13 Signs You've Become Culturally Israeli

by Elena Zakomoldina-Fitoussi Sep 26, 2015

1. You know the difference between Ashkanazi and Sephardic cuisine and know how to combine them perfectly.

The Ashkenazi come from a cold climate, so there is a lot of potatoes, meat, and bread in their menu. Vegetables are mostly preserved and mayo is the dressing of choice. Meanwhile, Sephardic Jews are blessed with warm weather and mostlive by the sea. Their diet includes herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken and fish. They believe that lemon and olive oil make anything better, even the soup. You know you are culturally Israeli when you’ve found your favorite dishes from both traditions and begin to include them in your cooking.

2. You try to do everything with simha.

The idea of being happy is very significant in Judaism. There is an expression in Hebrew Mitzvah Gdolah Le’hiyot B’Simcha Tamid meaning it’s a good deed to be happy. Israeli people believe that good state of mind helps you to live better. There is even a group of Orthodox Jews called Na Nach whose main goal is to spread the joy. They ride the vans around the country, play techno music, stop at red lights, and jump out and dance on the top of a van and around it, sharing their euphoric mood with every passerby. You are truly Israeli when you realize that life is easier when you smile.

3. You’ve developed a taste for Musika Mizrahit and you’ve even picked up some dance moves.

You’ve been in Israel for quite a while when you’re well aware of who Eyal Golan and Moshe Peretz are. You know their songs by heart, and the familiar tunes makes you swing your hands up in the air and wiggle your hips.

4. You learn to enjoy the act of eating food slowly.

If you ask any Israeli abroad what they miss about home the most, they will most likely say food and family. In some cases, food comes even before family. Every bite is savored here, so there is no such thing as fast eating. Once you find yourself not thinking twice when dinner takes a leisurely 3 hours sitting down at a table and chatting animatedly between dishes, it’s safe to say you’ve adjusted to the Israeli way of eating.

5. You don’t hesitate to ask personal questions.

The holy-landers live by the motto kulanu mishpacha (we are all family). And just like in a good family, there are no secrets and, of course, no boundaries. Taboo questions do not exist over here. People may ask about your age, place of living and plans for the future. If you are single, they will try to introduce you to someone, ensuring that it will be a match made in heaven. It may be a shock at first, but eventually you accept this very direct way of getting to know people.

6. You begin talking with your hands.

In Israel, words are just not enough to describe all the firework of emotions that go along with the words. Gestures here are vital. You know you’ve become culturally Israeli when, if a driver honks his horn behind you, your first reaction is to pinch your fingers together in a form of a cone, palm upwards and you slightly shake your hand in the direction of the other driver. This gesture is a non-verbal version of rega,meaning ‘just a moment’. A minute later the honk comes again, but this time one hand won’t work. You now put both hands in the same cone shape, meaning ‘Seriously, have you heard of the word patience?’ Your face at that moment must express a lifetime of suffering from dealing with idiots, and you also add a verbal ‘Ouph!’

But you know you’ve fully soaked into the Israeli culture when you can make an entire conversation without saying a word.

7. You use Nu as a universal question.

Nu has no actual meaning, it’s more of a feeling. You may use it almost in any situation to show that you are impatiently waiting for something to happen, and curiosity burns the hell out of you. For instance, your friend plans to propose his girlfriend, and you expect a the phone call from him. When your phone finally rings, you scream, ‘Nu?!’ meaning ‘What did she say? How was it? How do you feel? Are you sure you’re ready? When is the bachelor party? Oh my God, I need to buy bgadim hadashim (new clothes)! Eshla haverot yafot (does she have beautiful friends) or I need to look for a plus one?’

All of this with one simple Nu. Efficient.

8. You use Stum as a universal answer.

Stum literally means ‘for no reason’, but Israelis use it in many different situations. This short word expresses so much that you’ll soon miss it while speaking your native language. The translation of the word depends on the situation and even the tone of a speaker. Let’s say you go to a party that everyone had been talking about. The next day your colleague wonders, ‘How was it?’ – ‘Stum,’ you say, feeling quite disappointed. This short answer has so much information in it that anyone who knows Hebrew well will know the party was a waste of time.

You may also start to usestum to mean ‘just kidding’. ‘Mom, I’ve got expelled from university.’ – ‘What?’ – ‘Stum, Mom, stum.’

9. You begin to enjoy heated debates.

Disputes are very popular past time among the locals. Israelis get heated about the prices at the shuk (a local market), politics, kadur regel (soccer) or the cost of living and real estate. You figure out that debates are not a form of arguing, they’re just a healthy and reasonable exchange of opinions.

10. You’ve forgotten what personal space is.

Neshikot ve hibukim (kisses and hugs) are not just a sign of affection, they’re a common form of greeting here. The locals feel comfortable by staying roughly an extended arm away from each other during a conversation or even in a waiting line. However, if you come from a culture where feelings are more contained, you may feel like every person nearby pierces into your privacy, and it works to trigger the fight or flight mood. But time changes everything, and soon you’ll get used to and even love this no-distance communication.

11. The beach becomes your favorite place to be.

Poleg Beach in Netanya, Nine Beach in Herzliya, Banana and Gordon Beaches in Tel Aviv become your go-to getaway spots in the summer whether you want to work on your tan, play matkot, or just have a sunset cocktail away from the hustle and bustle.

In winter you enjoy your Shakshuka (a dish of eggs in a spicy tomato sauce) and Cafe Hafuch (a local upside-down coffee that tastes like a mix of cappuccino and latte) at some cafe on the beach while the light breeze reminds you that life is better by the sea.

12. You begin to believe that everything happens because of God’s help.

The name of God is sacred here, and people try to use it just in prayers, replacing it on a daily basis with the word HaShem meaning The Name. When everything in your life goes well, you say Baruch HaShem meaning ‘thanks God’. Meanwhile when you hope for something good to happen, you use Beezrat HaShem and wish for God’s help. Regardless, it all comes down to God.

13. You’ve become totally relaxed about time.

Punctuality is not a priority in Eretz Israel. Being late is a normal, expected thing here. In order not to stress out while waiting for your tardy guests, you’ve learned to tell them an hour earlier than the stated one and expect everyone arrive just in time.

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