By Garrett Krivicich, current WUJS participant
When talking to my friends back in the States, I am always delighted to hear the questions that they have about Tel Aviv. Usually, the question has the following framework: “Do they have __________ in Tel Aviv?!?” Yes, if i had a shekel for every time I was asked this question, I would have a lot of shekels. When converted to dollars, though, that’s not much, so I may have just disproved my point.
Regardless, people love to know how Tel Aviv life compares to the States, and usually, they are surprised to hear how similar it is. We do have supermarkets and gyms here. We even have wifi. Yes, before I came, someone pondered if I would have access to wifi, or if internet usage would be limited. The good news is, while the wifi does feel a bit slower than what I’m use to, we still have it. And it works. So far, the only thing I couldn’t find here that we had in the states was Netflix, but even that you can access if you use a proxy.
Tel Aviv has it all. But I will tell you, the mentality and the way people act is very different. Things are just more chill. No one takes their job too seriously. I got this vibe by simply going to get a haircut.
Yes, it had been nearly two months since getting my haircut so I felt it was about that time. I was definitely nervous. While Israelis mostly speak English, there’s still that language barrier, and I did not want a stylist to think I said “cut it all off” as opposed to “cut a little off.” That would be horrible.
There are so many salons in Florentin, the neighborhood that I live in, so I had to choose. I found one five minutes down the road from where I lived, saw there was no wait, and went for it. A young guy stood outside the doorway, drinking a diet coke, eager to cut my hair. He immediately welcomed me, told me to sit so he could shampoo me, and offered me a drink. I said “lo toda” which translates to “no thank you,” so in return, he handed me a whiskey and coke. Yes, the hairdresser served me liquor and it wasn’t even noon yet.
The experience was very relaxed though. He asked me where I was from, I attempted to answer in Hebrew, and all went well. When I said Miami, his eyes lit up, and he talked about how he will come and stay where I live. Why wait to be invited when you can simply invite yourself? He also talked about how he owned this salon and particularly put it in Florentin because he loves the neighborhood. He lives in another city called Holon, a city that nearly everyone I have met on this trip seems to live, which is on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Supposedly, it’s pretty boring, so he said if he can’t live in Florentin, might as well open a salon there. I agreed with his logic as he buzzed my hair off.
In the middle of the haircut, he received a call on his cell phone, but instead of stopping, he just answered his phone and continued the haircut. This was a trend I noticed. In many businesses around here, when people get a phone call, they just take it. It’s amusing actually, but not as amusing when you are getting your hair cut off of your head. Usually, with that, you like to have the person’s focus.
Even so, the haircut was a success. I wanted to go a little shorter actually, but he refused to cut off anymore because he loved my hair, and said it would be too short. He shampooed me another time, while trying to tell me a story about Romania and gambling. I still have no idea what he was trying to tell me, but laughed anyway, and in the end, the haircut only cost 50 NIS, which is like 13 dollars.
No matter the experience, everything in Tel Aviv is so much more laid back. Even my first yoga class, which was instructed in only Hebrew, felt more laid back than usual. For the most part, I had no idea what was being said, but I just followed the moves of people around me, and somehow got through it. And let me tell you, completing anything in a language you barely know feels like winning a triathlon.
This laid back lifestyle is something I can really get use to. As someone who is naturally anxious, to be surrounded by people who just don’t care as much is refreshing. And it’s also somewhat surprising. Think about the challenges Israelis face. They are surrounded by hostile neighbors, who for the most part, wish for their demise. They literally just came out of a war last summer. But living here, you could never tell. It’s just that Tel Aviv mentality, and I’ll tell you something, it’s pretty contagious.