I’m not the best interviewer, so you could say I was a little nervous when I found out I had to interview someone from my host culture. I was glad I could interview an on-site staff member from my host culture because it is hard to find someone who speaks English as opposed to Italian! I chose to interview Marco Bagli, the Student Services Co-Coordinator here at the Umbra Institute, because I wanted to learn more about him and because I knew he was someone who actually knows the Italian culture since he has lived here his whole life.
I told Marco that I was curious as to what information he would provide me with considering that I didn’t feel American and Italian culture greatly differ. I also haven’t experienced any type of culture shock yet, and so I was looking forward to being surprised. Marco agreed with me that being in an American consortium can prevent culture shock since I am always with Americans speaking English, my native tongue. However, Marco also explained to me that the two cultures don’t differ immensely and that there are certain aspects of the Italian culture that are becoming more similar to American culture. For example, materialism and the idea of owning many things is very big in American culture. In Italy, this is becoming more and more common. Boasting about one’s accomplishments is also normal in American culture. Marco told me that in Italy this can happen, but people are generally more humble and talk less about themselves. Yet, the one thing that seemed to stand out to me that varies between Italian and American culture is the idea of the family or la famiglia. Family is very big in Italy, as is depending on your family. Marco explained to me that you never leave your family unless you are starting another family with a significant other. Marco has one sister and many relatives on his mother’s side (she has three sisters), with only a few family members on his father’s side that he does not see often. Because of this, he gets together with his mother’s side often. When family gatherings occur, Marco says he always goes to wherever his grandparents are because they have difficulty moving.
Marco is very close with his family, and with his mother who comes all the way to Perugia to see him every Sunday. Marco explained to me that this is something he can’t refuse. While he may not necessarily be in need of seeing her, she MUST come to see him and give him homemade food and other things of that nature. This is similar to how my mother must call me every few days to make sure I’m doing okay and that all is well. It’s very interesting to see how important family is in Italy compared to the United States and how there is a deep emotional connection between you and your family.
It’s very important to discuss differences between cultures because it teaches us much more about the people living in that culture. It teaches us about their values and morals, allowing us to get inside their heads and understand the culture better. Even more, by learning about different cultures, we can connect our own feelings and emotions which can in turn affect our thoughts and behavior. This is where growth that makes you a stronger, engaging person in your host culture occurs. As Daniel Hess writes in his text, “Sojourners know that new experience becomes new knowledge, and new knowledge demands disciplined thought and action” (57). Everything is so new to me here in Perugia. While I live here, I learn so much about the Italian culture, and even more about myself.
Switching topics, back home I hold a fairly negative view of fraternities and sororities. This is something that I specifically do not participate in. At one point I was rushing for one fraternity, but then decided that it just was not for me. I’m not really sure what value there would be in sitting down with someone in that group and discussing things like values and morals. I feel that most of those things are sugar coated. However, maybe if I sat down with someone
again and took the time to discuss things, I could learn a little more about what it is they d
o for the community and why it’s a good idea.