Katie: 39 and Counting
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Israel, etc.
My name is Katie and I live in Israel and am originally from the UK. I moved to Israel at the end of 2004 after marrying an Israeli man I met way back in 1997 whilst travelling in the Australian outback. After a few years of long distance love and periods (visa allowing) of living together in London, we finally got married in August 2004 and by the end of the year we were finally full time together in Israel.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I had 3 babies in 2 years and after leaving my job in TV I had time in my head although not on my hands and my brain started to whirr - talking to 3 under 3s does that to you. As the kids started to go to nursery I had the time I needed to think about what I wanted to do next and journalism was always my goal as a youngster. I figured the best way to hone my writing skills was to start a blog. I know that my experiences - 3 very small children after years of being a career girl, turning 40 and living in a country that wasn't my own were universal subjects but the fact I live in such a talked about country - and as someone not from a Jewish background was my USP so my blog essentially became a home for the familiar experiences told from an unfamiliar land.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I particularly like the post about how I met my husband, written during the last Gaza conflict, the first time I had experienced war on my doorstep since having children. I also like a more recent blog about the beauty of Israel - something which most people wouldn't know.
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 so so different from the life I left; new culture, new language, new alphabet, new religion, not to mention new friends, new family and the constant thoughts about those I left back home. The weather also plays a significant role - hot, hot, hot for 10 months of the year in Israel and wet and grey at home; our lifestyle is very different to the one we would have back in the UK. I am a work in practice in terms of getting used to it, it is not easy being an ex pat and certainly not easy living in Israel and all that that means. Culture shock is an understatement!
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 was prepared in that I had been many times before I arrived, I had all my papers in order and was up for the challenge but nothing can prepare you for life here. I wouldn't change anything as what I needed was a thicker skin and you can't prepare that!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The time I ordered a watermelon sandwich in a café, the donkey tied to the fence of a superstore car park, the 6 months I spent with other foreigners learning to speak Hebrew.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Israel?
- Learn the basics of the language. Language is key because although in the main a lot of people speak English and there are many other languages spoken, to really settle here you need to be able to converse in the native tongue and it’s a really, really difficult language so any head start you can get is a bonus.
- Don't be discouraged by what appears to be bad manners - in some cases it is - but people in Israel are way more aggressive than Europeans and North Americans and this takes some getting used to. Toughen up!
- Don't believe everything you read and encourage your family and friends back home to be more open minded and less scared. Western press only report on the bad bits of Israel and often with their own agenda, reality of life here is not all rockets and suicide bombers (not all the time anyway)
How is the expat community in Israel? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Because Israel is a land of immigrants there are plenty of communities for every nationality with Judaism being the link. To begin with all my friends were Israeli, friends of my Israeli husband but over time I have also found a group of like minded Brits, mostly through my work. Many expats I know have readymade communities through their synagogues and other immigrants from their communities back home.
How would you summarize your expat life in Israel in a single, catchy sentence?
Everyone in Israel has a story and the nature of life here means there is always a new story unfolding.