The Shmooze

Being Polite, All the Way to the Israeli Bank

By Nathan Burstein

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It pays to be polite, even in Israel.

Though not known for their sparkling manners, Israelis are finely attuned to matters of etiquette and make more money when they treat others well, according to a survey published September 14.

In a national study titled “Is It Worth It To Be Polite?” researchers from the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies found that the answer is yes: Good manners do indeed translate to a “substantial” increase in Israelis’ earnings. Drawing its conclusions from responses by 992 adult Israeli Jews, the institute rated respondents with a “politeness score,” calculating the number based on questions about driving habits, cell phone usage, foul language and other topics. Although the study stopped short of claiming a causal linkage between etiquette and income, it concluded that each 10% improvement in politeness is “associated” with a 5.8% increase in family earnings. The results, first reported by the Israeli business newspaper Globes, also identified the country’s more and less polite demographics, noting that women are better behaved than men and that the ultra-Orthodox act more considerately than less religious groups. In keeping with national stereotypes, the study found that native Israelis scored lower than their foreign-born compatriots.

Asked about encounters in their daily lives, Israelis rated each other no ruder than did respondents to a similar study conducted in the United States. Their interactions with government agencies were less pleasant, however, with 50% more Israelis than Americans complaining about rudeness at government offices.


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