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.
Photo: Matanya Tausig
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. 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
Cover Photo: © Matanya Tausig
Have you been to Tel Aviv? Have you had the same feeling towards the city? How was the experience? I’d like to know your thoughts! Leave any notes or reactions on the comment box below!