Culture shock in Tel Aviv

Getting to Tel Aviv and Israel for the first time is a culture shock. You step off the plane and, instantly, you’re placed into an environment that is entirely foreign to almost everyone outside of Israel. This is the only country with Hebrew as the national language and Judaism as the national religion.

Guest blogger: Leah, a BSBA sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis

So, lets begin with the new language. Not only a new language that you very well might not understand, but also a new alphabet, which creates entirely new obstacles. We may not think too much about it, but the alphabet is very, very important. When in France, or Spain, or other European countries, there are plenty of cognates so that we can somewhat comprehend the signs we see on the streets or a menu of some sorts. Here that all changes.

Being Christian in a Jewish state isn’t so much of an obstacle here, but a reality check. Back in the States, we are surrounded by a Christian society that hangs lights during the Christmas months, some shops close down on Sundays for religious reasons, and many other nuances that seem to be just a part of life for us. But in Tel Aviv, there is a stark difference in the way that things are done. For religious reasons, there is no working allowed on Friday from sundown to Saturday around the same time.

From seeing all of these differences in societal occurrences, I’ve come to ask questions to further understand why some things are done the way they are here, and I’ve found myself becoming more curious about other ways of life than my own. This program isn’t only helping us learn about business in Israel, but also to learn about the culture and to appreciate it.

Bryan, Jared, Leah, Adam, and Marni at a start-up in Tel Aviv.

Bryan, Jared, Leah, Adam, and Marni at a start-up in Tel Aviv.

While there are so many cultural differences here, there are ways to adapt and adjust. For the most part, you can always find someone in the vicinity who speaks at least a little bit of English to help you out, and they are more than happy to do so. Israelis want everyone to understand their culture too, so there are never judgments passed. One specific asset that we have in this program is a peer mentor from the IDC campus. Having a personal connection with someone close to our age who can help us get around and see Tel Aviv the way that they see it as a local is an amazing experience that not many visitors enjoy.


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