Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad…It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” By Jim Webb in Perugia, Italy

Richard Slimbach, in his excerpt called getting oriented, writes about the differences in social etiquette.  After living here for a few weeks I have made a list of things that are different from what I am used to in the US.  An early dinner is at 7:30, which for me at home would be a very late dinner.  You also have to ask the waiter for the check when you are ready or they will never bring it to you, and cutting pizza is not socially acceptable.  People can almost always tell you are American from the way you dress, to the way you walk, and the pace you walk at.  The Italian lifestyle is just slower and being fifteen minutes late isn’t really late its almost expected.  One piece of etiquette that a chef told us was its rude to wait for everyone to get their food before you start eating.  He said its actually insulting to the chef because you are not eating your food when it was at its best.  The final thing I made note of is when at a restaurant if you want a multi-course meal you order appetizers (antipasto) and drinks and you give your menu back to the waiter kind of like it’s the only thing you are ordering.  Then after the appetizer is finished the waiter or waitress will bring you the menu again and you will order a primi and give the menu back, then a secondi, and continue until you cannot eat anymore.  Its much slower passed and you seem to eat a lot more but I am not complaining about that.

Another piece of social etiquette that I have found very important is greetings and parting words.  Slimbach also wrote about greetings, “How do people greet and take leave of each other? What words and gestures are used” (pg 195).  In the US its just seems like we use less words when we do it but in Italy there is buongiorno, buona giornata, buonasera, buon pomeriggio, bona notte, ciao, arrivederci, salve, avanti, A dopo, and probably a few more.  In English we might have just as many but these are used specifically at different times no one would use buongiorno after 12 or buonasera before 3pm.  Then some are very formal such as salve and others are very informal like a dopo (see you later).  The most confusing part is its inappropriate to use an informal greeting with someone you don’t know that well or vice versa.  Also when greeting a group of people you need to be gender and number specific which makes it a little more confusing and provides more room for error.

While I have made note of the many differences in everyday life I also decided to take a walk to the open air market on Saturday to experience the sights, smells, and noises that occurred there.  John, Zach, Joe (three of my friends at school) and I walked around the market and bought a few things.  The first and major things I noticed was the languages, you hear mostly Italian but often enough you will hear someone speaking Russian or Ukrainian.  Then there are also small pockets of Asian Italians that are still using Mandarin and Cantonese to communicate.  It’s an interesting mix of cultures and speaking English is fairly uncommon at the market.  We walked around and talked to a few shop owners about the different meats or vegetables they had for sale and John even spoke to one women in Chinese about the clothes she was selling.  At the end of the walk, once we had made it back to the main town square, an Italian guy I had met over the weekend said hello to me.  He said “Jim, come stai?” and without even thinking I responded by saying, “Sto benne, e tu?” Which is basically ‘How are you’ and I said ‘I am good, and you’ and we had a short conversation in Italian.  This really made me think of how much progress I have made both in learning Italian and going outside of my comfort zone to speak it.  I knew the guy could speak almost fluent English but he was from Italy and I was in his country and even though the conversation would be limited in Italian we both felt right speaking it.

The travelogue I chose to read was called Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore.  It is about Tim Moore doing the famous Italian grand tour called the Giro, a bike race across Italy.  Fun fact, the Giro has been Italy’s grand tour since 1909 but 1914 was the worst year ever in which only eight of the starting eighty-one racers finished.  At the beginning of the book he is struggling to put his bike together, he tracks down and reassembles a 1914 bike to make the race as authentic as possible.  He has to interact with many different people and haggle for new parts in French and Italian which I don’t think he is too confident speaking.  After he finally assembles his gearless wood framed creation he dawns some period appropriate clothes and begins the race in Milan.  Each section of the book gives us a different look at a region in Italy.  He talks a lot about the very sharp learning curve that is the Italian traffic system, which I myself am still trying to understand, and eats a lot of delicious food in his travels.  The book is an adventure and I am really hoping to get to some of the places he rode through.  I hope the pain he endured on the bike ride was worth it when he finished because I cannot imagine ridding around on a bike with corks for brakes and no gears, let alone on these hilly streets and uneven cobblestone.

The picture I chose to accompany this travelogue is one I found on google where another piece of the puzzle is finally being put into place.  I feel like this is representative of how I feel because I am starting to get the hang of things over here and am really enjoying it.  The picture also made me think of the feeling you get when you find that one piece you have been looking for the entire time and now the puzzle is making a lot more sense. puzzle




Image credits:

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