Toronto to Ra'anana
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Israel, etc.
Originally born in Montreal, I am Canadian. I have spent most of my life in Toronto, although I have also studied in Vancouver, B.C. and in Jerusalem. For many years, I have run an employment law practice in Toronto, primarily representing dismissed employees. In 2009, our family decided to move to Israel (myself, my wife and three children). My wife is Israeli and she spoke to the kids in Hebrew as they were growing up. So all three were fluent when we moved. Since 2009, we have been living in Ra’anana though I have still been commuting back and forth between Toronto and Israel.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I wrote my first blog in October 2010 and have written about 90 entries since then. In part, I felt it was a nice way to keep friends, family and others updated about some of things we have been up to. But I also enjoy writing and like the idea of giving people interesting things to read about.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Israeli Weddings – A Short Primer
- Tali School Opening
- Cell Phone Service in Israel
- Coffee in Israel
- Barbecuing in Israel
And finally – one that doesn’t fit in as well thematically – but has been my most popular posting…Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson
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?
This question could take an entire blog to answer. There is no doubt that there is tremendous culture shock in leaving the relatively comfortable surroundings of Toronto for the much “rawer” Israeli society. Things are much tougher in Israeli economically. Most things cost more, especially the big things, from cars to homes. Everything is much more complicated for some reason. And of course, everything in Israel is negotiable – almost everything, almost everywhere. There is a great deal of inefficiency created through this type of constant exchange. Yet, the level of social interaction is much higher between people, constantly. Perhaps this is because there is generally less space and people are physically closer together.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Israel? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
The most important thing (and perhaps this is the case everywhere) is being able to put together an economic plan for this type of life. Having a good career option, a good safety cushion and some emergency sources of funds are all essential – or being prepared to really tough it out in the early going on (which is probably easier for younger people who are just starting out and do not have a family). Language skills are crucial – though our Hebrew was quite decent. Being in a place like Ra’anana also helps since there quite a large number of Americans and other Anglos living there. But trying to make the transition to an “Israeli mentality” from a North American mentality (or an Anglo mentality from elsewhere) is quite a hurdle that is only softened by a place like Ra’anana.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We really had quite a laugh watching the movers move our stuff into our second floor apartment – using a crane. First, just watching the truck navigate into the parking lot (they had no problem scraping the walls repeatedly) was quite a site. But seeing the piano coming up the crane, teetering on a platform that was barely large enough to hold it – gave all of us a good chuckle.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Israel?
- Come with lots of money;
- Come with a career or job idea that is in demand in Israel – and make sure that your Hebrew is reasonably fluent.
- Come with an open mind and the idea that you will enjoy life in Israel and Israeli culture for what it is and not constantly compare it to life in your old country.
How is the expat community in Israel? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There are an enormous number of expat Americans, South Africans, Brits and other Anglos in Israel and it is no problem meeting and interacting with them. (There are fewer Canadians – but few Canadians tend to leave Canada to live elsewhere…)
How would you summarize your expat life in Israel in a single, catchy sentence?
It’s on ongoing struggle – but we are hoping that we will see it as rewarding one day.