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Words You Cannot Live Without After Some Time In Israel

Living in Israel may affect different people in different ways, but one thing we all seem to have in common; we pick up on the same words. I have yet to meet a non-Israeli who spent time in Israel, or among Israelis abroad, and did not learn to use these words. When it comes to myself, regardless of which language I am speaking at a given moment, I simply don’t know anymore how to NOT use these words! So when I talk to people who have never been in Israel, or doesn’t speak a single word of Hebrew, they obviously have no idea what so ever what I am saying unfortunately. But seriously, what do you say instead?! I often feel like there is just no word for me in English, or in Swedish, which sends the messege across as effectfully and effortlessly as these words do.

Sababa (סבבה)
The ultimate word/slang for saying ‘okay’, ‘cool’. ‘fine’.”I am sababa”, “The movie was sababa”, “Sababa, so see you later”, “Everything is sababa”.

Yalla (יאללה)
Originally from the Arabic language, but used very frequently also among Hebrew speakers. What word can possibly have as many meanings as ‘Yalla’? Depending on your tone of voice and the context, it can mean “Let’s go”, “Hurry up”, “See you later”, “Ready to go?”, “Let’s do it”… the variations are endless! My favorite is how it can be used to effectively end a phone conversation once you’ve said what you need to say; “Yalla, bye”. Just like that.

Balagan (בלגן)
There is seriously no word like this word (that I know of). First of all, it’s just fun to say it (try it). Secondly, it’s extremely useful! The translation would be ‘mess’ I guess, but can also refer to ‘party’, ‘crazyness’, ‘stress’, ‘fun’…simply, ‘balagan’. “Yalla, balagan!”

Motek (מותק)
Means ‘darling’. It’s just a cute word, I prefer it over the English version. “Hey motek”, “You’re such a motek”.

Nuu?!? (נו)
When things are not happening in the speed you would like them to (or at all), or people don’t do what you want them to do, or they don’t answer your questions when you expect them to, a slightly encouraging (or annoyed) “Nuu?!?” usually helps to get things back on track and moving.

Just like that…”Psssshhhh…”, it’s just a sound, but it just says what you want it to say; “Wow”, “Nice”, “Hot”, “Cool”, “Damn”, “Well, aren’t you a bit of a show-off”.


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