Cultural Differences
Julie, Siena - Spring 2014
February 24, 2014

One of the main reasons that I wanted to study abroad was to get away from my busy life at school in the States and experience a new way of life that didn’t involve constantly running around. While here, I have found that Italy is the perfect place to do that! The Italian culture is much more laid back and has a greater focus on enjoying life.

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The laid back atmosphere is noticeable almost everywhere. People saunter through the streets and go where they please rather than rushing on the sidewalk, dodging the crowd. Many of the stores close during the lunch hour so people can relax and savor the food they have to eat rather than eating quickly through work. Time here in Italy is not a rigid concept as it is in the States, people take their time and don’t stress about getting places exactly on time, or even thirty minutes late for that matter. One of my professors here also mentioned that one of the reasons their breakfasts are so minimal and their dinners are so late it because food is seen as something to enjoy, not a source of energy to maintain a hustled lifestyle. They can’t comprehend the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

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Since being here, I have weaned myself off of my Google Calendar, been able to travel and can take the time to enjoy reading a book without feeling guilty about wasting my time. It is liberating to not feel controlled by my calendar and the expectations of everyone around me. I also feel that I have really gotten to know friends and those around me because people here take the time to get to know you and will stop on the street for a chat. However, there are times when my rigid sense of time kicks in and it can be quite frustrating. There are days when a store that should be open according to their posted hours is closed because the owner decided to take the afternoon off, or you end up waiting for others because they don’t show up on time. But these are all great lessons. I am sure it will be just as hard for me to adjust to the time in the States when I return, but for now I am going to enjoy those moments of waiting as a way to relax and unwind.

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Julie is a student at University of Minnesota, Rochester studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Spring 2014 term.

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SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.