I have spent hundreds and perhaps a thousand hours working with Japanese teams and Israeli teams who need to interact, generally around the introduction of new products into the Japanese market.
There are probably few cultures as different as the Israelis and the Japanese. And it would be fair to say that I could write 100 things that appear shocking to the Israelis . I have chosen the top four.
1) The Israelis engineering/development teams find it very challenging that the Japan based offices do not filter Japanese customer input. Every bit of input from the customer appears magnified and blown out of proportion. A minor flaw gets the attention of a revenue-impacting flaw. Thus, the Israeli feels a need to “push aside” the Japanese member of their company and “speak directly to the client.”
2) The Israelis observe that the Japanese buy the Israeli innovation, yet “whine” about the “inevitable” ugly process of introducing something very new. “They want the child, not the pregnancy”, which appears very “unfair”.
3) Israelis work as hard as the Japanese, and I dare say, sometimes harder. So the Israelis react very poorly to ceremonies of verbal abuse, which Japanese have known to deal out to the Israelis. Unlike the Americans and Canadians I have seen, the Israelis really cannot stomach verbal abuse, and many refuse to return after being thrashed.
4) I have observed several instances in which an Israeli was told by a local colleague “The Jews are such good businessmen; how is it that this product has so many bugs”. Needless to say, this ain’t the wisest thing to say, although it is not classical anti-Semitism encountered at times in many other places, like Eastern Europe.
Yet strangely, there are many things which are very similar in the two business cultures: very very hard work, an emphasis on commitment, more loyalty to the work place than to one’s career…..and lots of jokes about Americans.