For my intercultural communication class, I have to keep and update a “diversity diary” each week. The goal is to discover and simply notice cultural differences and similarities — and by consequence break the habit of taking my lifestyle and identity for granted.
Week 10: April 23, 2012
I experienced a local pride in Venice this past weekend that I haven’t experienced in any other city. Even though many Italians no longer live in the city center, the people who live nearby LOVE their city. They think it’s the most beautiful city in the world. I also noticed the northern Italian dialect. I’ve become pretty good at understanding Italian in Florence, but I was surprised that I could understand very little in Venice.
Week 9: April 9, 2012
I spent the weekend in cities throughout Ireland, which is quite different from Italy and the States. Everyone on the street was very open and friendly, and not aggressive at all. I went to celebrate my 21st birthday — which is the biggest birthday of all in the States — but not a big deal in Europe because there is a lower drinking age. My birthday happened to fall on Good Friday, and I didn’t realize that all the bars would be closed! Ireland is known to be the biggest “drinking” country, and I tried to go out on the one day everything shut down. I laughed at myself because I should have known many people are religious, so things would be closed. But in the States, bars, restaurants and most stores don’t close for Good Friday — and only some close for Easter day. Only small businesses or offices close for the holiday.
Week 8: March 19, 2012
I’m in Athens, Greece for spring break, and I’m beginning to hear other European countries’ stereotypes of Italy and Italians. For instance, I met a British man who called Italian men very passionate and aggressive (which you hear in Italy, too), but I also met an Albanian man who thought all Italians were rude and mean. He said Italians will never help you — they’ll just ignore you or laugh at you. From some of my experiences in shops or on the street, I can see where the Albanian man is coming from, but his view seemed a little extreme.
Week 7: March 12, 2012
My parents are here in Florence, and they’re reminding me of the simple differences from home in Ohio. One of the most obvious differences is in restaurants. I had to explain that you have to ask for the bill — the waiter doesn’t just bring it to you. I also had to convince my parents not to tip waiters or taxi drivers because they aren’t paid how they are in the States.
Week 6: Feb. 27, 2012
Below is a photo of borsch, a popular Ukrainian beet soup I tried in Krakow, Poland. My mom raised me to believe beets are gross, so I was hesitant to eat a bowl of them. I’m happy I stepped outside my comfort zone because it was delicious!
Week 5: Feb. 20, 2012
I’ve noticed that American top-40 music plays everywhere. I hear it at restaurants, bars, stores and even on the bus (throughout Italy and in Switzerland). I only hear one popular Italian song frequently: Ai Se Eu Te Pego by Michel Teló. I wonder why there aren’t more local hits… unless I just don’t notice those?
Week 4: Feb. 13, 2012
I’m getting tired of pasta, and I miss American-sized coffee.
Week 3: Feb. 6, 2012
I spent the weekend in Interlaken, Switzerland, and everyone was so friendly! Store employees genuinely welcomed us (without hovering like they were in for the kill), and I was completely shocked the first time a driver stopped and waved to let me cross the street. And then it kept happening! I didn’t even realize how accustomed I was to crazy Italian drivers. Not to say that everyone in Florence is rude, but everyone in Interlaken was much more slow and calm and quaint.
Week 2: Jan. 30, 2012
I’m still not used to pushing doors (in the States, we pull to enter/ push to exit), or avoiding eye contact on the street. At home, whenever I pass someone walking to class/work, I either make eye contact and smile or pretend to text on my cell phone. Here, I don’t have a phone, and it’s rude/misleading to make eye contact. I usually hide behind my sunglasses or admire the buildings, but it feels a little strange.
Week 1: Jan. 23, 2012
Thus far, moving from suburb to city has been more challenging than moving from the U.S. to Italy. I forgot to pack so many things, and Walmarts/superstores don’t exist here. At home, I stop by Walmart, Target, CVS or even a gas station every other day. Here, I have to find the specialty department store that sells whatever I need, and the name brand is more expensive (especially with the exchange rate). City life is more expensive, busy, crowded, and there is A LOT of walking!