ID-10069611Image courtesy of CraftyJoe /

If you’re a reader of the site, then you know that I’m an ‘expat’ from Bolivia now living in Israel. I’ve come to love both countries and consider them both to be my home, but they are so different from one another in both good and bad ways.

I wanted to figure out for myself what makes living in one so different from the other… so I’ve broken it down into three sections: security, standard of living and the people. These three are only part of what makes these countries so drastically different!

So who wins in each section? Or rather, what makes them so different? Read on to find out!

Security = Israel is far safer

What?! Israel is safer than Bolivia?? But… Israel is in a war-zone!

Yes, it’s true that Israel is smack in the midst of the Middle East and has conflicts, terrorist attacks, missile attacks and suicide bombings. All of this is a given.

But you know what else Israel has? A defense system that focuses on expensive self-defense mechanisms that lower the ability of missile strikes (i.e. Iron Dome) and suicide bombers success (there’s a reason why there hasn’t been a successful one in ages).

They also have a pretty good police system and overall, I feel very safe walking down the street at any hour of the day.

Here’s what concerns me most about walking in the street in Israel: being hit by an absent-minded teenager on an electric bicycle. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my biggest safety concern as of the moment, even as missiles rain down on us.

In Bolivia? Not so. You would never see me walking out in the street at night alone, never see me in certain areas of the city (especially not alone and not even during the daylight), and I would always be looking every which-way at every moment.

In my entire experience in Bolivia, I’ve lived through revolutions, civil war, seen governments be toppled over, experienced the police having a ‘friendly fire’ war with the military (WHAT) effectively leaving the entire city without a police force or military for a week, experienced dynamite explosions to my office building (courtesy of angry miners revolting yet again), attended to a child who was stabbed & robbed walking down the street, seen too many friends and acquaintances be kidnapped and assaulted and I’ve been tear gassed numerous times. I love Bolivia, but they have a lot to work on when it comes to improving security in the city for all civilians.

All that being said, Israel to me, is the safer option.

Standard of living = balances out

ID-100144090This is what it feels like in Bolivia vs Israel.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

There are positives and negatives to living in a third world country vs a first world country. Israel generally has a very good standard of living, even for the ‘lower classes’.  We all get health insurance by law, pension, salaries are higher than in Bolivia, streets and cities are clean, developed, have parks, etc.

I happen to live in a very pretty city that has beautiful parks, provides free workout options like my Zumba classes and personal training, and we have a beach! So I can’t complain in that sense… but salaries vs the cost of living are not good here.

I have to live with my dad to be able to save any money whatsoever, and I make a pretty decent salary. I would never be able to buy my own house with Israeli salaries and housing costs, and I’ve been working and saving for years. So I’m sleeping in my dad’s living room…. Not the most comfortable of situations.

On the other hand, La Paz, Bolivia is beautiful but doesn’t quite offer the same level of a developed city in Israel. It’s a poor city in a poor country, and there’s so much that the government can invest in developing it, which isn’t enough… parks are lacking, things to do out of entertainment purposes are lacking and forget about health insurance. The poor live extremely poor lives of starvation and homelessness. It’s not an easy life there at all for the majority of the population.

But third world countries tend to have that small wealthier percentage that lives like royalty because everything is dirt cheap. I lived very comfortably there, in a way that I could never live in Israel and I was willing to give up on: I had my own room there, maids, cars – complete comfort. But even we dealt with third world issues: before I moved to Israel, we didn’t have running water for 4 months because a mountain collapsed and knocked down the water pipe system for 1/3rd of the city.

To give a clear idea of the difference in costs: with the savings, I built up in Israel, I could buy a nice two-story house with a garden and garage in Bolivia. With that amount, I could hardly buy a parking spot in Israel…

The people = each have their own special je ne sai quois


I grew up in Bolivia so I think personality wise, I tend to be more Bolivian… I grew up watching the same television shows as everyone else there, singing the same songs, befriending Bolivians, studying in a Bolivian school, etc. When it comes to humor, as far as I’m concerned, there is no better humor than Bolivian humor. And don’t get me started on the proper accent to speak Spanish – every other accent sounds odd to me but the La Paz accent.

That being said, I quite like Bolivian people. I find them polite, fun, humorous and enjoyable. They are also very quiet and submissive, which is probably connected to the colonial history of the region. But I connect with them and I feel natural speaking with them. There’s a lot of separation between ethnicity in the country, and that is a sad thing which I’m hoping will continue to diminish with time. I would love for the country to a reach a point where everyone is deemed equal regardless of background or skin tone.

Israelis are the opposite of Bolivians. Loud, obnoxious, direct, in your face. But they are amazing people. They are for the most part good-hearted people who like to say whatever they’re thinking. They’re honest (sometimes too much), they’re fun and they are always up for a good time, even when there is difficulty in their lives.  There are so many different personalities to discover in Israel because the country has such a mixture of backgrounds, religions, and ethnicity. I love it – it’s part of what makes them special.

So there you have it.

What differences have you enjoyed or experienced in countries that you’ve lived in or traveled?