A Canadian Twenty-Something’s Guide to TLV

By Zoe Freedman

Embrace your Canadian-ness. For what is probably the first time in your life, you’re considered “exotic” (mostly because you’re not American). Embrace it.

Rude people will be peeved when you can snap back at their insult towards Americans with “nice try, buddy”, and they can’t think of anything bad to say about Canadians. Plus, you’ll probably have a super easy time getting into bars because the bouncers will think you’re American, anyway.

If you see someone who looks familiar when you’re getting froyo on Rothschild, chances are it’s someone you went to summer camp with 10 years ago. Say hello, lest it annoy you for the next week and a half. (Trust me).

All the makeup you usually smear on your face daily? Leave it at home. This is especially relevant if you’re in Tel Aviv during the summer, and even more relevant if you’re as shvitzy as me. Pack a few staples (like face sunscreen, moisturizer, mascara, concealer and bronzer) and you’ll be set. Click here to check out a more comprehensive list of ultimate Tel Aviv Summer beauty essentials.

Plan ahead for Shabbat. While finding a host for Friday night dinner is as easy as hailing a cab in the city centre (seriously, cabbies yell at YOU for rides!) plans for Saturday might be tricky if you’re not in walking distance from the city centre, since most busses don’t run. If you don’t want to splurge on a cab, Sheruts run on Shabbat! Learn more about them here.

On the topics of busses – get a bus pass. A single bus ride currently costs NIS 6.90. While that might not seem like much in CAD, it adds up. With a pre-paid bus pass, you can save some shekels, avoid the awkward wait while the driver gets you change, and maybe even pass for a local.

Dining out in Tel Aviv is not like any Canadian city. There are a few important things you must know. Firstly, don’t assume the waiter will bring you water. They probably won’t unless you ask (and if you do, make sure you ask for ice – chances are the tap water will be lukewarm). You should also make sure you know how to ask for the bill when you’re done (cheshbon, bevakasha works just fine). Unlike most restaurants back home, they won’t bring you the check when they clear your dishes unless you actively ask for it. You’re in Israel now! What’s the rush!? Most importantly, and this is especially relevant for people who go out to eat in big groups – almost no restaurants in Tel Aviv will split a bill. Back home, it’s easy as pie to ask for separate checks, but in Israel that is definitely not the case. If you’re out to eat, it’s most convenient to have cash. I’ve found it easiest to simply designate one person to be in charge of splitting the bill – it also helps if this person can read Hebrew.*

*Note: I say “read” and not “understand” intentionally. If you’re like me, it’s easy enough to use your elementary afternoon school-level Hebrew to sound out קולה oh a bill.

Explore Tel Aviv’s bar scene. If you’re a young twenty-something, chances are all your pals are going to Clara every single weekend. I promise you – there is more out there besides the giant seaside club. Tons of bars advertise their events on Facebook (retro nights, live shows, etc…) so that might be a good place to start. Underground bars are also very cool, and are hidden in and around the city centre. If you like to dance, check out Radio E.P.G.B. off Rothschild – they host some great DJs and it’s a perfect last-stop-before-going-home bar. If you’re into live music, Pasàz on Allenby is a great spot. Check out their “Blues & Booz” nights for some great live blues improv. Importantly, if you are delving into the world of underground bars, be prepared. Smoking inside is generally A-Okay, and your hair will reek for the next 48 hours. If you can handle it, rock on – these bars are a great way to meet locals and avoid awkward bump-ins with old acquaintances from summer camp back home … (anyway, they’re probably at Clara).

Lastly, don’t forget to wander. Maybe you’re in Tel Aviv for a study abroad program. Maybe you’re extending after Birthright. Maybe you convinced your parents to let you visit some distant cousins on a Kibbutz in the middle of nowhere. Even if you’re on a strict programmed schedule, find time to explore the city. See what each neighbourhood has to offer. Talk to locals. Take in as much you possibly can. Tel Aviv is filled with magical nooks and crannies and plenty of characters with great stories – don’t let them go undiscovered.