You may have noticed as well – Israelis are touchy.
I am not only referring to their state of mind, but the “their-hand-on-you-body” kind.
They mean well, they just want to emphasize a point by touching you.
Personally, I like my space and only want to touch and be touched by people
a) I am close to and b) I like.
Unfortunately for me, Israel is filled with touchy people. While I am trying to keep my distance, they want to “enter my bloodstream” as they call it here.
It's an endless battle – the more reserved I become, the more curious is my environment.
Once I was cornered by a neighbor, who asked if I had a new boyfriend.
When I looked puzzled, he happily told me that they (the neighbors) discussed the fact that there was a new car in my personal parking. They came to the conclusion that it must be related to a new guy in my life. It never crossed their minds that I might have changed jobs and got therefore a different company car. When I gave neighbor-dear one of my non-answers, he looked peeved and snapped that I am too damn secretive. Touchy, touchy!
In my previous company, I had the pleasure to work with a nice Argentinean colleague. Being Latin American, he kept standing close to me – too close for my peace of mind. So I used to step back a bit, which led to him stepping forwards again. In order not to cross the whole length of the office building, I stepped slightly sideways, so we ended up full circle. It looked like we were dancing. He never had a clue.
In the USA and Western Europe, people get into overcrowded public transport and elevators, bending backwards (pun intended) to avoid body contact. Not so in this country. They not only lean against you, but also start a personal conversation, commenting on your appearance or the book or article you are reading. Once you bite (I counsel you never to do that!) they happily ask you questions such as: are you married, do you have kids, where do you live, what is your rent/mortgage and how much you make. If you refuse to answer, they are hurt.
So I solve it by rapidly firing all kind of questions at them. You see, it is a one-way street – they can ask you but you can’t ask them. They are touchy when it comes to their private sphere.
Don't be surprised when complete strangers or people you just met happily drape an arm around your shoulder, touch your arm, shoulder or hair and even hug you.
Employers are worse. Not that they touch you – the laws here are very strict and they know you can sue their pants off. No, they created something even more horrid: a Hugging Day.
Yes, really, that’s what it's called (and tax deductible). It’s their way of ensuring that their employees bond.
Now, I have nothing against bonds, as long as they are the equivalent of stocks, if you get my drift. I don’t see any reason to spend my free time with a whole bunch of people that I didn’t select to be my friends in the first place. Don’t get me wrong – I like my colleagues but I don’t want to spend my sparsely free time with them.
The day itself is a nightmare for a nerd like me – it consists of outdoorsy stuff. I like nature – I watch it a lot on National Geographic for which privilege I pay handsomely to the cable company anyway. So why should I rough it out, get sunburn and have to eat junk food? The planned activities are of the “let’s have fun together” kind: driving around in jeeps (not the way I want to spend my last hour on earth), karting (which is nice for kids under the age of 8), climbing through nets (what the hell is the point of that?!), shooting bows and arrows (hitting management isn’t allowed), sing along (I had my fill of music lessons, thank you very much) and walks, loooooong walks.
I didn’t like all the above when I was a kid and I didn’t acquire a taste for it since.
The head of my current company’s cultural committee is a tall, chubby and sweet guy who somehow made it his mission in life to drag me to one of those Hugging Things.
He cleverly asked me what would make me happy. I answered truthfully that I would like a day filled with a) fitness and b) Spa activities in a 4 to 5 star Spa resort with a state-of-the-art fitness center. He smiled, told me that it was too expensive for the company and guess what? Hugged me!