Being Polite Earns You More Money in Israel

politeness means shaking handsThe Israeli business magazine Globes reports on a connection between high salaries and politeness:

Polite Israelis earn more

A JIMS survey found no correlation between education and politeness.

Yossi Nissan

A survey conducted among Israelis ahead of Yom Kippur has found that politeness pays. The survey entitled “Is it worth it to be Polite? Israel’s First National Survey of Politeness,” which was carried out by the Jerusalem Institute of Marketing Studies (JIMS), found that there is a correlation between the level of a person’s politeness and the level of their income. JIMS also investigated the connection between politeness and higher education as well as other attributes. The survey also thinks that this Yom Kippur, Israelis have much to ask forgiveness for.

The survey covered a representative sample of 992 adult Jewish Israelis. Questions tackled such topics as talking on cellular telephones in public, driving, attitudes to the elderly and people with disabilities, use of crude language, and more. Respondents were asked to discuss how they behaved in these areas and on the basis of their answers they were given a “politeness grade” on a scale of zero to 4.

The survey found that there is no correlation between higher education and the level of a person’s politeness and that it is also irrelevant whether a person is married or not and how many children they have. On the other hand, the survey found that the more polite a person is then the higher is their income. Each 10% that a person’s politeness grade rises is worth 5.8% more in the family’s income.

In every area the survey found that men are less polite than women, immigrants are more polite than native born Israelis, haredi (ultra-orthodox) Israelis are more polite than their religious, traditional and secular compatriots, and older people are more polite than young people.

The survey found that: 78% of Israelis always or frequently encountered people talking loudly in public on their cellular phone; 71% always or frequently found people driving aggressively or without caution, and 53% frequently heard crude language in public places.

The survey also compared its findings to a similar survey conducted in the US. 28% of Israelis said that they encountered discourteous behavior in public places compared with 19% in the US. However, the level of impoliteness encountered in stores and malls (31%), work (13%), at airports (13%) and in the neighborhood (9%) was similar or lower than the US findings.

Amir Mizroch of the Jerusalem Post responds on his blog: A Ministry of Manners and Politeness for Israel:

It’s just plain rude when you cut into my lane, put us both in mortal danger and then pretend not to notice me when I honk at you. Did nobody ever teach you that a safe distance between two cars is not an invitation to cut in line? Or that honking at the car in front of you the split second the traffic light turns green is not polite? It’s also not polite when you dart into a parking bay I am clearly waiting to enter, even as you see my car indicator lights flashing. It’s even worse to then walk away and pretend you didn’t see me.

Finally, I received this depressing comment on an old post, In Defense of Israeli “Rudeness.”

I agree with most of what’s been said above. I’ve been recently relocated to Tel Aviv and have been suffering some of the rudest behaviour one could ever imagine.
I like this country; it’s a fascinating piece of land, ( culturally, historically and politically ).
Nonetheless, I still do not understand why do people behave in such way; their geopolitical situation is by no means an excuse to such rude behaviour.
I get pushed off the line all the time, made fun at when I try to utter some words in Hebrew or made disrepectful jokes all the time ( even at stores when I’m trying to buy something); people are rude at the gym, on the beach, at the supermarket or in the shopping mall.
I’ve lived all over the world; Spaniards, Germans and North Americans were always nice and welcoming; even people going through very difficult situations ( Mozambique; Angola) were much nicer than what Israelis are.
There must be something very wrong with this country and I think that Israelis should make some sort of collective self-examination to understand why do they treat others that way.
I came here freewillingly wanting to have a good and interesing experience but after a few months in Tel Aviv, I just feel like wanting to move somewhere else.

I don’t believe there is much value in finger-pointing. The question is what can those of us living here do to change the situation. Besides, obviously, making sure that we are not part of the problem.

Are there any positive behaviors that we can highlight?  In downtown Washington DC, and I was afraid to cross the street. There are many bad driving patterns here  but my 9-year-old says people almost always stop to let him cross. In the same comment thread jjoe points out: “. . . . the amount of Hessed (good deeds) here is astounding – Israel has the highest rate of donations to charity, per capita, than any other country in the world and if you are in trouble, someone will rise to the occasion.”


What Defines Israeli Parenting?

Photo credit: blmurch


  1. I think that mothers are given much more respect and special treatment in Israel. I don’t even feel that I deserve all the special treatment I get. You are not supposed to wait in line at the pharmacy with a child under the age of three. The truth is, that my infant could wait for a couple hours, but not my 3.5 year old. I was once at the kupot cholim pharmacy where the wait can be a couple hours. There was a shaky old man with a cane right at the pharmacist’s window, but as soon as the pharmacist saw me enter the waiting room with my stroller she ushered my up the the counter ahead of the old man who could barely stand.

    On Friday my husband was in the “short line” at the grocery store and there was a very pregnant women there with a huge cart full of stuff and several kids in tow. In the US she wouldn’t have gotten away with that. People would be thinking, “why does she have so many kids, has she never heard of birth control?” or, “clearly she can’t handle another baby,” or they would think she was selfish for having so many children who use up valuable resources and space on this planet. The Israeli mentality, even among secular Jews, is totally different.

    A cab driver to my mom: How many kids do you have?
    mom: Two
    driver: (sarcastically) and a dog?
    mom: yes (chuckle)
    driver: Why only two? It’s good for the Jewish nation to have more children.

    This seems to be a common attitude in Israel. Israelis don’t feel burdened and bitter about a parent’s decision to have more than two or three kids. They are happy to help you get through a door, upstairs, etc. with a troop in tow. Mothers of large families in the US have to be so careful to keep perfect control of their children in public or they will get snide remarks. The OB/GYN of an orthodox friend of mine in the US asked her what she wanted to do about it when she got pregnant for something like the 6th time.

    • Yosefa, I know that wasn’t your point but someone else would have called the taxi driver rude for making a personal comment! I think it is true that behaviors that are common in other cultures would be considered rude here.

  2. Finally!!
    After 7 years here, I know so many polite Israelis that I absolutely refuse to let the rude ones off the hook by chalking up bad behavior to “Israeli chutzpa”.

    It’s the paradox of Israeli society – hundreds of thousands of people show up to get blood tests for a sick child with a rare bone marrow type, but just try getting off an elevator without getting shoved.
    People are by and large overwhelmingly kind if you need them to be – but a lot were simply not raised with any awareness of simple social etiquette.
    As miss manners says, it’s the height of rudeness to correct another person’s manners. The only way to win this war is to teach our kids to behave like civil human beings.

    • Lauren, I’ve wanted to get out of the car and complain to the driver who honks from behind when I am stopped at a crosswalk. Is reminding a stranger to strap in their child rude? (not correcting manners, but still).

      • UCH tell me about it!!
        You are right – there are some much less benign expressions of “social unawareness”… I think when it comes to issues of life and death, rudeness is besides the point.
        But I also doubt that anything I say is going to “educate” the idiot who honks at a crosswalk or doesn’t bother putting a seat belt on his kid.

  3. BookishIma says

    Israel has had some positive and successful public education campaigns – I don’t think any child of my generation doesn’t know Ki Chaval al Kol Tipah (water conservation). I think such campaigns could be used to address some common problems, like people failing to give up their seats to the elderly, disabled, or pregnant.

    On the other hand, so much of what visitors interpret as rude comes down to cultural norms. Israelis are a lot more direct. This means that cab drivers or passersby can make some comment, but also that you snap back and it’s not a big deal. Personally, I perceive American manners to be overly formal and somewhat insincere, though I recognize that this is a cultural perception and most people are genuinely intending to be kind.