This week I spent time with an individual who is about as familiar with Florence and Italy than anyone else. This girl, whose name was Catalina, was a twenty-one-year-old student from the University of Florence. I specifically chose her to have an interview with because I had previous encounters with her in the past within the hallways of the school. Catalina was more than happy to agree to an interview about her culture and way of life as a native Florentine. It was important that I took time to interview Catalina because she truly gave me insight into what it is like to be someone born in such a beautiful and historic tourist city. She explained to me that many Italians in Florence are not fond of Americans because they share such different cultural norms, but she told me that she appreciates they interest they have in visiting the city because it creates revenue to keep the city as beautiful as it is.
Throughout my interview as well as experiences living in Italy, I noticed many things that expressed the values written in the Guide 9. The idea of boasting vs. modesty was definitely touched upon, the idea that Americans are generally self-interested while Italians may concern themselves with the welfare of others can be argued. Another value set that was outlined in the guide was informality. This is a major part of Italian culture, and one that I seem to have a hard time grasping. As an example, in my interview with Catalina I said “mi scusi” which is a phrase meaning “I’m sorry” or “excuse me” in a formal context. This was apparently shocking to Catalina as she corrected me and said that “mi scusa” was a more appropriate and informal term because it would be disrespectful to misrepresent a peer as a superior. I find it much easier and more comfortable to interact with people in a casual informal manner, but most of those people I interact with (cashiers, professors, bus drivers) are supposed to be addressed formally and this has been a major learning curve for me. A third value that I am beginning to assessing in Florence is confrontation vs. avoidance. This particular value I disagreed with the author on. They argued that the U.S. deals with confrontation directly while the host culture avoids confrontation. I find in Italy that local Italians can be very rude and very confrontational at times, especially with Americans. Simple encounters in which language barrier or cultural customs are missed by an American are usually responded to with confrontation. As long as you attempt to learn the culture and make an effort to respect their norms you will generally be received well though.
Considering a part of home campus life, I believe there would be no harm in sitting with a representative of a group I have never previously considered. Being put into a situation such as the one I am in right now I so radical and different than home that I believe I would be open to many clubs and organizations at Quinnipiac. Greek life and student government are two organizations that I have never had interest in. I now would feel open because of the character traits I have developed abroad.
I unfortunately did not get permission from Catalina to post a picture with her so I have included a photo of the university as a symbol of the diversity and learning. The attributes and cultural understanding that I will develop over my months here are going to carry over to America and hopefully enhance my last three semesters at Quinnipiac.