The true blue Tel Avivian: Lifestyle of the broke and free spirited 20-something

“Tomorrow, we start at 8:00.” Chef Ofer Aviv instructed as he welcomed me to his lovely home in Moshav Mata. I was in trance when I entered the place.

A tremendous terrain of Earth faced his villa’s porch. I am working on a story about Chef Ofer’s private kitchen and I have to stay here for two weeks to experience his creative cooking and learn about his kitchen theories. This was something very different from the situation I was in, prior to my arrival.

“Have you eaten? Are you okay? You look pretty beat.”

“Yes, I am just really really tired. I think I am still in the Tel Aviv timezone.”

Aha, the Tel Aviv timezone. The seemingly hurtful but ecstatic belt most young people like me cannot escape from.

There is no division between night and day. Not that the night life is thriving but it’s more of having the freedom to do the things you do at any time of the day. 

Going to dinner at 22:00 or meeting a friend for coffee at 2:30 — that kind of thing. Tel Aviv have a sense of life they made possible to be agreeable to its people.

The streets are freakishly safe. In just 48 hours of being in the city, I have arrived at a conclusion that I have never felt safer than any places I’ve lived in.

But why is the cost of living in Tel Aviv ridiculously expensive?

“I have no idea.” This is what all my Israeli friends give me whenever we stumble upon this topic. I am not actually sure if they don’t really know or they are just lazy to explain it in English.

In my head, I have meticulously computed the prices and compared it to when I was living in Milan, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong.

For me, these are the three cities I’ve financially suffered living in because of the high costs. But Tel Aviv blistered them all.

I still don’t know why (and probably never will) but I’d like for you to see how the young people of Tel Aviv have made this situation clinch the deal to their way of life.

You will always come across the rent discussion when hanging out with a Tel Avivian. About two weeks ago, I visited my Israeli friends who are newly weds in their apartment a few metres from the famed Dizengoff.

One bedroom, a closet like toilet space, a fairly sized living room and a bar that serves as the kitchen, they are paying 5,000 ILS (roughly $1,400 USD) for a 400 sqft flat in a very good area of Tel Aviv.

I lived in Hong Kong so this was pretty fair for me. But if you are a person who is not used to small spaces, I believe you will freak out with the lack of space and the ridiculous price you are paying for it. I can’t imagine them raising children in such limited stretch.

The big news is I had the chance to experience it myself: yes, I am renting a flat for a few months just because Tel Aviv feels good.

When I choose to stay longer in one place, it’s always a matter of a certain city loving me back — not if the option is good or not. Places choose me and if they do, I will definitely want to reciprocate the affection by staying.

Tel Aviv, is by far, the city that made me feel loved, accepted and challenged, all at the same time. This is a new level of adulthood for me. More details about the “moving” in the next posts to come.

While having coffee in Rothschild, I saw a beautiful woman with torn jeans, cropped top ripped on the side where you can almost see a side boob and a high cut boots with so many confusing shoestrings.

I studied fashion in Italy so I am very much appreciative on how people wear their style. The only thing that got my attention was that, she was pushing a trolley that rides a cute little baby in it. She’s a mom!

The people here don’t ever get old! I waved at her and gave a two thumbs up. I wanted her to know that even if I didn’t know her, what she is expressing is an amazing form or art.

It’s a melting pot of hipsters, they said. But I don’t see it that way. Through my daily observations, everyone has their own statement and are allowed to express themselves however they want.

I found that to be true when I saw a man walking near Carmel Market — topless, boxers, another high cut boot fan and a freakishly cool silver bling.

Like the huge one! I also sat beside an Amy Winehouse-ish look alike in the bus, saw a 60 year old dressed like the 1920’s crossing the street, stood beside a dude buying ice cream in suspenders — the list goes on.

I tell you, every day, I am still amazed on how you can be whoever or whatever you want in Tel Aviv. It always makes my heart beat fast and slow at the same time.

“Let’s cook something.” I was staying at a friend’s place and every day I was there, I suggested that we put his kitchen to good use.

I’ve always been a fan of kitchens and cooking because it’s a good avenue for me to learn about a certain food culture.

“It’s Thursday. Let’s eat out.” he always responded.

“You said that yesterday, the other day and also 2 days ago.”

When I walk pass the long stretch of cafes and restaurants in Dizengoff, they are never empty. I never remembered not seeing any place full or busy.

The majority of the people sitting at the cafes are young people who looks like they are not struggling financially as what they always declare.

There’s a big smile on everyone’s faces as they chat with their friends while sipping a $10.00 USD cup of coffee. No single mark of strife is apparent.

The more I look into it, the more I get confused about this so-called Tel Avivian lifestyle. Where the f*%ck are they getting the money for this?!

Where I am from (the Philippines, just in case you are wondering), we don’t pay $10.00 USD for a bottle of beer (it’s only $1.00 USD) and yet people don’t have the energy to go out and drink every night.

We will even give second, third or fourth thoughts to eating out. We wanted to save the money to do something else, mostly for traveling.

Okay, I said we, but in reality, I don’t even have any savings. I spend every dime I have because you know, the lifestyle I chose needs financial support. It’s not easy to save.

I don’t really know how to do it, to be honest. It was then when I truly understood how much I resonated with Tel Aviv. Most of the people my age are not saving for anything.

They have this mentality of living-in-the-now-tomorrow-is-another-day adage. And it’s beautiful! I have never seen an entire city thinking and acting the same way as everyone else.

“Life is expensive in Israel. If you can’t save anyway, why bother? Just spend the money you have (or you don’t have). Live a happy life.” 

Quoting one of my good mates who knows nothing but to enjoy the now.

The only difference is I don’t carry or own a credit card. I never have and it works very well for me. All the freaking Israelis I hang out with are using credit cards, everywhere, including buying cigarettes at a convenience store! For every time, I wonder how the f*%ck are they paying all the bills. How?! How!!!

Another interesting thing that lead me to deciding to stay here longer is the creative energy Tel Aviv has. Home to artists, digital nomads, freelancers, start up wiz kids, among others — Tel Aviv is a dynamic city of technology and innovation.

People don’t go to offices. They sit in cafes or rent a co-working space. They work whenever they want, wherever.

Wake up, take your bike, go to the beach, don’t forget the surf board, work a few hours in a cafe, go home, shower, have dinner at 22:00, drink and socialise until 4:30.

This is the living dynamics of a Tel Avivian. 7 days ago, I turned 28 and felt that it was time to enter a new dimension of adulthood. Then Tel Aviv happened.

I guess this is also that kind of ‘adulthood’ but in a funky way. For many years, it was so hard for me to feel good about being different.

A lot of people from back home told me that I have a scattered life. (Okay, this is the part where you have to raise your hands if you ever have shi*t figured out).

It was so difficult to fit anywhere. For me, to be in Tel Aviv is finding a place where I can live intensely — more alive than I’ve ever felt before.

I want to fill my lungs with the oxygen of creativity and surround myself with people who are positively and truthfully living life.

I am not expecting you to understand right away nor am I wishing for you to feel the same about Tel Aviv just because of my writing. You should come here. I am willing to bet you will fall in love immensely.

For now, this will be it. I still have a long way of exploring and learning the ways of a true blue Tel Avivian and I’d like to close this article the way I closed my Ted Talk in Manila about 2 months ago — a quote from the 1996 movie, Jack. (Yes, I know, you are all asking me about the YouTube video of the Ted talk and I think they will upload it soon!!)

I got it. I’m cool… I don’t have very much time these days so I’ll make it quick. Like my life. You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future.

We start to worry , thinking, “What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?”

But I say to you, “Hey, look at me!”

Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular.

Jack, The Movie

I know I did. I made it, Mom. I’m a grown up.

The Tel Avivian lifestyle is definitely spectacular. I think everyone should come and experience it. And if you do, the first round of drinks is on me. Meet me at The Prince. Xx

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  1. Dear Trish, I wish i tried the same in my younger years? As if im also in Tel Aviv, while reading on your blog. Im getting more excited and interested about your Life Adventures. Take Care hija ganda! All good things comes your way, too!

  2. The wonder you wondered about how Tel Avivian afford their kind of life reminded me of a friend. I really wonder, until now, how this person affords a high standard of living when I have a good-paying job yet I can’t do it.

    Anyway, you made Tel Aviv sound so enticing, like the kind of place I should be. The more I read the more I realize I am living on the wrong side of the earth. I should be there! Like you, I have a hard time saving even when we don’t share the same lifestyle. It’s just that I like to live in the moment, I do worry about the future sometimes, but when I see something that would make me happy today I seize it. Be it as simple as a latte in a cafe, or as expensive as going on a trip. I just do it. I do not think about it that much, hence the empty savings account. In our country, society frowns upon a person for not saving, for living in the moment. So I think it’s refreshing to find out about a place with people of the same thinking.

    I am going to Tel Aviv. I know I will.

  3. Tel Aviv sounds like a hip city and a good spot to people watch. It sounds pretty expensive though. Why is a cup of coffee US$10? That’s unbelievable! I think I’ll give up coffee when I go to Tel Aviv.

  4. Tel Aviv sounds like an amazing place! Especially with the creative energy you mentioned. Expensive though… Or maybe it just seems that way. I am sure it can be done on the cheap if you don’t spend all your money on coffee, beer, and eating out every day 🙂 But that’s the fun of being young and enjoying the present, I guess.

  5. Yes, I have been to Tel Aviv. There were things I liked and things I disliked. If I were to move to Israel, I’d much rather live in Jerusalem. But, I can totally understand when a place gives you THAT feeling. That’s how I felt about Bordeaux when I visited and I ended up moving to Bordeaux a few months ago. Now that I’ve been here for a few months, I still love it.

  6. Hmmm, I think those prices are not bad compared to very expensive places like New York, San Francisco or even Hawaii. But I’m sure it is all a matter of your desire to live someplace and be willing to make sacrifices for that lifestyle

  7. I find the cost explanation fascinating. Tel Aviv and the cost of living in Paris is quite similar, so I don’t have much sticker shock.

  8. So interesting! I had no idea Tel Aviv had those prices – I’ve lived in NYC and London and, well, they’re kind of similar (maybe rent is more expensive in those other cities but everything else, right on par). I’ve heard such amazing things about Tel Aviv in general and desperately want to visit. Now that I know the cost of living, I might NOT live there, but as you say, sometimes the city chooses you!

  9. Very interesting point of view on Tel Aviv. How fortunate to be able to travel and experience so many wonderful places in the world. Enjoy every moment.

  10. “It’s always a matter of a certain city loving me back — not if the option is good or not. ” I really thought this was something I alone felt. I felt that way when I visited Panama city. Love it so much went back a second time and planning on going a third. Tel Aviv sounds like a vibrant place, but I think it’s the interesting people that make it what it is. Hope when I visit she gives me love as well. Enjoy! 🙂

  11. Whoa, it seems incredibly pricey in Tel Aviv. Especially for housing but for pretty much everything else too. A $10 coffee is something I could indulge in sometimes, but definitely not everyday. But anyway. It definitely seems like a lifestyle to live that way, but I’m not sure if I could do it. I would be up for trying though.

  12. Wow, who knew life in Israel was so expensive. Thanks for the costs breakdown – makes budgeting for an upcoming trip a lot easier knowing the costs of everyday living and socializing in advance. The Tel Avivian lifestyle definitely sounds spectacular though! I bet it’s a destination you’ll remember for the rest of your life 🙂

  13. I enjoyed reading about the cost of living in Tel Aviv. As a former economist, I find cost of living super interesting! It doesn’t seem much more than we pay in Canada. You appear to have a lot for more fun though!

  14. A good comparative study done. Gives a good idea how prepared I should be financially if I get there.
    The lifestyle so elaborately described, I am now more keen to get there well prepared.

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