The first big takeaway from the time I have spent in Florence is that Italy has less of a “melting pot” culture than the United States. I have come to this conclusion due to several variables, including Italians’ views on the way people dress, as well as the various careers available to residents of Florence and Italy. In America, aside from dress code requirements for work, people of any social class can wear whatever they like and not be definitively judged for where they come from (generalizing here). Instead, in Italy, a greater amount of your disposable income is dedicated to fashion, therefore it is easier to tell a person’s wealth by simply looking at their clothes and shoes. This sounds superficial, but numerous trustworthy locals have confirmed; not to mention the unfavorable glances I receive when I go to the store in my pajamas on a Sunday night. Also, in Italy, it appears to be harder for foreigners to work in stable careers than it is in the United States. Most shopkeeper’s, restaurant owners, and public works employees are Italian, to the best of my knowledge. On the other hand, most street salesmen and homeless people appear to be from Africa or Eastern Europe, based on their ethnicity and accents.
Another big realization I have had since coming to Florence is that this is truly an international city. Yes, there are many local Florentines, working in government jobs, as storeowners, or in other professions, but there are, seemingly, just as many foreign students and travelers on any given day. This is made clearer whenever I travel outside of Florence.
Even though Florence is an international city, I have experienced culture shock while studying here. For example, in the grocery stores, customers are required to bag their own groceries; often, I stumble to gather up everything I have just bought while securing my change in my wallet, all while the cashier is beginning to scan the next customers groceries. It can be quite hectic but exciting. Business hours continue to challenge my daily plans in Florence; it can be frustrating when you would like to buy a pizza at a local restaurant around 5:30 PM, only to find out that they do not open to 7:30 PM. On a lighter note, it has been a pleasure becoming acquainted with Italian culture. In my opinion, Italians are generally quirky. For instance, it is not uncommon to pass a man singing aloud on his walk home. On a recent flight to Pisa, in which we experienced heavy turbulence, I could not help but chuckle as 10 or more people jumped out of their seats every time the captain turned off the “fasten seatbelt sign,” in order to move up and down the aisles talking to each other. In other words, the Italians are a confident group – sociable and determined.