I chose to meet with one of the leaders from my program affiliate, his name is Alessandro. I chose to meet with him because him and his colleague, Linda have taken us to dinner and breakfast and shown us the city a few times, however I don’t know either of them personally. It was very important for me to take this time to discuss cultural differences because it will enhance my study abroad experience and help me to better understand certain encounters I have had or may have in the future. “Consider devoting an extended period of time finding and befriending members of your destination culture who might be residing close by. Most will be eager to oblige you with stories, encouragement, and practical advice. Some may even offer to put you in touch with relatives and friends in their homeland” (Slimbach 128). This was important to me because I want so much to get to know locals and really become part of the Florentine culture but I have had an exceptionally hard time even knowing where to begin. Prior to leaving for this journey, I bugged everyone I knew who had studied abroad here in Florence about cultural differences. They told me about tipping, cover charges at restaurants an
d wardrobe differences. I have grown up in an Italian family, so I know some of the traditions and customs, but the best place for knowledge is from the source, from a local.
Our first discussion was based off of the differences in confrontation. Alessandro explained to me that in Italy there are many fewer physical fights than in America primarily between men, he followed by saying usually if a bar fight occurs, a foreigner is involved. “Italians’ barks are much bigger than their bites.” Meaning that even if there is yelling and even more hand gestures, it normally won’t result in a physical altercation. Italians use profanity more than Americans in his opinion, this I found particularly strange. Overall, Italians are less direct and much less confrontational, especially among males.
Another discussion we had involved spirituality and materialism. Alessandro saw a disconnect between the two, meaning that an Italian wouldn’t necessarily compromise one for the other. He expressed that especially in his position in the study abroad program, he has seen much more expression of spirituality and faith in American’s of our generation than Italians. However, our parents and grandparents still strictly observe catholic traditions and attend mass every Sunday, so spirituality is more important in Italy among older generations. I was curious to know where people of our generation would get married if they didn’t attend mass regularly and his response was “of course a catholic church.” This is a very big difference culturally between the US and Italy. In the US if two people are getting married but are not catholic or don’t regularly express catholic beliefs, they will be wed through the state in another location. In Italy, people almost always are married in a catholic church, even if it is just to please older family members.
The topic I was most interested in and that is most important to me is equality. Alessandro explained that in reference to movements that promote equality for minority groups such as, “Black Lives Matter” or promotion of refugees into America, Italians don’t speak about it. It’s not in the news, there aren’t large protests, and it’s not widespread throughout every social media outlet. This is a huge difference from the US. Another difference is the need to be politically correct. In Italy, Italians can make jokes about minorities here and there will not be an uproar that starts a country-wide social movement. I then asked him about gender equality.
In America gender inequality is always very clear to me so I was very interested in how that part of culture is similar or different in Italy. Alessandro explained to me that there is more disparity in Italy than in the US. Primarily in southern Italy, women prepare to become housewives, that is essentially their destiny. The further north, the more progressive. Women in a city like Florence can attend college and get a job just as in the US but women and men, as in the US, are still not equal. Men still kill women all over Italy if they believe a woman is being unfaithful in a relationship. Rape is not talked about, very different than the US where rape cases are broadcast everywhere and every case detail is pasted on Facebook. Alessandro also explained that all though he doesn’t know for sure he believes that rapes happen at a lower rate than in the US because most college students live at home and commute due to the equality of colleges across Italy. The drinking culture is significantly different, which is what he believes is the leading cause of rapes being less frequent in Italy compared to America.
At home, many students participate in intramural or club sports. I don’t think there is a very equal opportunity for girls to play an intramural sport, especially not a sport that is new to her. Often times people on those teams have played in high school and have some skill level in the sport and being a beginner at a sport seems unacceptable. This creates an unwelcoming environment for newcomers as the game is too competitive for someone who barely knows how to play. Many people in these leagues take it too seriously as if it were a Division I sport. Sitting down with a representative of one of these teams could be helpful because it would either confirm or refute my notions about these teams and could potentially encourage me to join one which, could enrich my college experience at Quinnipiac and allow me to make new connections.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.