Hi again! I am more than halfway done with my program abroad, and time has really flown by! There are moments when I feel like I could live here forever, but there are also moments of fatigue and homesickness.
In Italy, there are a lot of changes from American culture. The first place where I really felt a difference was at the grocery store. In Italy, grocery stores are small, they have a majority of Italian products, and a lot of the store is do it yourself. It is very hard to find ingredients to make food likes tacos or stir fry in the grocery stores in the historical center in Florence. In America, you put fruit and produce in a bag and bring it to the checkout, and the cashier does the rest. In Italy, it is expected that you bag, weigh, and print and attach a label to the bag. I made a scene at the checkout my first time, because I did not know this. More than just the grocery store, there are moments when I do not feel “in the know” across many aspects of my life here.
The best way I can adapt is to learn, observe, experience and ask questions. After my first trip to the grocery store, I asked my wonderful Italian professor Jenny about any other cultural discrepancies I should be aware of. The people that work at CAPA are culture assimilated to Italy, and they offer great advice and insight to make me feel more comfortable. Another important thing is to just give yourself grace. It’s unreasonable to expect that you will fit right into a culture that is based on a different continent and thousands of miles away from your own.
I also want to note how friendly the Italian people are here. They are friendly and want to help you in any way that they can. Every day, when I order items like my morning cappuccino, I try to speak only in Italian. My neighborhood barista is very patient with me and is always so excited when I speak correctly. He even waves “Ciao” at me when I walk by in the afternoon.
Overall, I feel more and more comfortable navigating the city. Everyone always says the Florence is a walkable city — and it’s true! I’ve been able to get around places here without using a GPS. I now know when it’s appropriate to drink cappuccinos, I know where the Americans go, I know where the Italians go, and it’s a really cool feeling.
Ciao for now!