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.....