Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cultural Differences

I have been living in Rome for 19 days thus far, and as time goes on the cultural differences become more and more clear. To be honest I really thought that there would be more of a difference between the American and Italian culture, I was shocked to see all of the similarities. Below is a list of a few cultural differences I have noticed thus far, I intend on adding to this list as the semester goes on.
1.      Tiny Cars – I am so used to all of the massive SUV’s that are the norm in the states, that seeing a continuous stream of tin can smart cars was absolutely bizarre to me. Also Italians have this ability to park their car in any possible space, it you are unable to parallel park, driving in Rome would not be advised. Another interesting difference is that the sidewalks here are more than twice the size as the ones in the states, I used to question why this was until I was walking home late one night and noticed that have the side walk was taken up by parked cars and motorcycles.
2.      Garbage Collection Process – The garbage collection process is completely different from the states. All of the streets are lined with blue, grey, and green dumpsters; this is where everyone is to put their trash. The blue dumpster is for traditional recycling, the green is for normal trash and the grey is for paper/cardboard recycling. Everyone from stores to normal apartment tenets all share the same three dumpsters for their trash and recycling. Also the Italian culture all seem to be very interested in recycling. Every store, restaurant and etc. all have a trash can for normal trash and one for recycling.
3.      Street Fountains – On all of the main roads that I have been on, are lined with fountains with continuous running water on, either side of the street. This is what blows my mind the most thus far, I couldn’t even imagine walking in Oakland or in Downtown and seeing a fountain constantly spewing water. Could you imagine that? A couple of my Italian friends who have been to the states said that they were shocked that there was no public fountain and that Americans are being robbed for their water.
4.      Smoking – Everyone smokes! It is absolutely impossible to go anywhere without being in someone else’s smoke cloud. Smoking here is such a social aspect of their daily living; it’s almost strange for someone not to smoke. In the states smoking is an embarrassing habit, and in some ways people who smoke are looked down upon. Smoking has a very negative connotation in the states, but here it is a means to socialize and spend time with friends. My question is why does socializing mean smoking, why can’t friends just sit and enjoy a coffee without a cigarette? How did smoking become such a main social experience? When I think about it the mass majority of people that I have met at Carlow have been when I was sitting up at the smoking section with friends. To my knowledge smoking is the same socializing experience in the states as it is in Italy, the only difference the label a person receives between cultures. In Italy no label is placed, it is simply a norm of their culture, but in the states people who smoke are almost labeled with a negative connotation of  “Oh you smoke!?!”. Everything is conveyed through that simple statement.
One of my Italian friends who has visited the states specifically Pittsburgh, told me how she noticed that very few women smoke. I told her that the perception of a woman of smokes in the U.S. is completely different from the perception of an Italian woman who smokes. She informed that she already knew this because her American boyfriend has been pleading for her to quite for months now.
5.      Pushy – When I say pushy I do not mean the way they speak or respond, it is more the manner in which they act when in public. Lately I have doing some shopping, most of the time the stores are really packed with people and it is very difficult to shop. Normal in the states when you are standing in a manner which blocks someone or other merchandise, we recognize this or others around us and move. This is not the same in Italy, if you are in someone’s way whether you are American or not people walk right into you, no excuse, no manners in general are used. At first I simply thought this behavior was as a result of me being American but then I began to observe how others-who I assumed to be Italian- interacted with one another. The same pushy ill mannered behavior was used from one Italian to another. Then I thought maybe I was wrong to judge people, simply because someone speaks a language it does not mean that is their ethnicity. The next time I was out shopping I decided that I was going to give this foreign way of maneuvering through people a try. So when I approached a woman in my way I said nothing, just simply pushed my way through. I paused briefly once I passed her for some sort of response, she didn’t even look up. I doubt she even noticed me. Saying “excuse me” seems to be a useless phrase here. When I think about how someone would have responded to me pushing passed them, I can 100% guarantee that an American would not have been okay with me pushing passed them.
It’s almost as if Americans have to walk on egg shells with one another, well that’s the only conclusion I am capable to come up with, I welcome suggestions. Why is it that Americans feel entitled to say “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” for everything. For the most part when people say one of the above phrases I wasn’t offended. I know that I say it out of respect for others, but why is it the opposite here. It is almost as if Italians know that the other person wasn’t trying to be mean so why waste their breath. Or is the answer as obvious as Italians a just mean ill mannered people? This cultural difference as been perplexing me ever since I have noticed it, I don’t understand. I have always pictured the Italian culture as a culture of respect, why wouldn’t a culture of any kind for that matter what to convey respect for others no matter what?

I have plenty more cultural differences that I have noticed since I have been here, and I am sure that I will notice more as time goes on. Besides I am sure you all need time to ponder my questions, I need answersJ. Next week I will be posting another 5 more cultural differences. So stay with me as I seek to understand the differences between the Italian and American culture. Let me know what you think.....

Top 10 Things I Wish I Would Have Packed Knowing What I Know Now

10 Items I Should Have Packed
Below are the top 10 things my roommates and I would have packed knowing what we know now.
1.       Medicine – Bring all and any medicine that you think you might over a 4 month period. Trying to find the Italian equivalent of Excedrin or Advil is almost impossible, especially since Ibuprofen is all that can be found in a local pharmacy. The name brand over the counter medications that we have in the states do not exist here, come prepared.
2.       “Off” bug spray – The mosquitoes here are intense! I found out that they feed both during the day and the night, within two days you could play the ultimate never ending game of connect the dots on my legs. Personally I have always had bad reactions to bug bites, but Rome brought it to a whole other level. The bites are crazy itchy and hard to deal with in the heat, at this point I wish I would have brought calamine lotion (which I have yet to find in any local pharmacy). “Off” bug spray is readily available here but cost for one bottle is outrageous. I purchased the smallest bottle of bug spray, which was smaller than normal U.S smalls and paid about 10 euro.  I strongly suggest packing bug spray and anti-itch cream, so you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a minuscule amount of bug spray as well as dealing with the frustration of not being able to find what you need.
3.       Flats – Ditch the flip-flops and pack a ton of flats! I wish I would have brought more flats rather than the numerous pairs of flip-flops. Personally if I could go back home and re-pack for the trip I would bring 2 pairs of walking/running shoes, in addition to as many pairs of comfortable flats as I could fit in my bag. A reasonable number of shoes to bring I would say 5, 2 walking/running and 3 pairs of flats (white, black, and brown). Only bring flats that are extraordinarily comfortable, to the extent that walking up to 3 miles in them won’t bother your feet. Make sure that all the shoes you bring can be worn in multiple outfits and can be dressed up or down. Rome is a walk happy city, everyone walks, stick to flats and you will be fine. Besides flip-flops are very American and if you have a goal of blending in flip-flops will not help.
4.       Movies/DVDs – For those of you, who will be attending AUR, the housing that they provide is actually very nice but no entertainment in the apartment is provided, which is completely reasonable: YOU’RE IN ROME! A very small T.V is provided which does not have cable, so I am capable to watching 3 separate very fuzzy Italian channels. Whenever I have down time I am usually out exploring the city but now that school has started I find myself staying in more often than not (on school nights). Most of my classes are reading intensive, so leisure reading is out of the question. I honestly wish that after a long day of classes and school work I could come and have some sort of mindless entertainment. Netflix as well as Hulu does not work over, nor does buying a DVD and attempting to watch it on your laptop. ITunes and YouTube has currently been my source of entertainment lately, but the problem is most of YouTube is in Italian and iTunes gets expensive. Bring your favorite season of your favorite show, that way you have free entertainment when chilling in your room. Once the rainy season hits, and it’s cold and wet everywhere, you will be very happy that you brought your favorite show.
5.       More Converters and Power Strips – When packing I brought 2 Italian converters and 1 American power strip, I haven’t had a problem (knock on wood) with any of my electronics charging. My issue is that in an apartment with 6 girls, who all have laptops, cell phone chargers, hair straigtheners etc. there is only 1 outlet in each room other than the kitchen. My roommate and I each have a laptop charger, cell phone charger, clock and fan that all need to be plugged in, an additional power strip would have been useful. If I could go back home and re-pack I would have brought 4 Italian converters and 2 power strips, it is not a necessity but it would make my life a lot easier to have the additional power strip and converters.
6.       More Summer Clothes – When I was packing I really wasn’t focusing on the season or time of year that I would be immediately living in, I was more looking at all of it in a bigger picture. If I could go back home and pack my clothes again I would get rid of the majority of the cold weather clothes I brought. I would do this for 2 reasons, the first one being that when you first get here it is best to have everything you need right off the bat rather than searching a new country for the simple things that are in season now. Second, if does not snow here, just a lot of rain, so I actually have no I what the cold weather season is going to be like. It would have been a lot easier if I would have came with all summer clothes and then bought what I needed in terms of winter clothes. My most valuable article of clothing as of right now, I would have to say my shorts and sun dresses!
7.       A Towel – If you are planning on attending AUR, I strongly advise you to bring at least one of your own bath towels. The bath towels that are provides are extraordinarily small and you are only given one. I can handle with the size of the bath towel, but only having a single towel to use for 4 months is a little difficult. Every time I want to wash my towel I can’t because either later in the day I am going to use it or someone is already using the washer. With the temperatures so high here and no air conditioning, showers are the source of cooling down. Personally I would have brought 2 personal towels now knowing what I know. I would have brought 2 towels that way I could always have a clean and a dirty bath towel, plus it would be nice not to have to take my bath towel to the beach with me.
8.       Slippers – There is zero carpeting in most apartments in Rome and the city as a whole is very dirty, wearing shoes in the house is taboo here. From always having the windows open and daily wear and tear the floors in my apartment gets very dirty rather quick. My feet are always dirty and getting into bed with dirty feet is just gross, when I try to wear socks they just get ruined and turn black. It would be nice to have a pair of slippers here to wear around the apartment, so my feet were always clean and my socks were not getting ruined.
9.       To-Go Containers – Food is very expensive here, the majority of the money that I have spent since I have been here has been on food, it would be nice to have a way to say food I cook or take lunch to school with me. I know it may sound kind of strange but your life will be a lot easier and cheap if you bring a water bottle, coffee mug, and Tupperware. Before you leave go to Wally World, spend 15 bucks get some Tupperware, a water bottle and a coffee mug. The Tupperware will allow you to save food that you cook as well as pack food for the day, so no spending money on lunch out. Plus when you go restaurants asking for a doggie bag/ to go container is disrespectful and unheard of, your waiter will look at you like you have 3 heads if you ask for a to go container. The water bottle would have been a life saver, even though water bottles are decently priced it adds up. Plus there are fountains that are constantly running in the street and on a very hot sunny day all you would need to do is fill up your water bottle, compared to paying as much as 2 euro for a bottle of water. To-go coffee does exist but not like what we have in the states and it is a lot more expensive buy a coffee mug and some instant coffee and save a bunch of money.
10.   Translator – Originally when I was packing for my trip to Rome I had planned on buying a translator. They range anywhere from $40-$200, and can be found at most Best Buy and Office Depot stores. I choose not to buy the translator because I felt like I was cheating and not truly adapting to a new culture on my own. I still believe that it would have been cheating to buy the translator but there have been numerous occasions when it would have been useful.  I am acclimating very well without the translator but it would have been nice to have an aid in the language barrier.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Beach Pictures

My First Weekend in Rome

My first weekend in Rome was filled with fun and adventure. Friday my roommates and I decided to go to Campo de Fiori, which is an outrageously large market. Campo de Fiori has everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to the typical tourist merchandise. I was amazed with all the interesting things that were there, at least I know where to go to buy gifts before I go homeJ!
Most of the merchants working at the market did not speak English, but it was blatantly obvious that they were very much accustomed to dealing with foreigners. Most of the merchants were very good at signing and figuring out what each other was saying, without incorporating any language. Even though the mass majority of merchants only spoke Italian, there were a handful of individuals who spoke broken English. Overall as a country I was very surprised with the number of Italians who spoke English. At Campo de Fiori, very few people spoke English, which I found rather ironic that a large tourist area had very few English speaking people.
Saturday was mainly a day filled with exploring; we mainly stayed in the Campo de Fiori area. My roommates and I found a couple different churches and decided that before we leave we would like to attend a service. We definitely looked like tourists this weekend, as we walk around Rome with our maps and cameras taking pictures of everything. For dinner we found this small restaurant in the heart of Campo de Fiori area, it was very small but air conditioned! The waiter luckily spoke English, which saved us the embarrassment of once again butchering the Italian language. The thing that I found most interesting about this restaurant was the menu. First of all the menu was by far the biggest menu I have ever seen, there were so many choices! In addition to the numerous choices, it was also written in 3 separate languages; Italian, English, and German. I was pretty impressed!
Sunday was the day at Oasti beach. The beach was nice but small. Oasti beach was the first dark sand beach I have ever been too. The water was really cold but the sun was really hot so it all evened out. There was a sand bar half way out to the buoy, I spent most of my time there or laying out so I didn’t take many pictures, but I will post the few that I did take.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The view from my apt

 Both are pictures of the view from my bedroom window

New Adventures Part 1

(Week 1) I arrived in Rome yesterday at 9am, which was where we stayed until other AUR students arrived. The hardest part thus far was enduring that 9hrs flight seemed like years. Yesterday was pretty tough; I didn’t sleep on the plane at all and then walked around Rome. Well to be honest I wasn’t walking around Rome for fun, my roommates and I were lost!!!! REALLY LOST!!! The upside that came out of our blinded adventure was we discovered that the mass majority of Italians in this area speak English.  On top of English speaking Italians, a lot of signs and billboards are in English as well. It’s crazy to see how Americanized different places are. I never really thought America was an extraordinarily influential country until now. Once we found our way home I went into the sauna I call my room and passed out.
Side Note: The mosquitoes are crazy intense here!
I’m really glad I didn’t take a nap yesterday because with the 6 hour time difference I knew I wouldn’t have been able to adjust quickly if I would have taken a nap. Thus far today I slept in til noon, I was outrageously exhausted. Since I didn’t nap at all yesterday, I was able to adjust to the time zone change well, but I still never know what time it is. Then I went to campus to complete my paper work for my permit to stay, which won’t be 100% finished until I meet with the police for verification. I found this really fun café yesterday; this little Old Italian man owns it. This name speaks no English, but despite the communication barrier he always knows what you want. Gli Archi Café, I believe is the name of the café and it will more than likely one of my favorite places to eat.
As for those people who once told me that Italian men are very vocal, I have yet to experience the attention to the extent that I have been told. Thus far, everyone has been very respectful and nice. I’m sure that has a major part of my roommates and I all look American, but regardless the reason I appreciate it.
The high light of today was the Rome walking tour I did today, after I finished up all the needed paper work in order to stay and got my student ID. We crossed the bridge and went into the more "Roman" side of Rome, this was where the Colosseum, the first forum, the cat sanctuary, Mussolini's balcony,  night clubs, great shopping, and restaurants.
If there is anything you would like to know please feel free to ask!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Big Day

It’s official, I am going to Rome. I just finished packing, which was one of the most difficult and frustrating tasks I had to do in awhile. The hardest part about packing was the simple fact that I needed to get everything that I need for 4 months in one suitcase and one checked bag. It only took my five attempts at packing to get my suitcase under the 50lb weight requirement. Most of the clothes that I have packed are all things that I am able to wear throughout different seasons. When I arrive in Rome the temperature will be in the high 80’s, but by the time I leave the temperature will be around mid 40’s. So I had to make sure everything that I was packing had some ability to be layered.
                Another difficulty that this adventure has brought to my attention is the idea of flying into a foreign airport. I’m not real sure what I was thinking, but until I finished packing I never realized that I would be arriving in a foreign airport, of which I do not speak the language. I am completely scared out of mind to have to navigate through a foreign airport. I have never been somewhere, where no will be able to understand me. Throughout the summer I have sporadically studied and practiced Italian, but not to the extent that I am capable of communicate sufficiently. On the up side I have 17hrs worth of travel time to practice but more than likely I will be sleeping.
                Today my flight leaves at 10:30am from Pittsburgh, from there I fly to Charlotte, N.C. I remain in Charlotte for the next 6.5hrs, and then I board my last flight, which will be a 9hr flight. I arrive in Rome on Aug 31st around 9am.
                I still can’t believe that I am going to Rome! For the past 150 days I have been day dreaming about being in Rome, but never really thought the day would come. This trip, is something that I never really thought would happen! I just can’t wait to be in Rome and experience a completely different culture.
                Although, I am outrageously exciting about going, I still am very sad that I have to say goodbye to my family and friends. I will miss you all so much and I love you all tons. Bacon I wish I could have brought you!