How To Learn From the Locals To Avoid Disaster

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Dead Sea Drama – Flat Tire

When traveling or living abroad, it pays to sharpen your attention & learn from the locals. Here’s an amusing true story where my brothers Scott, Ray, and I learned this truth, but just a tad too late. This drama unfolded while traveling together many years ago in Israel.

We had decided to scrape our meager funds and rent a car in Jerusalem. We planned to drive down to the Dead Sea, Masada, and then across the desert to Eilat.

With summertime temperatures near the Dead Sea hovering around 105 degrees F (40.5C), we were a little sad that we couldn’t afford air conditioning in the car, but we decided to fill the back seat with a lot of bottled water and go for it.

I was driving as we left Jerusalem and headed down toward the Dead Sea. The two-lane highway shimmered with mirages as we cruised through the parched land.

Erratic Israeli Drivers

An approaching car seemed to be acting erratically as it drove almost straight down the middle of the road toward me. I moved as close as I could to the edge of the road, but, at the last minute, the other car zipped into its own lane. I observed him go right back to the center of the road after he passed me.

“What a crazy driver!” I thought as I continued down the road. (Clearly, I did not learn from the locals!)

I discovered that there were a lot of crazy drivers in Israel. Many of the cars that approached me were driving down the middle of the road. So I edged closer and closer to the side rather than play chicken with them.

Now it Makes Sense!

We were about two miles from the Dead Sea when I discovered why Israeli drivers drive down the middle of the road!

“Kachunk! Kachunk!” the tires on the right side of the car pounded into the crater-like potholes on the side of the road, both of them immediately going flat.

“What are we going to do now?” my brother Scott asked as I navigated the injured car to the side of the road.

“Well, we have only one spare tire and two flats, so I guess we need to find a phone and call our rental company.”

This was in the ancient past before cell phones, so we decided we would change one tire, then roll the two flats down to the little settlement we could see down near the Dead Sea a mile or so away. Maybe someone could fix them, or maybe we could get a ride back to Jerusalem to exchange the tires. Scott, as the eldest brother, decided to stay with the car while broiling in the sweltering heat.

There was nobody at the tiny gas station in the little town and no telephone to call the rental company. But a local showed us how to get a bus. Ray and I merrily waved at our sweating brother in the car as we zipped by on the air-conditioned bus with our two flat tires.

When we reached Jerusalem and explained the situation to a man at the rental company, he immediately had us jump in a car with some spare tires. He rocketed down the highway to my brother’s rescue… driving right down the middle of the road the whole way.

Yes, we found a way to learn from the locals. But it came through trial and error.

Once we changed the tires, we continued on our way to Engedi.

Driving right down the middle of the road.


Does your country have interesting rules or customs for drivers? What could you learn from the locals?

Dale DePalatis

Dale DePalatis

Editor & Interculturalist at CultureWeave
The husband of the principal founder of CultureWeave, Dale is a high school teacher of English with an M.A. in English Literature from Stanford University. With a passion for language learning (including Italian, German, and Japanese), he loves the way the brain expands when studying overseas and experiencing new cultures. He also loves reading, traveling, running, and enjoying meaningful conversations about life’s deep questions.
Dale DePalatis
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The husband of the principal founder of CultureWeave, Dale is a high school teacher of English with an M.A. in English Literature from Stanford University. With a passion for language learning (including Italian, German, and Japanese), he loves the way the brain expands when studying overseas and experiencing new cultures. He also loves reading, traveling, running, and enjoying meaningful conversations about life’s deep questions.