Maybe I've just been thinking about phone numbers lately after, er, my own cell phone spent a night in the toilet (I have a new one now) but this is also one of those little things that struck me a lot after I moved to Israel.
In the US, telephone numbers have a very, very set format: (XXX) XXX-XXXX. This format is so rigid that US phone number forms can't handle an Israeli number. (In general, Americans seem confused by the concept of life outside the US.) When you tell someone your number in the US, you always pause after the first three digits and then say the final four. If my number were 123-4567, for example, I'd never dream of telling someone it was "twelve thirty-four five sixty seven."
In Israel, on the other hand, the number of digits in a phone number is in a state of basic flux. Most area codes are only one digit long, because, let's face it, we're pretty unlikely to ever need more than 9 major area codes in a country that could fit comfortably inside New Jersey. On the other hand, cell phones (somewhat inexplicably) come with their own two-digit area codes. In addition, certain phone providers come with two-digit area codes-- we originally got our phone number through HOT cable, so our home phone area code is "77" even though most landlines in our area start with "4." (When you dial area codes from within Israel, you always add a "0" at the start of the number.)
In theory, though, most phone numbers after the area code are seven digits long. (I say "in theory" because I'm pretty sure I've seen numbers of other lengths... eh, yiyeh beseder.) Israelis, though, never got the memo about three digits followed by four. I've seen numbers written like this: XXXXXXX, like this: XX-XX-XX-X, like this: XX-XXXXX, and in basically every other combination of clumps of letters. This really confused me at first, because Israelis WILL say their number as "twelve thirty-four five sixty seven," a possibility that boggled my American mind.
So anyway, if you need to ask your friend's telefone nayad (cell phone) number, be prepared. Oh, and if I had your telephone number, um... give me a call. Most of the numbers in my phone sank into the depths of our asla.
Btw, some useful Israeli phone etiquette:
To answer the phone, say "allo." If you don't pronounce the "h," "allo" is transformed into Hebrish. Nobody (that I know, at least) outside of a formal office says "shalom" when they pick up or hang up their phones. If the person on the other end of the line asks you who is speaking, do not answer the question. This would be Giving Away Information. Instead, play a game of Israeli phone etiquette chicken in both you and the person on the other end of the line ask who is speaking, eventually negotiating release of first names (never last names!) and reasons for calling. The proper way to say goodbye is "yallah bye," followed by more conversation, followed by insistence that you really have to go, followed by a little gossip, and finally closed with a resounding "yallah bye."
Oh, and all of the paragraph above is basically useless, because Israelis communicate primarily through text messaging-- "ess-em-ess-im"-- anyway.
Was anyone else surprised by Israeli phone etiquette? What did I miss?
My husband and I (and our cat Zeus) made aliyah to northern Israel in April, 2008. In Israel, we adopted two street kittens who have proceeded to make up for kittenhoods of deprivation by growing remarkably fat and shiny. In October of 2011, we welcomed our first daughter, Nitsah. Moving to a new country demands both a sense of wonder and a sense of humor. In this blog, I'll try to share both! DISCLAIMER: I actually can't tell you how to be Israeli, because I'm still working on it myself. But at least we can muddle towards Israeli-ness together!