Friends

The other night, I met an Israeli couple who recently moved from Tel Aviv to the Bay Area. They'd lived in Israel their whole lives and it was their first time living abroad in the US. She is getting her master's degree, and he is working in Silicon Valley.

During our conversation, I asked what the hardest part of moving to California was.

"It took some time to adapt to American culture. Being in the Bay Area surrounded by tech helps, because we can still speak that common language."

"What is the difference between US and Israeli culture?" I asked.

"How often do you see your parents?"

I told them my parents live in the South Bay, not too far away, but I still see them less than I should, once or twice a month.

"Back in Israel, I saw my parents almost every day. The friends I grew up with, I saw almost every day. In the US, you make friends, great friends, in college. You become close, but then your friends might move across the country for work or you might move away for work, and you make new friends depending on where you are and who you're with.

"Part of that is because Israel is so much smaller. It's easier to go out for a drink with your friends every day. And that made it a lot harder to learn how to do this."

He gestured out to the crowd of 15 or so people talking and having dinner in the small house. I was invited over by a friend I met the week before and I knew only 3 of the 15 people there.

"But walking into this house by myself to talk to people I've never met is terrifying for me too," I said.

"You have no idea. For you, this is normal. It might feel uncomfortable, but it happens all the time, and you adapt."

"Back home, relationships are ..." he paused, searching for the right word, "deeper. There, you learn how to connect deeply with people, the same people. Here, you learn how to interact with new people."

I thought about my roommates from college, who are now spread all over the world. We half-joke over Skype about how we're going to move into a 5-story house someday with our families and live together again. The reality is that they're far away, and who knows what forces will bring us back together as our lives take shape.

"Which kind do you think is better?" I asked, "The depth or the breadth?"

They both shook their heads without hesitation.

"The question isn't 'Which is better?' as much as 'How do I survive?'"