Before I continue with tips for hangout places in Tel-Aviv, I thought it might be a good idea to tell you a little bit about the Tel-Avivian etiquette. Though Tel-Aviv is a super cool and fun city, it can also be overwhelming, especially if you are a first timer. So here is a manual, to better prepare you for the experience.
Israelis take pride in the fact that Israel is the only country located in the Middle East which is considered as a European country. They believe this reflects the fact that Israel is highly modernized. Truth be told, Israel participates in European events instead of Asian ones mainly for political reasons, and though it is more Western and liberal than any Second and Third World country I’ve ever been to, it still doesn’t quite stand up to European standards. Israel, as well as Tel-Aviv, is pretty chaotic. People are quite loud and rude, and things never start on time.
Traffic in general and more specifically public transportation in the city is horrible. There is no underground, so you have to rely on buses, which never arrive when they are supposed to, and are never as frequent as you would like them to be. Tel-Avivian drivers are very impatient, they have no tolerance for pedestrians or for their fellow drivers. They will cut in front of you, curse you and do whatever they want, regardless of the rules.
Another problem is that Israelis can’t stand in lines, so when they wait for something they sort of group up, and then push and scream as hard as possible in order to get to the front of the line. If you want to actually make it to wherever you are trying to get, being polite and quiet is not helpful, you should try cut in line.
Another problem is that Tel-Avivians have no regard to personal space. They won’t let you get off a bus or a train before they try to get on it, they won’t hold a door open for you, and they won’t say sorry if they stepped on your foot. Sorry and please are basically unnecessary in the Israeli vocabulary.
If you do want to learn a useful word in Hebrew, the word for you is “Sababa”. This word’s origins are in Arabic, but Israeli’s borrowed it and use it in a few different ways. Basically it means “ok”, or “all’s well”. You can use it in order to answer the question “how are you?”, to indicate you understood what someone explained to you, or you can even use it as a question, meaning “are you good?”.
Most Israelis speak English or at least understand it quite well. This makes Tel-Aviv a very tourist friendly city. You can always ask for an English menu, and also most signs have English transcription, so you need not worry about that. Israelis also like to try and show off their English, and they like tourists. Usually speaking English is helpful, and will open doors for you (literally, you might not have to stand in line for a party etc). However, taxi drivers and paddlers in the market often times try to rip off tourists. So beware, and check the actual price! Do not just pay what they ask for. Bargaining in such places in more than acceptable. It might even work in any retail store, where you can ask for a discount.
Although the local currency, the Shekel (or the ILS) is lower than the Dollar, Euro and Pound, Tel-Aviv is expensive – the food, the clothes, gas(!). And although a visit to a cafe, bar or restaurant is usually overpriced to begin with, we still tip. Nowadays people tend to tip 15% (which would be the equivalent to 20% in NYC). Anything under 12% would be considered as rude. If you ever get out of town and dine there, you might pull off a 10% tip.
Tel-Avivians are very casual people, and things here are very informal. As part of that notion, flip-flops are basically a uniform here, and a must have. People wear super intricate, stylish outfit, and then slip on their Havaianas (A Brazilian flip-flop brand). If you don’t have a pair, you can purchase one starting at 50 Shekels (about 14$) for the simpler designs.
If you ask Tel-Avivians during summertime, they are either on their way to or from the beach. And for a good reason! The beaches in Tel-Aviv are amazing, they have super soft sand, and are located in the middle of the city. I would recommend you to go and join them (just don’t forget to put on some sunscreen, and get a bottle of water too!).
If I haven’t scared you, you are more than welcome to join me for some more tips on the best places in Tel-Aviv 😉