My most recent visit to London over Christmukkah break reminded me of all the reasons why I love the city: the gorgeous holiday lights and decoration, the cleanliness and order, the quaint roads and familiar historical landmarks, and the way you can silently get lost exploring a new neighbourhood. I have regularly called London my favourite city in the world, but now that I’m living in Israel, Tel Aviv is a strong contender for that title despite that fact that these two cities could not be more at odds with each other. Though I love them both for what they are and represent, these two cities are undeniably opposites from each other for a few major reasons.
England is built on the pillar of old-fashioned orderly queues. Whether it’s at a bus stop, the airport, or a pharmacy, if there is one thing in London you can always count on besides the rain, it would be the fact that there will always be queues. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, has no such thing. There are no lineups at bus stops, even old ladies will push you out of the way to get first dibs on the good seats. There are no lines at the supermarkets, only masses of people. The trick to getting ahead of any group of people in Tel Aviv is to adopt an Israeli attitude and use some light elbowing.
I love a good plate of fish and chips or a leisurely afternoon in a cafe sipping tea with a side of scones and clotted cream, but the food in London really cannot be compared to Israeli dishes. Falafel,shawarma, israeli salad, jachnun, couscous, za’atar on everything, and hummus, oh the hummus. English food seems to have forgotten there are other spices aside from salt and pepper, while Israeli food doesn’t realize that you do need something edible to go with your saucy mélange of two dozen random spices found in your local shuk. Still, I’ll take shakshuka over a full English Breakfast any day.
If London had a dress code it would be something between black tie and business casual. It seems as if people spend their whole morning on their hair and makeup and then don their Sunday’s best just to ride the tube. Meanwhile, it’s not uncommon to see people in Tel Aviv walk to work in their slippers while wearing ripped jeans and a ratty old t-shirt. Calling the dress code ‘casual’ in Tel Aviv doesn’t even seem to do it justice. It’s more of a come-as-you-are-seriously-even-in-pyjamas-and-don’t-even-think-about-putting- on-mascara kind of dress code.
Ah, Tel Aviv, the beautiful city on the Med where the sun shines and surfers catch the morning waves while beautifully golden people lounge on beach chairs. (That was last week, in January). Winter here lasts approximately 2-4 weeks, during which time it “rains” a couple times and then leaves until next year. London, on the other hand, is a rain factory. In fact, I believe it’s where rain was invented. Londoners seem confused when they look up to see a yellow shiny ball in the sky, as if they miss the usual dreary clouds and spitting raindrops.
You would think that in a country named ENGLAND, you would walk the streets of London and hear mostly ENGLISH. That is a false assumption. Walking down the streets in London is like taking a tour of the tower of Babel: it seems as if Londoners speak every language under the (rarely appearing) sun except English. Walk through Tel Aviv on the other hand, the central city of the only Jewish country in the world, and you might hear next to no Hebrew. It is entirely possible for someone to live and work in Tel Aviv without knowing anything other than “shalom,” “toda,” and “sababa.”
If the loudest London gets is Oxford Street on Christmas Eve when locals are running about to get their last minute shopping done and double-decker busses are causing a polite amount of traffic, then that might be comparable to the sound of Tel Aviv on any random Monday night. You need noise cancelling headphones and a solid pair of earplugs to survive to volume of Tel Aviv, which always seems to be cranked up to eleven.