As any English speaker will tell you, life in Israel is usually quite a change from the way things were run in the old country, whether England, Canada, South Africa, the US or any other country that is considered “anglo” by Israelis. You may be working on the bureaucracy required to make aliyah, or understanding the communications industry in Israel, but most people will have to deal with something new on the road to becoming Israeli. Following are some ideas to keep in mind when things seem hard to understand in your new land.
New Olim are often awed by the typical picture of a bus driver, or other stranger holding a passenger’s baby as she folds up her carriage. It’s a beautiful sight, that highlights the feelings that we’re all in this together, like a family. But it can also point to another feeling that brings to mind a quote by George Burns namely, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” Be prepared for the advice, the suggestions, and the recommendations when you might least expect them, and try to appreciate that it comes from a good place, or at least believe that it does.
When dealing with Israelis in any sphere, from government offices to schools, to business, and personal interactions, it’s often important to understand that hearing no, and saying no, is often seen as the start of the negotiating process. No will almost always mean maybe, and maybe can very quickly become yes. If you hear yes, well, make sure to check that they understand what you’re talking about. Knowing the ropes of how to deal with requests and negotiations can help you navigate the process, but things may still not end up as planned. For more information on how to prepare for instances like this check out our earlier post Top 5 Headaches When Making Aliyah. In Israel, it’s always best to expect the unexpected.
From most of what we’ve touched on already, we can see communicating is a big part of the Israeli culture and experience. Reserved is not one of the words that would often be used to describe the Israeli persona. So it would make sense that communication technology is of prime interest in the “start-up nation”. Keeping up with Israelis at work and at home will require some hardware and software, and knowing how to use it. One popular app that should come standard with any Israeli cell phone number is WhatsApp. There are many other messaging apps of course, and ways to communicate, but whether it’s parent groups, resources for olim, cooking groups, or groups to sell or swap, just to name a few Israelis love to discuss their opinions, options, and interests in groups. In order to keep up, be sure to get your cell phone service up and running so you don’t miss out. TCS – Telecom will be happy to help, and best of all no adjustments necessary. TCS is made by anglos for anglos and will understand where you’re coming from and help you connect to where you’re going.
And the game is the Israeli way of life. Whether it’s developing your language, negotiating skills, or job skills, rules tend to be a little more open to interpretation in Israel. This comes out in school when children are given free rein of the grounds starting in the earliest grades, call teachers by their first names, and seem to grow up just a little bit faster, whether you’re ready or not. The ability to work with what you have is part of everyday life, whether it’s school, work, or at the local playground. This freedom of thought and action no doubt contributes to the start-up mentality, so open your mind and be ready to think and work outside any box you’ve known before.
With such variability and the changes that bring, as one can imagine independence in thought and action are not only qualities that are praised, but they seem to be part of the DNA. More than a few building contractors and handymen have confirmed that every apartment, no matter how similar it seems to the one next door, likely has some changes in its structure and measurements from the others. Rules and regulations often appear to be suggestions, and beaurocratic officials, or any gatekeeper, can often hold the power to work with you or against you in any situation. This can be of concern for anglos, new to the system, and generally used to rules and expectations that dictate how things will progress in the average interaction, but you’d be surprised how often this can work out to your benefit. In the next paragraph, we’ll discuss how.
Ulpans in Israel are an amazing resource that help olim with the tools necessary to learn Hebrew, but as everyone knows there is a lot more to communication than the words, and Israelis have a language all their own. But how do you use this to your benefit when the government official holding up the papers you need, or the customer service representative seems annoyed by your questions. Starting with a friendly approach, rather than the service-oriented expectations anglos often bring from ‘home’, can help grease the wheels of many interactions. Friendly compliments about a nice sweater or a picture on the desk, or asking how the person on the other end of the line is doing with lockdown, may seem forward to anglo sensibilities, but it is the norm where housing prices and salaries are often open for discussion. Let them know you can use their help in this situation, and listen to what they suggest. While these are always good ways to interact, anglos used to the formal efficiency of service-related interactions abroad don’t always think to start with these approaches. And although speaking Israeli is a helpful skill, for those who aren’t quite up to speed, or just want a taste of home TCS Telecom created by anglos for anglos has the customer service that can offer a smoother ride in at least one area of Israeli life.
One thing that seems to come as a shock to many families, whether they come with children, or have a family of sabras, is the idea that kids brought up in Israel, will ultimately be Israeli. Whether that means a large dose of independence, a knack for voicing their opinions, the ability to find an innovative interpretation to any rule, regulation, or law, or the ability to negotiate with the best of them, these traits will be passed on to your children, whether parents realize it or not. They may learn how to “speak anglo” with the customary “please” and “thank you”, but once they return to Hebrew, the straightforward Israeli style will come out in full force. Negotiations for bedtime or treats may go differently than expected, but parents can rest easy in these situations that their little Israelis are just adopting the language and culture of their home.
What are some of the things you wish you knew before making Aliyah? Let us know in the comments section below and help others as they learn the ropes as new olim.