Learning Italian, Not the Language

So, it’s official – I’ve hit the one-month mark here in Florence. It’s all too terribly cliché and expected for me to say that the four weeks since my arrival have flown by but I can’t say they haven’t. I’ve accomplished a lot thus far in my journey but I’m disheartened to I admit that I wish I’d have done more with my time. With this upset, I’ve made a list of things to accomplish before I leave (more on that later…) as well as a list of things I’ve learned over the past month. You’ll find the latter list below and it touches on culture, social interactions, food, and a few things in between. Let the lessons learned lend their silly selves to you.

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  1. Realizing that I’m not on a week-long vacation and that Euros are not Monopoly money. Everything here is so out of the ordinary and totally reminiscent of an exotic sojourn that it feels sinful to not indulge more than you normally would. Simple trips to the market become these long drawn out experiences that make you leave with far more than you intended on purchasing. It’s buying a gorgeous wedge of cheese that’s close to fifteen American dollars (post-conversion) because you “can’t get it in the States.” It’s buying that perfect satiny, lace, detailed bra and underwear set because “it’s Italian lingerie.” It’s picking up the sumptuous leather-bound journals that you know you’re never actually going to write in because “they’re just so damn pretty.” Oh, if only I could go back and take out a bigger loan…going into hock would be so worth it.
  2. Weight gain sucks but tastes so good. Whether it’s Margherita pizza for lunch (which you can get with a glass of wine for only six euro…), gelato for aperitivo (here’s looking at you, Antica on Via Faenza), or the two-week long, open all day/night chocolate festival so conveniently located next to my school, delectable Italian treats have (obviously) woven their way into my day-to-day life and happily contributed to my waist-line; such weight that a girl in my writing class affectionately deems, “the fun pounds.” If I didn’t enjoy eating cantucci and Nutella so much, I’d say that kind of terminology grants the creator a firm kick in the shins. Moral: my ass needs to get itself to the gym downstairs in my building more often.
  3. Liking everyone is not possible. The first few weeks here were very much like orientation week for every college student in America. I talked to whomever I made eye contact with, exchanged Facebook information, and hung out with new faces every day. The upside to this is that you get to meet a ton of people and you make a ton of friends; the downside to this is that you meet a ton of people you probably wouldn’t be friends with in other or rather, ordinary circumstances and when you realize this, you’re usually too far into “friendship” to shake that person off your back. Granted, I know I’m difficult to be good friends with – I’m a bitch. I’ll take full ownership on that. But after dealing with a sticky situation the other day and being incredibly frustrated, I found myself feeling remorseful more than anything. I just kept thinking, “If my mom were here and heard my thoughts, she’d be disappointed that I wasn’t being nicer and more inclusive to everyone.” Luckily, after voicing this concern to my stellar roommate (seriously…she’s awesome), she pointed out the aforementioned fact: you can’t get along with everyone. So while it’s a lesson I did already learn many times prior, it was certainly nice to take a refresher course.
  4. Starbucks is exactly the same all over the world. Now, if there’s one thing traveling is supposed to do, it’s that it’s supposed to make you step outside your comfort zone and experience a culture that’s different from your own.  That being said, I did not go thousands of miles from New York – across the Atlantic – to land in Budapest, Hungary in a fucking Starbucks. Yet, sadly, I did end up in a Starbucks because my friends needed their respective “fixes.” And yes, while I do enjoy my peppermint hot chocolate from that green, circular goddess, I did not need to visit her and I can only hope the next time she graces my presence, it will be in Massapequa in May – post-study abroad.
  5. Italians are creepy and romantic. I’m aware that this is sort of a contradictory statement but it’s because I’m trying to generalize an entire country of people – which is neither possible or politically correct – so bear with me. The creep factor comes into play because many Italian natives are masters of the art of leering. They catcall more than your average city-dweller, they stare far longer than what’s comfortable, and they have no problem touching what is clearly not theirs. Those facts aside, some of them really do have good intentions; it’s not uncommon to find Italians in bars, looking for a relationship as opposed to a one-night stand. These versions of the natives are usually assertive, make good conversation, and perhaps they’ll try to kiss you before the night is over – but not always. They’ll make it a point to get your number and then text you something sweet the following day. At first my friends and I – most, if not all of us, having experienced this – thought of this as clingy or weird but it’s because in America we have this warped sense of what’s supposed to happen. You meet a guy in a bar, have a good night – whatever that entails – and you go home, usually to never hear or see that person again. Here, they follow a protocol most American women wish American men would. It seems that in Italy they value nearly every interaction, a fact that is both endearing and slightly terrifying.

I’m going to end the list here for now but I’m confident there will be much more to come (read: definitely). I can only hope that you will blog about your experiences too and let me live vicariously through you. 🙂

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