Friend Dates

When you move to a new city, or state, or in this case, country that’s on the other side of the earth…how do you meet people and make new friends, to try to form meaningful relationships?

The other Ashdod Teaching Fellows and I spend a lot of time together working, volunteering, traveling, cooking, going out, and hanging out in the apartments. We’ve bonded in our shared experiences, and have created networks of friendship and support among us.

We’ve also met and become friends with fellows in other cities. This past week, I attended a week-long Leadership Summit in Jerusalem, where participants from programs like ITF and other MASA Israel-funded volunteer and work programs came together for seminars, workshops, and other Israel-focused activities. I met so many other young Jews from around the world, who are living in Israel now to achieve professional and individual goals that ares similar to my own.

But this sort of opportunity doesn’t happen every day in Ashdod, and to be honest, I don’t want to rely on this and find myself socially stuck in a primarily American volunteer/program bubble. So how do I meet other people my age in Israel, when most of them already have an established lifestyle and friendships, and speak a native tongue that I’m only just beginning to learn?

…Internet.

One method I’ve recently started using is the dating site OKCupid – wait for it – to find people with interesting profiles and to ask them out on “friend dates.”

So far, I’ve had two girls respond and meet up with me in Tel Aviv, and both were super cool people that I definitely want to see again. I felt a really natural connection on my dates, and I know it’s because I had the opportunity to read through their profiles and identify commonalities, and then talk with them a bit before meeting up. We all had similar experiences coming to and being in Israel, but we were so different at the same time, and I felt time passed quickly sharing stories and learning about each others’ lives.

I’m still a little discouraged about a few things. One is how difficult it is to find these connections in Ashdod, though I’m in Tel Aviv often enough that I can reach out to people whenever to make weekend meetup plans. I think this plan can expand as I travel to more cities in Israel, too.

Another is that the girls I met were also traveling American, and I’d like to be meeting more native Israelis. I do have some Israeli friends living in Tel Aviv, and it’s always fun to visit them and meet their friends, too. But sometimes, trying to communicate with their friends is difficult. I’ve had one guy tell me how strange it felt, trying to be himself with me, because he couldn’t express himself as freely, and specifically as humorously, in English (he was still very funny, I was surprised by his remark). I’ve had others tell me how much they enjoy practicing their English with me, but that it’s a big, and sometimes embarrassing effort for them. I always remind them that their English is FAR better than my Hebrew, and this makes me grateful of how understanding, accepting, and welcoming the Israelis I’ve met are.

Despite the geographic and lingual barriers, I’m hopeful that the digital world can aid my real-life experiences. I’ve found that dating sites are a mixed bag of opportunities, but for something like this, as long as you are clear with your platonic intentions from the start, I think it can be quite a successful way to make new friends. I’m happy that I’ve been able to use this technology to actually meet new people and start to form meaningful relationships.

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