Jordana: Inspire to be Inspired
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Israel, etc.
My name is Jordana Simone Pepper and I am a Southern California born and raised UC Berkeley Golden Bear who has left life in the United States to live permanently in Israel. After graduating from Berkeley with a BA in Cognitive Sciences I decided that I wanted to come to Israel for a year to study the Middle East region, and after a month of living in the Holy Land I decided that I wanted to make the move permanent. Months later and I still think it is the best decision I have ever made.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When I was originally only planning on coming to Israel for a year or two I decided that I wanted to record my journey for posterity sake and so my family and friends could keep up with everything that is going on in my life here. In short, I am not a phone person so I figured if I wrote everything down anyone who was interested could know exactly was going on without me having to recount details at a later time on skype or the phone. When I began the blog I had no idea that it would reach so many people not personally connected to me, and I figured that if my story can impact just one person this blog has not been written in vain. Aside from that it really is a perfect way for the people you love to truly know what is going on in your life.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I am very fond of the first few posts I wrote on the blog, even before I moved to Israel. They really sum up the end of a huge chapter in my life that ultimately led to my big move across the world. In terms of my posts within Israel I love all of the posts about my travels in the area.
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?
Life in Israel is dramatically different than in the United States. Though Israel is a modern, Western country it is not the easiest way of life. I don’t speak the language fluently, I have no family here and am completely on my own, no job at the moment (since I am studying and my Hebrew isn’t at a working level yet), however, there is something so intoxicating about this place and the people that I never really noticed the little difficulties that come from living in a foreign country. I had an astoundingly easy transition to life in Israel and since I had been here before, even lived here for 3 months when I studied Arabic in Jerusalem, I never felt culture shock. I was raised in a very traditional Jewish home so the religious aspect of the country was a pleasure as opposed to a shock. Really the only adjustment was remembering that things close down (including public transportation) from Friday night to Saturday night.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Israel? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think the fact that I came to Israel not expecting the move to be permanent it allowed me to gradually prepare for life here without stress. I never felt trapped by a decision of permanence which gave me time to really adjust before making life changing decisions. After feeling completely comfortable with life here I decided to make the move permanent which I think was a good way of going about things. I think the only thing I would have done differently was saved more money earlier back in the states so that I would have a larger nest egg here, but otherwise I’m very happy with how it all played out.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
In Israel there are two words for saying “to end or finish”. For example, if you want to express you are finished with a meal or finished with some homework there are, in theory, two ways you can say it. Gamarti or Siyamti. Well, I only knew of “Gamarti” when I first arrived in Israel and one night I was at a restaurant when a waiter came over and asked if I was ready for dessert. When I responded with, “lo (no), ani (I) gamarti (am finished)” the waiter immediately gave me a look and then started laughing. I was a bit confused until I was informed that “gamarti” is really used as slang to mean “I finished” in the orgasm sense... I was mortified and now make sure I always use the other word! It took me a while to go back to that restaurant.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Israel?
- Spend time in Israel before making the decision to move here for good. I came on birthright and studied abroad in Jerusalem for 3 months before moving here for a longer period. This gave me time to understand how life worked here which eased the culture shock when I moved for good
- Save as much money as possible. Though the Israeli government will give you financial assistance it is not enough with the skyrocketing prices in Israel (especially in the big cities).
- Come with an open mind and an open heart, leave your expectations back in your home country, because then this country will open up so many doors and possibilities in your life, and the life changing, exciting times and experiences you will have will be almost overwhelming.
How is the expat community in Israel? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
My main circle of friends is comprised of other expats from various corners of the world. Israel is a country of immigrants so I would say it is harder to find a group of just Israelis than it is to find a group of other expats going through, or having gone through, similar experiences as you. It is a huge comfort to befriend people who have gone through similar experiences before you; they have a wealth of knowledge and advice that is invaluable.
How would you summarize your expat life in Israel in a single, catchy sentence?
At times it is hard, at times it is scary, but then I walk outside and realize that I am in beautiful ISRAEL and everything falls into place perfectly.