Basia Monka – How boutique can you get?
Before coming to Israel, I liked buying clothes in Warsaw boutiques sometimes or when I visited Paris – shoes with a cat face, in a boutique, instead of a chain store. And no, you don’t have to be a spoiled rich person to have that need of a bit of luxury and pleasure in your life, to think that something is almost tailored made for you.
In Tel Aviv, I quickly realized that, although a boutique is not an Israeli invention, it’s absolutely very well adapted in here. It’s much more than Shenkin Street boutiques with clothes. In Israel, almost everything is boutique! Boutiques bakeries, boutique trips, boutique hotels, one of them changing a lifeguard station into a temporary boutique hotel for two, on the beach, now. On not by the beach. Who wouldn’t what to stay there?
Boutique is a symbol of luxury, and the size really matters (no, that’s not what you think, I am referring to…). Small can be fantastic, but not when it comes to the size of your apartment. Then it’s just a small, tiny, a ‘tuna fish can size’ – as I say – apartment, where you try to compact your life and sometimes yet, to have guest over for Friday dinner! We have double standards for ‘small’.
Yesterday, sitting by the beach, I overheard a dilemma of a young Israeli guy, who was going to see an apartment of 23 meters, and was saying to a friend: “it’s nothing!”. (I apologize for listening in, but he was an actor and was on the stage volume… everyone around heard, not just me). Obviously he was not from Tel Aviv originally, but from a place in Israel where apartments are big and decent. In few years either he will be a great actor with a great income and will never remember that dilemma of 23 m., or he will become like other Tel Aviv residents, who don’t find anything strange in calling it an apartment and putting a tape on the windows for the winter, to stop the rain coming inside… I told the guy, 23 is actually not that small. I might be not as long Israeli as he is, but I am a Tel-Avivit longer, apparently.
Some years ago, when I was visiting Israel as a tourist yet, I wanted to stay over my friend, he said his apartment is 24 meters square, so he could not host. 24? This is a room size not a flat, I thought… I could not imagine one can live in a space like that. Now I know, it can be smaller.
Due to the crazy high prices of rent in Tel Aviv, this is the reality. Many Tzabras (born here Israelis) share flats for many years. You would think it’s a student thing to do, but then you learn… it’s still a student thing here, too, just students are older here, so they live like younger for a longer time. Tricky? Most Israelis go to the army for three years after a high school. After the army many of them take a break for the ‘tiul gadol’ – a big trip. They grow their hair, travel for few months or a year in Asia or South America and enjoy the life the hippy way. Then they come back here, start the “real life”, including university. So it makes sense that in their late ‘20 or early ’30 they are living a student life. ‘Kacha ze be Israel’ (meaning: this way, it is in Israel)…
Moving here, especially if you single, you jump into that world. Of course, one doesn’t have to live in the center, but if you want to enjoy the vibrant life of the city, and do not have lots spare money, you must make sacrifices. Nice big apartment, but with ‘shutafim’ (flat mates, the word can be used also as partners in business) or a studio for one. No, no, no…, don’t imagine that a studio is full of space loft. Usually it’s around 20 meters “apartment”, sometimes with something called here ‘galeria’ – an addition space under the ceiling, where they put mattress, sleep like in a train couchette and make ‘salon’ (a living room with a sofa) in so called downstairs…
One can hate it or love it. But moving to Israel, that tiny, unique country, we actually come to a boutique country itself. So maybe the key to adjust here, is to find pleasure in ‘small’, see small things as boutique and boutique our lives here…
Text and photo by: Basia Monka