Tag Archives: culture shock


30 Sep

I finished my final work trip as of 6 p.m. Friday. Now, I’ve got my final three days of work this week. I can’t believe I’ve only got three days left! The longest I’ve ever gone without working since I was 15 was the semester I studied in Germany. I can’t quite get my head around not working for a year.

I had a great conversation this week with my friend, Deb that I have been thinking about ever since. As we talked about my upcoming departure and how excited I’m getting, she made an excellent point, “Mary, while you mentally prepare for the culture shock you will face in your new country – I really think you need to spend some time preparing for the culture shock you will face within yourself.” Her point being that I’ve defined myself as a professional for the last decade, I haven’t been a student in a long time. I need to be able to let go of the idea of being a professional in a work setting and redefine myself as a student who must work hard to prove myself all over again. It was a very interesting observation that really resonated with me.

Last week, my friend Joy introduced me to her friend Ehud who is originally from Haifa. He came to the US five years ago to study at Wright State University in Ohio and is now teaching Hebrew in the Dayton, Ohio area. We talked for nearly an hour and a half about Israel, Haifa and Jewish people. It was such a great conversation! We talked about everything from how to shop in the shuk (the market that typically sells fruits, vegetables and bakery items — similar to Borough Market in London) to Israeli culture. No subject was off the table – he kept saying to me, “Tell me your worries and we will discuss them!” I did ask about how I will be treated as a non-Jewish person, especially after recently having a “not-so-great” reaction from someone who lives in Israel. He told me point blank that Orthodox Jews will shun me. That if I see them, I should just leave them alone and keep a physical distance from them. Especially if I am alone. That makes complete sense to me given their views on women, let alone Christians. He said that given the university setting that I will be in, most people will be very open minded and that people will be especially pleased to meet me given that female, American, non-Jews are a rarity and the few they see are typically very religious. He did preface this with – every country has their version of negative, close minded people so I may encounter them too but on the whole, he reassured me that I would be welcomed by most people.

I also broached the subject of pork. I was curious if they would even sell pork in Israel but given there are other religions there – including a large Russian Orthodox population in Haifa – I thought perhaps certain places would sell it. Nope, no such luck. Ehud told me that some Russian delis will occasionally sneak pork in but it’s really hard to find. Oh well. Guess, I will be a bacon eating machine until October 17th…

We also talked about how Israelis interact with people. He talked about how people like to go out in groups and they are always happy to add people to their plans. How if I want to do something – I just need to speak up and ask to join since all plans are assumed to be open invitation. This won’t be seen as being too forward – it’s encouraged! He told me that many Americans are surprised by how loud Israelis talk, how that are very direct, straight to the point and want to know all about you right away. I had heard this from my many people but within moments of telling me this – in quick succession he asked, “How old are you? Are you married? Have you ever been married?” As I quickly answered each of his fired off questions – his smile grew broader. Finally, he said, “See what I did there? Welcome to Israel!” I can only hope everyone I meet is as funny, friendly and welcoming as Ehud.


Double Digit Countdown

10 Jul


Well, Sunday marked 100 days until my departure. I’m down into the double digits now. Time seems to be zipping by! I’ve been so busy preparing for my departure at work (writing a manual on how to do my job, organizing old emails, finishing the marketing campaign early) and at home (moving, getting doctor check ups done) that it wasn’t until just recently that I’ve been able to think about what my time in Israel will be like. I guess it was still abstract in my mind until recently.

This weekend I went camping – it was a great excuse to slow down and think about where I am headed. I thought about the people & events I will miss here at home but at the same time, I thought about the people I will be meeting. When I moved to New Zealand, I found a place to live with three girls by the university. I had no idea at the time that I was moving in with some of my closest friends to this day. Will it be the same in Israel? As I read through the posts in our private group on Facebook, I can’t help but to think “Who will I be good friends with? Who will be my coffee buddy? Who will want to travel too?”

I’ve lived abroad enough times and worked with study abroad students long enough to know all the stages of culture shock. I’m looking forward to the settled in stage. When I’ve found my groove, made friends and have a routine. At the same time, I look forward to the adjustment of a new place – those early stages of the culture shock curve. I have already reached out to two groups outside of the university to help me settle in and meet new people. The Haifa English Theater, a local community theater not too far from campus and the Tel Aviv Derby Girls. Both are activities close to my heart and both are groups that are typically inclusive and friendly. I want to be able to meet people outside of the university and my program. I doubt I will get involved in both organizations but I like knowing they are there for me. I’ve also discovered that as a masters student, I’m allowed to play on the intermural teams. Might need to pack my soccer cleats.