“I saw it on American TV”!

We have been working for about five weeks now in our respective hotels and so I thought I would dedicate this post to how I view Israelis so far solely based on my experiences at work.
I work in the dining room and basically I am at the bottom of the hierarchy. I work split shifts (8am-1pm and then 6pm-10pm, which I hate I might add). We have coaches, who are like managers, and then above them there is the head manager, you can tell what position each one of us has because we all wear different uniforms. We clear plates and deliver coffee and milk in the morning and take drink orders at night.
The work itself doesn’t really bother me; the people are nice (HUGE change from when I was working at a restaurant in Delray Beach) and sometimes, there are American tourist groups that stay at the hotel and they joke that they are always impressed by my immaculate English and I get to chat about what I am doing in Israel and what they are doing in Israel. Recently, I have spoken to a group on a mission trip and another on a bird watching tour that travels all over the world.
I also get to speak to the Israelis who speak English. They always inquire about my stay here in Eilat. The usual response is “If you are from America, why are you here? It’s better there.” Then I ask if they have ever visited/lived in America and they say no and I ask “well then, how do you know?” and they tell me it just seems better. I laugh every time and say “the grass is always greener on the other side.”
Many of the Israelis that I have come in contact with and that have never visited the states basically base our nation and its people off the television shows and movies that are displayed here on cable and in their theaters. This leads to misunderstandings because they think I will act a certain way and when I don’t, it is confusing. Nothing has happened that has been too serious, but it has lead to many laughs. In addition, they are appalled at the lack of an expression in English for bon appétit (which in Hebrew is “b’tayavon”) and I hadn’t really thought about it until it was brought to my attention.
I really like and respect my coaches. One is an Arab man and the other is an Israeli woman. The man does not speak any English whatsoever besides of course “Hello, how are you Nicole?” This means he does not address us, ever. He translates through another co-worker what he wants to convey to us. I feel like this should bother me, but it doesn’t.
The other day all the dining room employees were running a little bit late after eating breakfast and I saw the Hebrew speaking employees getting a talking to from my coach while my English friend and I got to just go to work. I guess it helps too that he really likes us and the way we work. He is a pretty serious guy and I rarely see him smile, except once there is a baby or a small child in the dining room. I kid you not, every time he sees one he has the biggest smile on his face and he has to go over and play with them, pick them up and speak with them. It really is the funniest thing, but it’s also really sweet.
The Israeli woman we work with is in school studying English to become some sort of financial expert which is also what she did while she was in the army. We try to help her with her English as much as possible and she is really fun to talk with, she is always calling us hamuda (cute) and mami (honey).
My co-workers for the most part are really nice. I have had some issues with some of them bossing me around, but I just sass them back and they leave me alone. A lot of the Israeli workers have tried to take advantage of us interns (not just at my hotel, but many of the others too) and they try to do as little work as possible while giving us the brunt of the work. This really bothers a lot of people in the group, mostly because we aren’t getting paid and they are and plus the ones who boss us around are no higher in rank than we are so there is no reason for them to try to tell us what to do.
Before I came here, I had the impression that Israelis were a little bit bossy and straightforward and so far this hasn’t been proven otherwise for me. The straightforward part is difficult to get used to. I like it better because if an American says to you in the street “oh yea, I will call you later and we’ll have lunch!” You aren’t sure if that lunch is really going to happen or not, but here you know for sure.
My Hebrew is improving. We still have three and a half hour classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and I try to use what I have learned in class in the dining room that week. I am getting more and more comfortable everyday asking people what they would like and being able to understand their requests. I love that moment of clarity where I realize that I am definitely progressing, I feel like I am accomplishing something. I had a co-worker comment today that I am learning very fast. I learn a lot from my co-workers as not many of them speak English.
In my down time, (which is very little; I get one day off a week), I am still frequenting the beach and working on my tan. In three weeks, we will change positions in the hotel and then things will get really interesting.
In February 2010, Nicole Shore flew to Israel on a one-way ticket to participate in the Eilat Hotel Management Internship through Oranim. Nicole graduated college in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in French language and culture, and a Bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus on interpersonal communication. She loves change and meeting new people (in fact she choose to attend the University of South Florida because she knew that only two people from her high school graduating class were going to be joining her) and thrives in places where she has to learn to survive differently than what she’s accustomed to. With all the money in the world, she’d travel and experience the foods and cultures of the world.
Originally posted on http://letmypeoplegrow.org

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