Nov 11, 2012

The beauty and the beast of living in Tel Aviv

Whether you’ve lived here for 15 years or are visiting for the week, Tel Aviv exudes a unique personality that is both gleefully intoxicating and unnervingly independent.  It is a hub of opportunity with a bubble of limited access.  It is a metropolitan epicenter and a little-big city.  A city that never sleeps and could be a country of its own.

There are pros and cons to every city, every town, every village in the world.  No one place is universally flawless or disastrous.  I’ve lived in Tel Aviv for two months now, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences from the light and the dark sides of my stay.

Israeli attitude:
Pro: This has more to do with Israel in general, but since Tel Aviv is such a busy city, I’m face-to-face with more each day.  Israelis are very blunt.  They say what the feel, whether good or bad.  There is no beating around the bush.  I’ve always fought off some stage fright just before I make a phone call for an interview (it always goes away once I begin), but living in Tel Aviv has helped my desire to pull a Forest Gump and run away before I ask an obvious question or ask for someone I don’t know on the phone.
Con: The concept of constructive criticism just doesn’t exist.  If you do something wrong, you’re going to know.  If you’re used to hearing something like, “I like the way you were taking this, but maybe try this direction instead,” get ready for, “That’s not what I want, do it again.”  As long as you have a tough skin, this doesn’t necessarily have to be such a bad thing.

Grocery shopping:
Pro: I live about 10 minutes from HaCarmel Market.  I love walking there and coming home with fresh produce hanging from bags on my arms, sometimes full from a 3 shekel mint-lemonade or carrot juice.  The culture of the large-scale marketplace is new to me; I couldn’t get that in my 100,000-person hometown in Florida.  I have a pita guy, a tomato guy and an onion guy.  To cook dinner each night, all I have to do is walk down the street and take my pick.
Con: If you get annoyed by large crowds walking at a snail’s pace, try to avoid the market on Fridays.  I usually can’t because that’s when the work week ends.  But that’s when everyone’s work week ends.  Get there early for the good produce, and expect to take longer than during the rest of the week.  It would be a great time to go watch everyone swarm the stands, but if you’re going to shop, expect to walk into a few carts when the person in front of you simply stops walking.

Pro: Well, it’s bacon.
Con: I don’t eat pork in the States.  It was my reminder of and connection to Israel and being Jewish.  However, since I’ve been here, I’ve ignored that concept.  Several people have told me it doesn’t matter because I live in Israel, so why do I need to prove to myself that I’m Jewish?  I guess not by whether or not I eat bacon.  And it tastes so good.

The new workweek:
Pro: Since we work Sunday through Thursday here, Monday is almost Humpday!  I have time to do my errands on Friday, which can be crowded, but it gives me all day Saturday to relax.  Even though I work the same number of days per week, it feels shorter.  The workplace is generally more informal, too.  You’re judged based on your work and your initiative instead of your attire and formality.
Con: Saturday is a weeknight.  That took some getting used to.  I usually only get up early on a Sunday morning to go to the beach or grill outside.  The weekend does feel shorter sometimes if Friday is taken up with rushing to get my errands done before Shabbat.

My living conditions:
Pro: I live on King George Street, about five minutes from Dizengoff Center.  I could not have asked for a more central location.  Anything I want is within stumbling distance or a short walk.  Feeling spontaneous?  I’ll stroll down the street after a coffee or bourekas for some shopping.  Or to Dizengoff Mall.  Or Shenkin Street.  Feeling low on funds after a spontaneous shopping trip?  I’ll swing by the six-shekel falafel stand for dinner.  Or any type of restaurant I may crave.  Feeling a lack of melanin?  The beach is calling and is only a 20-minute walk away.
Con: If you couldn’t tell from the previous description, I have no money.  But I live in a huge city, so that can be expected.  However, my daily rant usually involves pointing out that my window is facing King George.  To say it’s loud may be an understatement.  Every bus, every scooter, every car, every screaming drunk person walking home at night.  I tried to watch a video with a friend, and she asked if we could close the window so she could hear.  I though the bottom of her jaw might fall off when she realized the window was closed.  It’s just that loud.  My kitchen also consists of a sink and a hot plate that turns off when it gets too hot.  Needless to say, home-cooking has been interesting.  Vegetables and chicken are easy, but meals with multiple parts to cook must been done one at a time.
When dinner must be made using one hot plate, it's best to make it a potluck to involve multiple hot plates.
Like this!  You can manage a nice Rosh Hashanah meal with minimal cooking conditions.

So, yes, there are some cons to every pro.  And I’m sure I’m going to experience new comparisons in the coming months to add to this list.  However, I love Tel Aviv, and since you’re reading a blog about Tel Aviv, hopefully that means you love something about it, too.  The pros beat the cons, whether it’s food, work, people or living.  So keep it coming Tel Aviv; I’m ready.


  1. Interesting list! I must say I agree with and can relate to a lot of it. I'm just not sure if that's good or not...

  2. I was just commenting on having breakfast at Gilly's in Tel Aviv. It's probably the best around in the area. We always make it a point to go there whenever we are in town.

  3. Dear Kayla

    My name is Joe Pinzone and I'm casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We'd love to film in Israel and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 1-2 years or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. I wanted to know if you could help spread the word to expats you may know in the region. If you'd like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Joe Pinzone
    Casting Producer
    P: 212-231-7716
    Skype: Joefromnyc