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What is culture? Is it defined by ethnicity, values, blood, time period or religion?

What is culture? Is it defined by ethnicity, values, blood, time period or religion? I don’t know if there’s one distinct answer to my open ended question but I do believe that everyone is a combination of multiple cultures. For the past 3 weeks in Israel, I’ve tried to distinguish the “Israeli” culture-- this was much more complex than I expected. People are cultural smoothies, so picking out what makes Israelis different from me due to their lifestyle opposed to what makes them different as an individual person has been a sticky process.

One night early on in the trip, me and a few friends decided to get dinner. As we were walking across the street on a GREEN walking light, two cars halted within a second of each other, leaving barely a foot between my friends and the cars. Their abrupt stop, followed by extensive honking, left my friends and me in confusion. We had clearly had the right of way as pedestrians, so how could these cars nearly hit us and then blame us for this near accident? When we arrived finally, the waitress sat on her phone for around 5-7 minutes before acknowledging our presence, then proceeded to roll her eyes as we ordered giving off uninviting, obnoxious, cool vibes. As a waitress at home I was left shocked. What kind of waitress treats her customers with such disrespect, doesn’t she want a good tip? Moral of this story, I’ve noticed Israeli culture can be remarkably inconsiderate. In America, we are taught from day one to consider others: when I began driving I learned to always let people go first, when I got my job as a waitress I was told the customer is always right and they come first. This concept of consideration for those around you has been sewn into my brain, but in contrast it seems as though some Israelis were never taught this basic moral.

On another- less critical- note, there’s been nothing more riveting than the sense of genuineness I receive on a daily basis. Whether talking to the school chef, my teachers, or shopping at the local grocery store, whatever the conversation is about, the person I am conversing with are always fascinated and intrigued by what I have to say. There’s no falsehood, and I’m left feeling that a conversation about something as simple as plates could be the most heart-warming and real conversation of the week. It’s mind-boggling how far authenticity can go, and this is something a vast majority of Americans-- including myself-- lack.

I don’t believe that any culture can be wrong or fully corrupt, but I know nothing and none is perfect. What I’ve learned so far is that Israeli culture and my own American culture are very different and this small glimpse I’ve experienced cannot begin to summarize who the Israeli people are. Still, I would be exceedingly lucky if any aspect of Israeli culture was added to my cultural smoothie.