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Having worked in the Indo-Israel corridor for over 15 years, we find that most Israelis and Indians like and respect one another.
Many Israelis travel to India after their military service and spend a wonderful time here. However, the Israelis see a touristy side of India which is very different from working in corporate India. Indians, on the other hand, though they may not have been to Israel, have read so much about the technical prowess of the Israelis, that they look up to them. Inspite of this, when teams from the two countries start working with one another, they hit roadblocks.
A couple of cultural differences that lead to friction are:
1. Direct vs Indirect: Israelis tend to be very direct in their communication and say what they think; there are no hidden meanings; one doesn’t have to read between the lines. However, Indians tend to word their sentences carefully, they wouldn’t like to hurt the feelings of the other party, sometimes to the extent that they will not reply if they feel their answer is in the negative. This can create difficulties when cross-border teams work together – the Indians perceive the Israelis to be rude and aggressive whilst the Israelis feel the Indians are not telling them the truth. The solution is that both sides should be aware of this difference, and keep it in mind whilst interacting with the other.
2. Time perception:: When you talk to Indians about how their project is going, one of the typical responses is: “The Israelis are in such a hurry – they want everything done immediately”, whereas the Israelis would say: “The Indians don’t make quick decisions – they take their time and it’s frustrating working with them”.
This reflects two of Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, which are as follows:
a. Long term/Short term orientation: a.Most Indians tend to view every project as a long-term association; hence it means building up a relationship which improves the understanding between the two parties etc. On the other hand, it is perceived that the Israelis are more concerned about the work getting completed, as quickly as possible.
b. Direct vs Indirect: Indians follow hierarchy in organizations. Even companies that claim to have flat organizational structures, when compared to Israeli companies, are more hierarchical. This invariably results in decisions having to be approved by the manager before it goes out of the office, which results in delayed decision making.
You often need a mediator who understands the two sides; we at Meivia have played this role over the years. The role could be as simple as explaining to the Indian side why not to take offence over certain statements or on the other hand telling the Israelis to be less direct. Once the two sides tide over these differences, with or without a mediator, the projects tend to be extremely successful.