I love Tel Aviv.
And it is not because of the clubbing, the sunshine or the beach (though all these factors help). It’s because this was the first city that burst my bubble, that really helped me experience the difference between traveling somewhere and visiting someone. The Israelis I met while studying in Venice allowed me a glimpse into their everyday life. I was invited to Shabbat-dinners and family gatherings, I had political discussions and witnessed heated debates on where to find the best hummus. I laughed at their jokes, learned that “being polish” in Israel does not mean “coming from Poland” but “being caring in a passive-aggressive way” and that in a diverse country you have to be able to fight and be friends at the same time, that living in a bubble is a dangerous luxury and that having your views challenged keeps your mind open.
There are a million things to do in this city, there are sites to see and museums to visit – but this is a blog about meeting people and experiencing everyday life. So here are my five favorite things to do just that in Tel Aviv…
I admit, I love just walking around and I would recommend it in many places. But personal preferences aside: Tel Aviv is a great walking city. It is really not that big – it only has 430 000 inhabitants and walking from the big park in the north to Jaffa in the south takes two hours tops, which means if you are living somewhere in the center, everything you need is easily accessible by foot.
Tel Aviv is famous for its Avenues with tree-lined pedestrian areas in the middle of the road that are just so much more inviting than the packed buses that honk themselves through city center. Also while walking you get to appreciate all the different neighborhoods and their atmospheres, from the White City to historic Jaffa to the office district. You’ll see how packed this comparatively small city is: there is cafés and life music and bars and clubs and restaurants on every corner – it’s really amazing to feel that much life condensed into these streets.
2. Discuss the Hot Spots of the month
The quest for the best ice cream in Tel Aviv is serious business. Really. Almost as serious as finding the best Hummus-Place.
Claiming to know one of them can lead to lengthy and sometimes heated debates amongst friends. Which is great because it is really easy to join this conversation: Just pick up a city magazine like time out, read their recommendations and chime in. Or ask a group of people at the next table for their opinion. Most likely there will be an answer. Which kind of takes me to my next point:
3. Be talked to
Tel Avivians are outspoken. That means that yes, sometimes someone will start yelling at you in a supermarket in Hebrew and you have no clue about what just happened. I usually blame it on the cottage cheese, they can be very peculiar about that one here… But it also means it is quite easy to start a conversation about almost anything – and yes, if you dare, even politics are on the table, but you should be ready to do more listening than talking. What I actually prefer:
4. Ask people about their families
That’s interesting almost anywhere in the world but in Israel specifically: If somebody is religious or fled from an orthodox family if the grandparents were jews from Europe or the ancestors came from Ethiopia, if someone grew up as Arab Muslim in Israel just migrated from France – everyone has an interesting story to tell. This story will allow you to understand one more tiny aspect of this country and its relationships and it usually tells you a lot about the wounds that come with a diverse society.
5. Go swimming after clubbing
Ok, I admit, this is less about people and more about the place, but I couldn’t finish this list without mentioning one of the best things you can do in Tel Aviv: Go dancing all night. Meet, mingle, enjoy. And then go swimming in the mediterranean sea with your new friends while the sun comes up!