Pssst... Noga, they're called bookends!

When I moved to Minneapolis from Tel Aviv, I expected many things to be familiar. After all, this is America, not China or some other exotic mysterious country in Africa or the Far East. Israelis consider Israel to be a highly Westernized, Americanized society. I always thought to myself, “This is the USA, what can possibly be different.”  I watch the same TV shows (Grey’s Anatomy, House, American Idol), eat the same food (or should I say, “junk food”) and  order from the same (l usually pay more for shipment to Israel than for the actual price of whatever it was that I purchased). I follow American politics, read American books and go to the movies mostly to watch American films. So, what on earth could be different? Well, I was in for a few surprises.

Let’s start with the American metric system and pretty much everything that has to do with measuring. All of the sudden I needed to get used to “feet” and “miles” and “ounces” and “pounds”, which might sound minor to you, but turns out to be quite meaningful when you have to follow GPS directions, order coffee at caribou or let the pediatrician know how much your son weighs.

Even dates are written backwards, and getting used to putting the month before the day is almost impossible. Then there’s telling time. Here, unlike anywhere else in the world, five o’clock in the afternoon is represented by 5:00 (p.m.) and I have to remind myself that the hour 17:00 simply doesn’t exist.

English is also an issue. Those of you who have met me can attest to the fact that I speak, read and write fairly fluently. Or so I thought. Although I feel that my academic-journalistic vocabulary is quite rich, I soon discovered that when it comes to daily words, the ones you need most, types of clothing, kitchenware and office supplies, names of illnesses, foods and above all, car related issues, I am almost completely lost.  I can’t even describe how embarrassed and inarticulate I felt trying to explain to the Target salesman that I was looking for “things that you put on both sides of bookshelves to keep the books from falling.” 

And then there’s the Minnesota weather. My first challenge was with Fahrenheit. All my life I’ve been used to  thinking in Celsius, while now, my mind is constantly trying to figure out what 40 degrees means (because in Celsius it’s dam hot!) But I soon learned that being too hot is not something to worry about during a Minnesota winter. Back in Israel, I was warned often about the frigid temperatures. People would frown at me and say, “Are you crazy? Minneapolis is probably the coldest place in America?”

When December came, I learned the difference between “knowing” that this is a place with cold temperatures and “experiencing” the cold temperatures. I think I had parts of my body freeze that I didn’t even know existed!  And all the while, my parents telling me how sunny Tel Aviv is with  a temperature of 25, sorry 70, degrees. Indeed “knowing” is very little  preparation for 10 degrees below zero!

Don’t think for a minute that I’m complaining. Surprises are good and challenging. They make us think and rethink and they make life interesting. Coming to Minnesota has been intriguing for me and my family.  We are enjoyin this adventure and look forward to the surprises that lie ahead.

-Noga Shavit


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