David: Why I Still May Be Canadian
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Israel, etc. My name is David Lloyd. I am originally from Canada, where I grew up in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. I first came to Israel at the age of 19 in order to attend a kibbutz Ulpan for six months, where you work half the day and learn Hebrew the other half. I stayed for a year and a half in the end, and then went back to Canada. A year or so later, I decided to return to Israel and settle here. I married a girl who was born and grew up on the same kibbutz by the sea (Kibbutz Palmachim), and we spent the next 14 years on the kibbutz, where our three children were born. We then moved to a small place in the Negev desert (Midreshet Ben Gurion), where we have been living the past 20+ years. I went to university here (Tel Aviv University) and was a teacher the first part of my professional life. Later I became involved with computers and the Internet and pioneered many international online educational projects when the Internet was still not a household word. I am now in charge of the information systems and computer network of Midreshet Sde Boker – an educational government trust. I have recently published my first novel as an eBook – “As I Died Laughing”
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences? I began blogging a little over a year ago. My first love has always been writing, and blogging allowed me both to commune with myself and others around me. I am by nature rather anti-social, when it comes to the physical world around me, but when it comes to virtual worlds, I am quite different. I have created a number of virtual communities (English teachers network, Mutual assistance for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Ramat Negev Freenet, and other virtual international educational initiatives with an emphasis on Environmental Education).
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours? Each blog entry has a separate meaning for me, and touches upon a different part of my life and experience, so it would be difficult to pick out special entries. What I do find interesting is how people react to the blogs. Some blogs are much more popular (according to the stats) than others. Which must mean that in such blogs I have touched on things which are very relevant to others as well. “I’m sorry… I’m Canadian” was by far the most popular blog entry. Other leading contenders are “A Rose by any other Name”, “They sell books in supermarkets, don’t they?” and “What is an Expat like you doing in a place like this?”
Tell us about the ways your new life in Israel differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock? Surprisingly, I felt comfortable in Israel from the beginning. The real culture shock was returning to Canada for a visit about five years after I began living in Israel. I suppose it was much easier to adapt as I was living in a kibbutz, at the time. The biggest challenge was learning the language. I wanted to be able to master the language, both in speaking and in reading/writing. Many expats from other countries are able to speak Hebrew well, but have never tried to master the written form of the language. The biggest difference between Israel and Canada is the mentality. Israelis are much more aggressive by nature. Canadians are laid back and are much more apologetic. I found myself becoming increasingly aggressive after living here for a while, something that became especially clear to me when going back to Canada for visits. And it is not a quality that I am proud of. But I guess it is a part of the whole Israeli survival instinct.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Israel? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made? Since I had no expectations of staying in Israel, when I first came, nor had I any real pre-conceptions of the country, there weren’t really any surprises. The biggest surprise was – after backpacking through Europe and not feeling at ease in the countries there – that I felt almost immediately at home in Israel, although kids my own age were in army uniforms carrying weapons, etc. But then I was young and alone, with no obligations to anyone but myself. In retrospect, I don’t think I would have changed any decisions / preparations, etc.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us? My mother-in-law was in the Israeli Palmach (elite fighting unit) and was actually in a British officers’ course, before there was any such thing for either men or women in the Israeli army - as this was before the establishment of a real army. She was one tough lady, and most of the ulpanists and volunteers were afraid of her. My story that I tell everyone – and I will stick to it – is that when I first began “dating” my wife and she invited me to her parents’ house to meet them, her mother told me – “Be good to my daughter. I have an Uzi under the bed and I know how to use it.”
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Israel?
- Do not expect to command the same respect that you have in your original when you are first in Israel, until you have a command of the language. You know you have a command of the language when people begin speaking Hebrew with you, rather than try to speak English no matter what you are speaking. The important thing is that they see that you are trying.
- Don’t try to compare things here in Israel with things back home. Accept the fact that you are not only in a different country, but in a totally different culture. There is a big difference in being a tourist in a foreign country and coming there to live.
- Do some research first and see where is the best place for you to live. Different places have different benefits and disadvantages. A lot also depends on whether you are coming with a family, with their own specific needs, or coming only by yourself.
How is the expat community in Israel? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats? I am not a good example as I have never really been a part of the expat community here, although I have run an online community for English teachers in Israel for the last 16 years. On the kibbutz, there were very few English speakers and I spoke almost only Hebrew (we speak Hebrew at home). I’ve had more contact with expats since moving to the desert, but more on an individual basis rather than a collective basis.
How would you summarize your expat life in Israel in a single, catchy sentence?
Part Canadian, part Israeli, but never knowing where one begins and the other ends.