Last night, I did my mitzvah for the week and invited the new guy from work out. Stanley is younger (about 25), American, and came alone to Israel with no friends or family here; he’s not even Jewish, making it extra hard for him to feel like he belongs. So, I did what I do…I started to feel bad for him and invited him to come out with Evelyn and I so he doesn’t feel so alone. My plan was simple: some food, a little walking tour of cool places to hang out, then call it a night.
After the walking tour portion of our evening, Stanley and I went to a local bar to have a drink. The idea was not to get drunk, just to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer after walking in a huge circle for a couple hours. While there, he made a comment about the restaurant service in Israel and how it’s impossible to get in and out of somewhere quickly.
I explained to him that Israel doesn’t have the same “grab it and go” or “eat and run” culture that America has. Going out to eat with friends or family in Israel is an event. You don’t rush away from the table, you take your time eating, after dinner you order coffee or tea, having a drink with or before dinner is totally accepted, then after your are finished eating you are free to sit and bullshit with your company while people digest and pick their teeth with a toothpick.
Stanley reminded me that this is not the way things are done in the states and that the money for the restaurant is in the turn-over. Then he marveled at how it could possibly be that Starbucks didn’t succeed in tel aviv, with such a strong coffee culture here…
This is for the same reason, I explained. People here have coffee with friends as a thing. You don’t just run out and grab a coffee on the go, and if you want to do that, we have kiosks that brew their own awesome coffee. Starbucks does not really encourage sitting for extended times. When Israelis go out for coffee, they want to sit and have a waitress take their order and they want to not worry about cleaning up after themselves. But most importantly, they want to just hang out with their friends and family and be bothered.
We aren’t really “eat at your desk” or “quick bite to eat” people. All meals come with a salad. Coffee is expected at the end of every meal. There is nothing that you need to do that is more important than just relaxing with friends for an hour over some good food and something hot to drink.