The moment you arrive to Palestine, you will realize that everything around you is different, people, culture, food, weather ..etc in this article Stephanie from Australia, who is a participating in the Teach English and Speak Arabic program, and Haesoo from South Korea who is volunteering in Palestine, will inform you about their first impression about Palestine
Stephanie’s first impression when arriving in Palestine, was that the people were incredibly hospitable and kind. This impression was only helped as she got slightly lost on her way to Hebron and many people were happy to help and to provide guidance of the correct way to go.
There are many amazing aspects to Palestine. But of all of them, Stephanie would like to highlight that the people are wonderful, in a way that cannot be fully described if you have not experienced it. They are always kind and consistently go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The culture is relaxed and easygoing, and the pace of life does not feel as fast as it is in Australia. It should also be mentioned that the food is absolutely delicious, and extremely cheap.
The winter-time cold in Hebron takes a little bit of getting used to. It especially came as a shock to Stephanie as she travelled straight to Palestine from Oman in the Gulf, where the weather is warm and sunny everyday, and usually upwards of 28C. Another aspect of the cold that takes some getting used to is the lack of central heating in the buildings. Because of this, it is important to pack warm clothes and coats that you can wear all the time.
There are quite a few differences between Australia and Palestine. Firstly, Australia is quite large in terms of distance, so it is not unusual to spend one hour driving in just one town. But because Palestine is quite small, one hour of driving can take you two or three towns away. The work culture is also much more relaxed in Palestine than it is Australia. And thirdly, the family culture is much more prevalent and socially important in Palestine. In Australia, it is not uncommon to not visit with extended family for an entire week. In Palestine, however, more often than not each night is spent either visiting family and friends or receiving visitors at their houses.
Haesoo’s first impression of Palestine was that it was cold, a common surprise among internationals visiting the region.
The kindness and hospitality of the Palestinian people was immediately evident on his first day in Hebron. When he arrived in Hebron, the hostel he was meant to be staying at was already closed. To stay warm he went into a coffee shop and became friends with some of the men who were there, who then opened up their bar for him. It is that kindness and automatic hospitality that is overwhelmingly a part of the culture in Palestine.
Haesoo noted that being in Palestine allows you to fully experience and embrace the unique culture here. It also gives you an opportunity to see how the Palestinians truly live without the influence of the media, which is far removed from the truth.
The only word of caution Haesoo would give is that if an international is thinking of coming to Hebron to volunteer, they need to be openminded and ready to adapt. It is important to recognise that this culture can be challenging if you are not used to it.
Palestine and Korea are different in that religion is an important aspect of everyday life in Palestine, while in Korea it is not necessarily as integral to everyday life. Another big difference is that the culture in Palestine is much more relaxed, not just in terms of the working culture but also the social life. People are much less restricted by schedules here, and are more likely to spontaneous in their gatherings.