University of Haifa International School Student Blog
By Sara Franklin-Gillette, a student at the Study Abroad program at the International School.
As it is almost time for me to leave Israel, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and gained from studying abroad here. There are concrete things like advancement in my Hebrew ability, as well as knowledge I’ve gained in my classes. But there are also other, less tangible things. One big thing that I’ll be taking home with me is how I have become more assertive and confident.
One of the most apparent cultural differences between Israel and America is assertiveness and directness (sometimes called aggression and rudeness by foreigners). In America, people frequently avoid confrontation, and rarely share what they think or feel if it is not positive. Here, that is not the case. People are brutally honest, and assertive to the point of shoving people out of their way in line. One of the many other cultural differences is the use of bargaining in markets and stores, which reflects this aspect of Israeli culture.
As I have been reflecting on my experience in Israel, I remember two of my experiences bargaining, my first and my most recent. My second week in Israel, I took a trip to Nazareth and found a Christmas ornament that I wanted to buy as a souvenir for a friend. After a couple anxiety-producing minutes of talking with the store owner, I bought the ornament for the original price he asked for. I was stressed, uncomfortable in my surroundings, and worried about being too direct. This past weekend, four months after that first interaction, I was in Jerusalem and wanted to buy a necklace with my name in Hebrew. I found a store that sold them, and successfully bargained the price down to about a third of what the store owner had initially asked for. Though this is routine for Israelis, I still felt proud.
Through these two contrasting interactions, I can see how I have grown. I have not only gotten better at bargaining, but beyond that, I have become more confident in myself, less anxious in new situations, and more assertive. When I return to America in two weeks, I know that these traits will return home with me.