After having spent 3 weeks in Florence I left to participate in FUA Tuttotoscana program for a week in New York. I have not had much time to explore the city through all of my school time but thanks to walking everywhere I have been able to take in the sights!
The biggest cultural difference that I am enjoying is the affair of food. Italians eat big, multiple coursed meals and laugh and chat over good wine while eating good food. This culture has been forgotten about in the North American lifestyle of constantly moving from place to place as quickly as possible. Food has become more about convenience products and how quickly a meal can be prepared and eaten. In Italy time slows down for meals and it is a beautiful work of love. My family has always held that dinner time is a time to enjoy each other’s company and relax after a long week so it is truly beautiful to be in a place where this is a daily occurrence, it makes me feel a little less homesick at times when I miss my family most.
As someone who works in an industry that has a dominant nightlife, it is interesting to see that the whole town comes to life at night. Night is truly the time to meet the most locals as everyone goes out, enjoys an aperitivo and enjoys each other’s company in this grand, city-wide social affair. While there is a lot of public drinking there is no real public drunkenness; everyone is well behaved because it is socially frowned upon to not be able to hold your liquor and stay within your limit. Drunks in North America, making a scene are usually the cherry on top of the night out because going out for a drink is more indulgent and tabloids and youtube are filled with people who can’t hold their drink.
Italian men. There are two North American perceptions of Italian men 1) being that they are super romantic and 2) that they are super creepy. Yes it’s true that you can’t walk down the street without getting whistled at or catcalled. Our North American perception is that this is sexual harassment of the highest form and we become indignant. Well, culturally this is just what Italian men do. It is not meant as harmful sexual harassment, it is just what Italian men do. Ladies, do what the Italians do and walk with your gaze straight ahead and walk with purpose, you won’t get bothered that way. This catcalling has not fazed me in the slightest. Making eye contact can be dangerous here though; it is an invitation to this kind of attention. Just don’t do it unless you want to talk to them.
I’m not having a hard time adjusting to much of anything. I can see why some would experience culture shock here but I am loving the differences and the similarities so much. People here are so kind and wonderful and the social aspect of this city is truly a treat! The only issue that I am experiencing is that University buildings close super early and are not open on weekends. So if you have any homework that requires the library, I would suggest the city libraries instead, most of which are only closed on Sunday. One of the libraries also has a lovely roof top cafe with a gorgeous view of the city!
Lisa is a current student at the Vancouver Island University studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Italy during the Fall 2014 term.