“…little of the new cultural knowledge, language ability,
and perspective change that marks a well-traveled mind”.
-Slimbach Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning
I completely understand where this thought would originate because I see it everyday here in Lugano. If you do anything the least bit American here you are met with dirty looks from the locals. However, the issue I have is when an American tries to fit in we are often scoffed at and it makes it hard to want to try. One of the things I have found though is that if you are polite, listen, and keep to yourself more here in Lugano it is easy to blend in and get to know a bit more of the culture surrounding this part of Switzerland.
Today I was down by the lake with my friend playing chess on a giant public board and we were being watched by locals and we saw how polite everybody was. They stood behind us, a few feet back, and were complete quiet; they tried their best not to be noticed and it was greatly appreciated. This, I realized, is the Swiss way of doing things, don’t be a bother and you won’t get bothered. In contrast to that we were out last night with a group of friends when a group of students were outside the bar hanging out. Of course they got loud and obnoxious and immediately the bar’s owner went outside and told everybody to leave, come inside, or quiet down. It was completely disrespectful of Lugano’s culture for these students to be outside causing a ruckus when they could have been doing the same thing inside the bar and not bothering a soul.
My Italian teacher also continuously tells us what a shame it is that so many study abroad students come to Lugano and don’t learn a word of Italian past Ciao and Grazie. He has been pushing to make Italian mandatory for students studying abroad so that they can become more immersed in the culture. And although some of the people of Lugano with scoff if you try to use Italian, I found that it really helped in Florence to give it your best shot and I was often met with a smile, followed by English, which I was fine with. I have tried my best to get more immersed in the culture of Lugano while I am here, especially when out with my friends as to not be a nuisance and the best way to do this has been to stay respectful of all those around us, and although it is difficult to tell if it is appreciated we do get far fewer dirty looks.