I think that living in Israel is fantastic for my middot (character). Every time I start to feel self centred, I peer out my window at the 10 year old boy helping an old lady with her groceries. When I need a push to simplify, I take a walk through the alleyways of Beis Yisrael, where real people still live contently in miniature apartments built sometime in the late 1800's.
And, when I need a dose of humility, I need only to open my mouth and attempt to articulate myself to the nice-ish lady from the gas company who's becoming increasingly less nice by the minute as I try, for the third time, to explain that there is a flood in my boys' room because of a gaping hole that their technician left in my exterior wall. "Yesh mabul biglal chor" I say, "biglal hatechnai". "Nu?" Gas Lady responds. I'm so tempted to tell her that I really am intelligent in English but, thankfully, my wounded pride won't allow me to stoop that low.
But not all customer experiences in Israel were created equal and while humility certainly has it's place, the job of a consumer is to be his or her own advocate. We, as Anglos, can even the playing field in our favor by arming ourselves with information and a critical eye.
A very relevant example is cabinets - bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
You are about to shell out a sizable sum and you want to make sure that you get the most for your investment.
You can go into the store knowing that you "want something quality" and perhaps your neighbor even warned you to only buy "sandvich" OR you can walk in knowing the following:
Typically, the material used for construction of a cabinet carcase (body) in Israel is "sandvich" (known in the alter heim as "plywood") or "Sibit" (particle board).
Sandvich is an engineered wood product that is made of a sandwich (hence the name) of thin layers of wood. Each layer is laid with the grain running at 90 degrees to the layer below. The result is a strong and dimensionally stable material.
Particle board is a composite sheet material made by combining wood particles with glue and then heated and pressed into sheets.
Plywood is generally the preferred choice because it is more resistant to moisture (note: I did not say waterproof.) and it holds fasteners (nails, screws) better than particle board.
That said, within each category there is an entire range of qualities. Saying that a cabinet is made of sandvich gives as much information as saying that your sheets are made of cotton. Thread count? Fiber? Weave? Finish?
This is where many consumers are fooled. They hear "sandvich adom" and they're sold. Nowadays, almost all wood sheets are manufactured and imported from china so that the "sandvich" of today can't compare to the sandvich of 10 years ago.
You need to know if your wood is approved by the Israel standards authority (machon hatkanim) and if it's been sufficiently protected during transportation.
In addition, you can ask the carpenter to see a sample of his wood. A quality sheet of sandvich usually has at least 9 layers of ply. Also, if you see gaps and imperfections on the edge, you know that the wood is of lesser quality (though still usable).
The quality of sibbit is defined by the density of the particle chips and the quality of the glue.
As an aside, Sandvich is a good choice for a static application like the cabinet body but not for a door or drawer front which is constantly in motion. Doors are typically made of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and covered with laminate (formica) or veneer (forneer).
The most important information that you can get from any manufacturer or carpenter is 2 or 3 names of previous customers. Reputation and recommendations are critical. Do your due dilligence, make an informed choice, and then enjoy your new furniture!