Posted By Gerardo (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 24/04/2013
This is a guest post from the London and Tel-Aviv based entrepeneur, Daniel Abrahams.
The reason was simple. Israel is a major startup hub and boasts more startups per capita than anywhere in the world. For our staff, this would be an extremely unique experience and be a perfect opportunity for the whole development, design and commercial team to truly gel in a foreign environment. Of course, a quick search on the weather in Israel helped with our decision too.
During the initial research phase for our three month trip, a look on Expatistan comparing the cost of living between London and Tel Aviv brought good news. Wow – London is 44% more expensive than Tel Aviv! Excellent. Not only will our startup thrive, but we can save money too! The reality? Partially true, very accurate data, but not so simple.
In this article, I'll try and share my experiences of the life of a startup in a foreign country, particularly focusing on how to best manage your personal finance.
Live like a local. Not a Tourist.
When abroad, it can be extremely tempting to want to eat out every night and go traveling at every opportunity. This is great, but of course will come at a cost. Living abroad and maintaining a tourist lifestyle not only blows all cost of living stats out the window, but also, it isn't the healthiest way to live.
Comparing the cost of food and drink. London v Tel Aviv
From my experience, food and drinks at major bars and clubs in Israel are no different in price to the best haunts in the UK. It can be extremely common to pay upwards of £10 for a Vodka and mixer.
For every day essential items such as milk, bread and eggs, we've seen the data totally in line with Expatistan and good savings can be made. Israel is in general a cheaper place to live than the UK, particularly outside the bubble of Tel Aviv. Where possible, buy fruit and vegetables in the market. Not only will it be cheaper than supermarket, but you will also be able to haggle. If you do want to eat out on a budget, the local 'falafel' and 'shawarma' stands offer superb value and quantity of food!
Tipping culture in Tel Aviv is EXTREMELY different to London
Israelis are an extremely friendly, but wholly direct breed of people. They will have no qualms in letting you know that 'service is not included.' I have found in multiple pubs and bars the staff members making it abundantly clear that a tip of 10% upwards is the 'norm' and should be duly delivered. I don't mean pubs where waitresses bring food and drink to the table. I mean literally, ordering a drink at the bar and collecting within 2 minutes. This very simple transaction apparently warrants a tip! On a couple of occasions, when questioning the rationale, I'm told that staff are paid purely on tips without salary. Each to their own.
Rent for a foreign startup in Tel Aviv can be expensive
From our experience, a 3 month company location in Tel Aviv is expensive. We fall in the middle between the type of accommodation that is usually classified as 'holiday rental' and 'short to long term.' As a startup abroad, we wanted to get straight into work mode with minimal interruption. This meant our accommodation had to be fully furnished (bed sofa, etc) with all bills included. In the heart of Tel Aviv, for a 2 bedroom apartment in a good location, expect to pay 7,000 Shekels upwards. We're paying over the odds but it's a price we were willing to pay to ensure minimal aggravation. If however, you both have the time to furnish your apartment & plan to stay in Tel Aviv for longer than 6 months, it's generally a much cheaper city to rent.
Make a concerted effort to mix with the locals & attend relevant meetups
Finally, whether you relocate to Tel Aviv or Palo Alto, I'd strongly suggest mimicking the types of activities and passions you have back in your home country. If you love playing football, join a local team. If your passion is art, join an after work art class. If you are in the startup scene, go to every meetup that's relevant to the product you are working on. Linked to the cost of living, these activities normally are very cheap, and sometimes free. You'll make new friends and have fun along the way.
I personally feel the most important factor in expatriate adjustment is to make an effort to learn the language. Being able to speak a few words in the local language will make you feel less isolated & a more included part of your new society.
Shalom, Behatslacha & Todah Rabah!
About the author
Daniel Abrahams is the Co-Founder & Head of Partnerships at MyCurrencyTransfer.com & MyTravelMoney.co.uk, a comparison platform to help individuals and businesses get the best foreign currency deal. Daniel is half Israeli and enjoys playing football, trying very hard to learn Hebrew fluently and loves connecting with startup entrepreneurs.