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All night long…

by: Esther Katz - Last updated: 2007-08-03

Esther Katz

Esther Katz

Londoner Esther Katz has gone to Tel Aviv to experience some sand, sea and living the Israeli lifestyle. Find out how she gets on with her frank and revealing insight into what life is like there for a 20-something female.

Living here for three weeks has altered my body clock drastically and forced me to address the huge differences in night-life between Tel-Aviv and London.

A night out back home is a once or twice weekly event which requires planning, foresight and often an hour or two out of ones work day.  A number of factors have to be considered: Transport connections, entry prices, opening/closing times, dress code, age limit and music are all meticulously debated over via email, phone and text message.  However, there is one special ingredient, without which this London night out would well and truly sink, firing all the above to the scrap heap.  Alcohol.  Aided often, if not always by copious amounts of beer and bubbly, even the most together of us let it all hang out at the end of the capital’s brutal 5 day work schedule of 6am starts, three hour tube journeys and 8 hours of soul-destroying office work.
Not that the above amount of forward planning can be underestimated.  Without the right clothes, ID, the right arrival time or the right money you ain’t getting in anywhere but the local kebab shop. 

A five hour plane ride and a falafel stand away, a night out in Tel-Aviv couldn’t be more different.  Although I have frequented an incredible array of bars/clubs/pubs here, my nights here have also extended to sitting in cafes at 2am, browsing the street shops and malls, smoking negila pipes on the beach, and taking many evening strolls along the promenade. The majority of hair salons here open post-8pm, films regularly show gone midnight and there’s a nightly volleyball free-for-all on the beach, which are also in my future evening pipeline.  It is a city of choice and variety, where mobile phones start ringing at eleven to round the gang to flip-flop into the night at a time when Londoners are heading to the cloakrooms already.

Resultantly, no-one plans anything here too much. Maybe it’s spending all week in the military that makes night-time itinerary here looser than a zero fat Müller light.  Going to a friends for dinner for example, will more often than not turn into a 2am trip to the ‘Breakfast’, the most popular electro club here, where you will still be bopping while the majority of the city are eating theirs.  Tel-Avivians are unhindered by entry costs, dress codes or 1am cut-offs to when you can arrive at your destination - there are none.  When it’s only a 5-10 minute cab ride to get around the city centre, people living here have everything on their doorstep and make the most of this; noticeable by the ‘balagan’ of a queue outside every venue.  Don’t let the lack of a guest-list put you off - as long as you can muck in with the rest of them and abide by the ‘speak up or shove off’ mentality you’ll get in strangely enough without a scratch.  English-speakers also tend to be rescued / thrown into the club by a doorman, automatically seeing dollar signs.

Although the sheer choice and accessibility plays a part in creating the relaxed spontaneity of night-time activity here, the attitudes towards alcohol differ hugely and also impact on this.  In the first place, it does not always come into the picture here. There are a number of late-night venues where you can shop, eat (especially cake at Max Brenner, the famous chocolate café), watch a movie or play sports, that are just not belonging to the drink culture that exists in the UK.  In the second instance, when it does come into view, at a bar/club/pub, it is much less of a celebrity.  Unlike London, where every bar is crowded with punters that receive and return in a half-hourly cycle, here it is visited only once or twice in a night by most.  Fittingly, the system here presupposes one to be level-headed enough to settle the bill at the end of the night.  Every person receives a tab, without the aid of a credit card - something that would fail abominably in the UK. Here it is the dance-floor and not the bar that rules. 

When you take into account the fact that Tel-Avivians have the option of going out, whether it be for late night dessert or for a bar-mingle if not every, then every other night, you begin to understand how a once-weekly blow-out just does not come into the picture here in the same way.  After all, there is less chance of craving inebriation-central at the end of the week, if you spend the rest of it winding down from the days in as many ways as you can think of.  As verbal a city as Tel-Aviv is, it has nothing to do with a few too many beers and all to do with the free spiritedness of the place, not forgetting the free-of-charge possibilities.

As for the question of work, Israelis have just as many responsibilities. To work six days a week until nine, ten or later at night is the norm that often facilitates the lifestyle being raved about in this piece.  But notably, however much TLV is an opportunistic social haven, it is not the career Capital that is London.  With salaries almost 4 times those in Israel and positions, which people must have achieved degrees or an impressive range of work experience to attain, Londoners do have to be more career conscious.  One cannot afford to roll into work with a fuzzy head whether it be from alcohol or a busy evening the previous night, for a younger, shinier version of oneself is just a stone’s throw away and ready to replace you. 

However, as stated by a friend recently, ‘You never know what’s around the corner in Israel’ – by this she was referring to the uncertain military threat that lingers under the surface of all the fun.  And if that’s not a reason to make the most of your days and nights here then nothing is.  A quick glimpse at the clock – 12.45am – time to make a few phone calls…