If I include the five years I spent as a PhD student at the Hebrew University, I have lived in Israel for almost 13 years. In spite of my increasing awareness that I should not and would not fully assimilate here culturally, I am sure that I have been influenced by Israeli culture for better or for worse. As I am going to enter Japan with my Israeli passport for the second time next week, I have asked myself in what respects I have (not) been affected by Israeli culture as a kind of "rite of passage" from Israel to Japan and then vice versa in two weeks.
Areas in which (I feel) I have been affected include (in random order):
- Self-confidence: I am more confident of myself now, especially when I speak in front of strangers. This is not only because of Israeli culture but also thanks to some positive changes in my professional life, but I am sure that Israeli culture has an important share in making me more self-confident. Japanese culture, on the other hand, has several things that make many people have little or no self-confident. At the same time, however, I am careful not to be too self-confident and become conceited as many people are here.
- Laughter: I laugh and make others laugh much more frequently. Joy of life is in my opinion one of the greatest commandments in Judaism. Laughing or making others laugh is one of the most efficient ways to attain it. I also tell spontaneous jokes all the time, though not everyone, even here in Israel, notices the very fact that I am joking.
- Direct speech: My speech is far more direct now. I do not hint at anything except humorously or ironically. I am quite sure that my speech sounds quite aggressive to many native speakers of Japanese.
- Sociability: I am more sociable now, mainly after I Hebraized my name. Before that I always hesitated to present myself in social gatherings as few people could catch my Japanese given name and I had to repeat it a number of times, and even then few people were successful in pronouncing it correctly.
- Hospitality: I have come to host friends etc. at my apartment. Hospitality is mainly a feature of the religious people here. Although I live alone and my cooking skills and facilities are limited, I enjoy having people here, especially when I am successful in making my guests feel at home and enjoy the time we spend together.
Areas in which (I feel) I have not been affected (so much) include (in random order):
- Eating: I still maintain a healthy diet, refraining from eating what I consider junk foods, including cake and other sweet things. And eating has not become my only physical activity (or even state) as is the case with many people here.
- Drinking: Although I had to stop drinking beer (for fear of gout), I have switched to red wine and still continue drinking quite a lot, at least in Israeli terms (I drink one bottle almost every day). This is probably the only dietary "sin" I make. As a kind of excuse for this "sin", I can say that red wine made in Israel is simply too good not to enjoy.
- Physical exercises: I continue to do physical exercises regularly - I run and swim five times a week. The majority of the regular members at my swimming club are Anglophones. I wonder how many native Israelis do any physical exercise regularly except for eating.
- Not promising what I cannot keep: I have been very careful not to promise what I cannot keep. But even in spite of this caution there are times, though very rarely, in which I cannot keep my words due to external circumstances that are beyond my control; then I always apologize to the person I promised something. I am extremely bothered by people, including those I thought were my friends, who neither keep promises nor apologize to me later for that; unfortunately, this is a very rampant behavior here.
- Punctuality: I still come to personal meetings and social gatherings on time, even if I know in advance that many others will not show up on time and will be late. I have an impression that quite a few people think illusionally that being late and making others wait for them make them more important socially. I cannot trust people who cannot come on time, either, as they steal my time. More people in Israel should be aware of this severe sin called theft of time.