For some balance... "What's Missing in America"

Ok, so I'll admit that I talk a lot on this blog about things that are "missing" in Israel. Drip coffee makers, apple cider vinegar, molasses, actual vanilla extract, natural peanut butter (you can barely find the unnatural kind), M&Ms, swiffers, graham crackers, and more. It's not that there aren't excellent Israeli alternatives-- I'd take hummus or date butter over peanut anyday-- but, well, we all miss familiar things when we move.

So for a bit of perspective, my husband directed me today to this article in Maariv's website, www.nrg.co.il. The author (Nofar Chaimovitch) writes a column about living as an Israeli in NYC, and the article's title translates to "The Things You Won't Find in America." The article's first two paragraphs say it all about the Israeli attitude towards America, really. Here's my rough translation (please correct me if I get any parts wrong):

There is no doubt that America contains many good things. After all, it's America-- the country of capitalism and free enterprise. Every good idea is enough to turn an ordinary person into a millionaire, and everything here is big and beautiful and new and innovative and sophisticated-- but nonetheless, some things are lacking in America.

And true, it is possible to find these things in your local Israeli supermarket or specialty shops not far from Manhattan, but not in your neighborhood store. So we, the Israelis living in America, have to convince family and friends to send us what we crave or even to bring it with them (yes, it's legal). So here's a list of a few basic things that are missing here [in America].
Here's the list of things missing in America:
  • Scotch Brite. From the article: "Just as Americans don't know how to wash floors, so they don't know to use Stotch Brite when they wash dishes. Basically, Americans have too much water-- so they put all the dishes in a full sink of water and wash them with a different kind of brush. ..." Personally, Scotch Brite looks to me like just another scrubber that DOES exist in America... can anyone enlighten me? Is this something I should be using?
  • Floor Rags. I find this one really entertaining because one of my earliest blog posts dealt with the difficulty of using Israeli floor rags to mop the floor. Apparently, the author thought it was hillarious that a friend of her parents who had moved to New York City in the 70s asked her to bring floor rags with her when she came to America... until she arrived in the US and discovered, to her shock and horror, that "in the 21st century, there are no floor rags in America and Americans still think that to pass a dry mop over the floor is considered cleaning."
  • Laundry. What the author really means is that laundry detergent powder is almost impossible to find in America... however, she actually decided that she likes liquid detergent. I remember trying to wash my clothes when I came to Israel for the first time during college, and being utterly unable to find detergent in the grocery store. I was looking for liquid! The author also talks about needing to bring her laundry to a laundromat-- almost every Israeli apartment contains at least a hook-up for a washing machine. (You often bring your own washing machine with you when you move.)
  • Bamba. For the uninitiated, "Bamba" is essentially peanut-flavored Cheetos. And I agree with the author here-- it's kind of bizarre that Americans "spread peanut butter on every existing thing, including cookies and chocolate and sandwiches with jam" but are disgusted by Bamba. I wonder the opposite, though-- how can Israelis love Bamba and not be into PB & J?
  • Chocolate Milk in a Bag. (See picture at the top of the post.) Ok, this is just one of those Israeli things that my husband remembers with great joy from his childhood... and that I just don't get. But yes, you can buy chocolate milk in little bags here. (In fact, we buy milk in bags in general-- I should post about that some time!) "Shoko beSakit" (Chocolate [milk] in a Bag) is a bit like a juice box, except that instead of using a straw, you simply bite or cut the corner off the bag and kind of pour it into your mouth. It's an art.
  • "Mekupelet." This is a kind of Israeli chocolate bar (called "folded" because of its wrinkly texture), and I have to admit that I don't like them very much. To me, they taste like what happens when you leave chocolate in the sun too long and it melts and then re-hardens. And they look like... er... never mind. But according to this ex-pat Israeli, "There's no denying that mekupelet is one of the most brilliant inventions that there is."
  • A4 paper. Yup, the 8 1/2 by 11 inch printer paper we use in America doesn't exist in Israel... and the Israeli (probably international) A4 paper size is hard to find in the US. I finally caught on to this one after a few months of wondering why there would be white space and cut-off margins when I printed here. If you're curious, an A4 page is 8.27 by 11.69 inches. As Nofar says, "America has to be special."
  • Canned mushrooms. (By the way, I'll admit to cheating with the help of Google Translator to help me understand this page, and according to Google Translator, this entry is about "A box of mushrooms Gambling." But trust me, we don't have gambling mushrooms in Israel.) Is this really true, though? You don't have canned mushrooms in America? It took Nofar months to find canned mushrooms, but I seem to remember seeing them in Giant Eagle. Of course, there probably wasn't a whole end-of-aisle display of canned mushrooms as there are in our supermarkets here.
  • Daxemol. This is a kind of pain killer/fever reducer/cold remedy available only in Israel. I have to laugh when I read this and remember all the panicked e-mails on the Nefesh b'Nefesh list-serve: "What?? There's no Tylonel in Israel??" True, but there's also no Daxemol in the US!
  • Vegetable peelers. Ok, I'm mystified by this one, because I definitely did use vegetable peelers in the US. But according to Nofar, American peelers rust in two weeks and don't work nearly as well. Plus, if you go to look at the picture in Nofar's article, you'll see that Israeli vegetable peelers are a different shape than your average American peeler-- and I'll agree that they work much better.
  • Cotton wool. In Israel, you can buy a bag of cotton-- not cotton pads, not cotton balls, not pretty little square cotton makeup removers, but just a bag of cotton that you can tear off and use as you wish. And that's the kind of thing Israelis miss in America.
Personally, this article gave me great perspective-- just as I miss some things I could easily find in the US, Israelis miss a great deal when they leave this country. And the fact is that people in both countries manage to survive-- Americans with their dry, dirty floors and lack of Dakesmol, and Israelis with their powdered laundry detergent and lack of M&Ms.

So if you really want to be Israeli but still live in the US, start grousing about the quality of American vegetable peelers!


  1. The quality of American vegetable peelers is irrelevant given the quality of American vegetables. I use to love Salad until I moved to the states. And I was so traumatized by what Americans call a cucumber that, 20 years later, I still view salads with deep suspicion.

    Parenthetically, I might point out that the reason that Maya thinks that "Mekupelet" chocolate tastes like something that's been left out too long is because the first (and last) time she tried it, it had been left out too long. Actual FRESH mekupelet is quite good, though. :)

  2. Or Mekupelet chocolates that have been in the freezer, and so which also taste dry and too crunchy, much like melted and rehardened chocolate. Which is ironic, considering that we put chocolates in the freezer to prevent that!

  3. Maybe you should move to Efrat - we can get almost everything here on your list of things that you miss :)

    Great post!

  4. We should suggest that to the author of the article! I can get everything on her list at my corner grocery store, too.

  5. A things to mention:

    - Mekupelet is not an Israeli invention but an English one. I can't remember what they're called but my English teacher used to bring me some when she would visit her family in Liverpool. The original kind are actually crumblier and chocolaty-er.

    - Dexamol, Akamol, and all the 'mols' out there are in fact just generic paracetamol and are easily available in any drugstore in the US (or elsewhere in the world for that matter - I got a box of paracetamol in a small abandoned desert town in the Bolivian highlands).

    Thanks for the fun read!

  6. Shoko in a bag is a breast issue... I mean think about it LOL

  7. American vegetable peelers are horrible! I have started going to a store that sells gourmet and professional quality kitchen equiment. You can pick up an Israeli style peeler for around $4 (they are from Switzerland, even when purchased in Israel, I believe).

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. And scotchbrite is available everywhere.


  10. I have to agree with ישראבלוף - the quality of produce in the US is lacking, to say the least.

    When one actually is able to find something that actually resembles a tomato - the price tag is something like $3/lb (~25 NIS/kg)...

  11. i buy bamba AND bissli at my local wal-mart here in Michigan all the time!

  12. In Ithaca, NY, Wegman's sold Bamba and Bissli. In New Jersey, my boyfriend buys Bamba or Bissli at the local Shopright. As for cotton wool, tell them to go to Russian pharmacies in Brooklyn and ask for "vahtah" :0)

  13. Mekupelet are called Flake in England Dondy! (Of course, because this post is 6 months old, you'll probably never know, but I had to interject)

  14. Ok so I love your blog. I find the whole Daxemol thing hilarious because Daxemol and Tylenol are the same thing - different trade names for the exact same drug (Paracetamol) - dose and all.

  15. Ok so I love your blog. As a medical student I find the whole Daxemol thing hilarious because Daxemol and Tylenol are the same thing - different trade names for the exact same drug (Paracetamol) - dose and all.

  16. A few of the things I bring back from North America today are sweetened coconut, double acting baking powder, Excedrin, Swiffer refills, and mini marshmallows - the colored ones

  17. BISSLI IS AMAZING! The onion flavor is so delicious. I hope they have giant bags in Israel cause all we have here is the little snack bags. And I cant always get that.

  18. I love reading your blog - cracks me up. I lived in Israel for 12 years, and now we're back in the US now. The future? Who knows. Anyway, we also get Bamba (and Bisli) at Walmart!

    This post reminds me of the time I was complaining to an Israeli (sabra) friend of mine about how the TV guide is organized in Israel. It's by channel, rather than by time (at least it was then). So, if I wanted to watch something at 8 p.m., I'd have to scan every.single.channel to find a show. Annoying! Well, she totally blew my mind by telling me that when she lived for 2 years in New York, one of her biggest pet peeves was the fact that the TV guide was organized by time. Unreal! By time was clearly the most logical way to do it. Or so I, the American, thought. That conversation was a real turning point for me in my "klita".


Related Posts with Thumbnails