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Joanna Shebson, Jerusalem

Who are you?

Joanna Shebson.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Jerusalem, Israel from Los Angeles with my husband and two children in August 2007.We moved for religious reasons to raise our kids in a Jewish State.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The biggest challenge is language and cultural nuances. Although I spoke Hebrew when I got here I had to really improve my Hebrew. I bought the local paper and started to watch Hebrew TV shows. I also learned that being gentle and polite is not always the best way to get things done here. Israelis can be tough on the outside and I had to toughen up but they are mostly soft on the inside and will bend over backwards to help you. Now I feel part of the “Israeli family”.

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Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes we have a whole community of US expats as well as families who have moved here from all over the world.

What do you like about life where you are?

It is very real. People tell you what they are thinking and enjoy each day at a time. There is a lot of opportunity here and you need to seize it.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

The more I live here the further I feel from America. My perspective on work & life is different and sometimes I need to ask myself do I feel American, do I feel Israeli or do I still feel a bit of both.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Life here is never slow. It could be because I work in tourism and every month there is another vacation or holiday. Or it could be because life moves quickly here. But I love it!

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The food here has really become incredible. Israeli cuisine is no longer just falafel and humus. I can find restaurants that sell all types of food and there is nothing better than an Israeli breakfast.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Take it slowly. Don’t try to change things and people to be like they were back home. Be flexible and get to understand the culture as well as the language.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue to live here and raise my kids here and I hope they choose to stay here as well.

You can find out more about Joanna's life in Israel on her website, Fun In Jerusalem.

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