Let’s Play a Game

Israelis are very expressive people. Whatever they do, it is done with immense passion and a whole lot of hand gestures.

For the last few years, I’ve started playing a game: I people watch and guess if they are arguing or merely having a conversation. Now this probably sounds ridiculous cause any idiot can spot the difference between the two, but you’d be surprised.

I’ve seen conversations about the weather with hand gesticulations as if we were entering WWIII.

I have witnessed a woman ask the bus driver what the cost of a ticket is and the conversation somehow ends up in 3 old ladies arguing about why she’s still single.


Non-verbal communication is equally, if not more important, than verbal communication. When it comes to a country where nothing is off limits and most things are verbally expressed (for better or for worse), the non-verbal communication follows suit. A conversation can be riddled with wide, open armed gestures followed by a playful slap on the arm followed by a “yo” wrist shake followed by a noogie followed by a kiss on the cheek and then a shake of the hands. Maybe even throw in a hug and an “I don’t believe you” wrist flop for good measure.

So next time you’re waiting for the bus or looking to kill some time, I suggest trying this game for yourself. And no cheating – you can’t be within hearing distance!




I fired myself

Hebrew is a really smart language. It was re-invented after having died out which is hella impressive if you ask me (and I know you did). It follows seven different verb patterns, all with their own purpose and grammar rules. Some are passive, some are active, and some are reflexive.

The reflexive pattern is my favorite: It is simplistic, it makes sense but it also sounds ridiculous when translated directly to English. For example, in English you say “I got dressed” but in Hebrew it’s התלבשתי, or literally: “I dressed myself.” Imagine a grown man saying “I dressed myself in jeans this morning.” Hilarious! (Although it’s good to know that he’s not still depending on his mom for that). Also, take the word התקלחתי – means “I took a shower” but literally means “I showered myself.”

One word that has been pretty hilarious to me lately is the word התפטרתי, meaning “I fired myself”. A realistic translation would write it as “I quit” or “I resigned” but I love the idea of telling people that you fired yourself. I’ve been focusing on this word a lot lately because I quit my job a few weeks ago. That’s right. I fired myself…now if only I could offer myself severance pay – that would be bomb.

As much as I love my company and co-workers (/friends!), it is time to move on. Being the planner that I am, it was very unlike me to “fire myself” without having a solid plan of action for the next step. But yalla I live in the start up nation! I’ll land on my feet – and I’ll enjoy the fall in the meantime.

What’s Up?

Today’s blog post is based on an actual conversation that I overheard in the kitchen at work not too long ago. The conversation went like so:

Person A: ?מה קורה (what’s up?)

Person B: ?מה  העניינים (what’s up?)

Person A: ?בסדר. מה נשמע (not much. what’s up?)

Person B: ?איך הולך (what’s up?)

This is already ridiculous, but WAIT! Now Person C enters the kitchen – it’s about to get interesting!

Person B: ?היי אחי! מה שלומך (hey! what’s up?)

Person C: ?הי, מה חדש (hi, what’s up?)

Person A: ?נו- חברי. באמת. מה המצב (Guys come on. Really. What’s up?)

Ironically, considering the fact that Israelis are an impatient breed, this is not such an abnormal way for conversations to begin. Inexplicably (at least to the native English speaker’s ears), this a legitimate form of a conversation opener – you greet each other until one of the conversationalists has enough and pulls out the all mighty “נו,באמת” (literally means “come on, really?!”) This phrase is generally expressed in an exasperated sigh. I imagine that with the right participants, an intro like this could go on for hours.

In an efficient, no-bullshit conversation, it usually goes like this:

Person A: ?מה נשמע (what’s up?)

Person B: ?היי .סיימת מה שביקשתי ממך לפני יומיים (hey. did you finish what i asked you to do two days ago?)

Person A: כן, כן. אשלח לך עוד מעט (yes, yes. i’ll send it to you in a minute) Side note: This response is a sure sign that Person A totally forgot to complete B’s task.

Note that in Hebrew, the proper answer (and literal translation) to “what’s up” is not “nothing” or “not much.” – in Hebrew you respond with “good,” “fine” or “all’s well.” This leads to a bizarre misunderstanding in translating between the two languages, and often leads to Israelis attempting to correct me in English.

In that same conversation from the kitchen at work, once everyone was done asking each other what’s up, they turned to me and, in English, asked me (surprise surprise) the same question.

So naturally I replied with “not too much,” as is customary. But nope. I was told: “Keeerra, when someone esk you what ees up, you answer to heem with ‘good.’ You don’t say ‘nothing’ – dat is not correct.” Yeaaaah not so much.

I suppose my summary of this post is this: when you hear an Israeli ask someone a form of “what’s up,” do yourself a favor and just walk away. Either that, or grab some popcorn, make yourself comfy and get ready for the show.