Many years ago, when I first started working, I was given this little nugget of advice, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
Even when you are speaking on the phone, smile. Your smile will be conveyed through the phone and the person speaking to you will hear it and respond in kind.
I’ve noticed, the happier the people around me are, the happier I am.
What really drove (haha) this point home, is my regular morning bus driver.
Every single morning when I get on the bus, he greets each and every passenger with a boker tov (good morning) and nisiyah tov (good travels). On a Sunday morning he adds the greeting sh’vua tov (good week). On a Thursday he wishes everyone a Shabbat shalom before they get off the bus. At the beginning of the month he will add chodesh tov (good month) too. He is always smiling, laughing, having a conversation with the passengers seated near him. He never gets upset at the traffic/other drivers and he plays an awesomely eclectic collection of music.
I tend to start my day with a smile on my face and a spring in my step and it is directly attributed to the awesomeness that is my morning bus ride.
On the odd occasion I take an earlier bus, the driver is usually quiet, mostly polite and will only greet me if I greet him first. My mood for the morning is definitely not as bouncy as usual.
So, when those mornings happen, I try to be the one with the smile, the happy greetings, the effervescent bounce and hopefully my mood will rub off on everyone around me.
Israelis have a bad rep as being very rude and abrupt people.
While we have encountered a few genuinely rude people (of which every country has their fair share), in general we have found Israelis to be friendly and helpful and a fun loving bunch.
I think the problem is, that what people perceive as rude, is actually a dislike of bullshit. Israelis are direct and to the point. Ask a question and you get an answer not a whole story to go with it.
As in any country where the language is not your own, if you immediately start gabbing on without at least trying to make an effort to speak the native tongue then sure, the person you are talking to is going to be a bit rude, you’re not speaking their language! That being said, I always attempt to speak a bit of Hebrew first, followed up with the Hebrew for ‘I don’t speak Hebrew, do you speak English?’*and the vast majority of people will switch to English. They usually apologise for their own lack of English and then we have a conversation. Some of these conversations have been the best ones I’ve had with Israelis. People are naturally curious creatures, they want to know why I am in Israel, what made me decide to come here, how long have I been here, where do I live, can they help me in any way at all? Yes, you read that right, can they help me in any way? Perfect strangers offering to help me beyond the small slice of time we are occupying at the moment. Rude? I think not.
Something that has taken me a while to get used to is getting on the bus. You all stand around waiting, the bus arrives, the driver randomly stops the bus a few metres up or down the road from the stop, you jog to catch up to him and then everyone just piles into the bus, no line, no waiting for the lady with a half dozen packets or the soldier who looks dead on his feet. You just climb on board all willy nilly. So yup, there’s a little rudeness for you. I no longer stand at the back waiting for my turn, I jump in just like everyone else.
Something that has totally blown me away though is the utter acceptance by the parents of the kids Faith and Aaron go to school with. I lost count of how many phone calls and text messages I received in the first few weeks the kids were at school. Not only inviting the kids to play dates but just to say hello and offering any help they could give. The parents are always happy to have the kids come over to them and to help us translate messages from the schools. Aaron has a class trip this week and the parents need to get there by car (kids are going on the bus) and since we don’t have a car one of the parents has offered to take Paul with them. The most amazing part is that nothing is expected in return. When we mention that we have no furniture and the kids games and toys are not here yet they immediately reassure us that its OK, their kids will come play at us eventually and for now our kids are more than welcome at them.
In my experience Israelis are outgoing, friendly people, if a little rough around the edges.
*I am starting to change this phrase to the more accurate, ‘I only speak a little Hebrew, do you speak English?’