments!

      1. Laure Cetin
        Interesting blog, thank you. I am always eager to learn about cultural differences and hear about personal experiences.
        Natascha: Do we have a deal? If you blog about your own experience, then I’ll blog about mine (a French person who grew up in a region sometimes considered part of Germany, who lived and worked in Germany for three years, and now lives and works in the US)
        We can make this part of a series with Matthias 🙂
        1. Matthias Steiner Post author
          Hi Laure and Natascha,

          sure, I’d love to have a series… I could add my personal experience as being from Austria and inter-acting with Germans – LOL 🙂

          Let’s add them to the Cultural Cue Cards Marylin pointed us to…

          Looking forward to reading your blogs 🙂

  4. Marilyn Pratt
    This has been a topic near and dear for many years.  My husband and I did a series of sensitivity trainings in the US to Israeli culture for participants in youth programs.  We also hosted an exchange student from Japan 2 years ago for the year, and my own daughter last year spent the year in Panama.
    These experiences prompted me to create: Culture Cue Cards
    Please do fill the wiki with an “Israeli” cue card and note that the “German” one is blank (Natascha) . Thanks so much for this important content.  More of this understanding is necessary in our Global Economy
    1. Matthias Steiner Post author
      Hey Natascha,

      I’m just flattered to see you picking up and I’d be soo happy to see more cue cards. Knowing that I did my little part to see something taking shape here is giving me thrills. Thanks so much…


      PS: Keep’em comin’ 😉

  5. Michelle Crapo
    I read it and forwarded the link to my colleague / friend  in Israel.    I was wondering if it was good advice.   I often wonder about my American – ness after our talks.  While speaking with him, I honestly don’t even notice I’m working with someone from a different culture.   Maybe that is a bad thing.

    Stay tuned,


      1. Michelle Crapo
        He hadn’t read your blog when I talked with him.  He laughed – in a nice way – then he said that there were a LOT of differences in the cultures.   But he was too nice to go into them.   Hopefully I’ll get to see him in person, and ask him then.


  6. Hyung Jin Youn
    I am also working with an Israeli and experienced the same situation as mentioned above. I became abit of defensive when I got a prompt and loud response at first time, but once you get used to it, It’s not a problem in accepting it naturally
    thanks for posting blog


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