My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XV. Work Attitudes
As compared to work attitudes common in the dominant North-Western European and American cultures, with the Bedouins the pace of work seems slower and is interrupted with frequent breaks for a variety of reasons. Bashar explained: “Work should not be too stressful”. As a Bedouin one may take a break, sit with a visitor, do private errands or sleep, at any hour of the day, also during work. This flexibility of work and leisure time had direct impact on a friendship. I would enjoy the flexibility of coming to visit him at work – like many other friends of his. By contrast, he had difficulties with the notion that my working hours – which are mostly seeing clients – are inflexible and that I cannot leave my work in the middle, as he sometimes would do. Infrequently, I would wake him in the middle of the morning, and he would wake me late at night, because we did not expect the other to be asleep.
I found working days among the Palestinians to be much longer than common in the West. The garage functions seven days a week and Bashar remains most of his spare time – including nights and weekends – at the garage with the workers. He will leave a social event or get out of bed in the middle of the night in order to accommodate to people’s work-related expectations. Differently said, any social activity can be interrupted for work related issues. Therefore, on many occasions my encounters with Bashar – private visits, outside barbecue, or otherwise – ended abruptly, long before what I had expected, because work had to be done. He is never completely free. Bashar considers himself in this respect as extreme more than other Bedouins are; he believes that other Bedouins would take more time off than he does. Still, my impression was that in general the Bedouins stay more hours at their work than would be common in either Israel or the Netherlands.