Adapting to the Glorious–and Sometimes Difficult–Italian Culture
I have been studying Italian for the past eight years. In every class I have taken, there has always been an enormous emphasis on the culture and history of Italy. Prior to moving here for the semester, I thought I understood the Italian lifestyle, but I was definitely wrong! There is so much about the culture that I am just now learning.
At any moment at least one of my senses is stimulated. The food consists of flavors I honestly never knew existed. The air smells either clean (even in the airport!) or of fresh bread and wine. While walking down narrow, cobblestone streets overflowing with people, I can hear a constant stream of Italian words. They flow together effortlessly and create a melody of their own. Even when I am home and no one is speaking, I can hear the sounds of the television, where everything is dubbed over into Italian. Often I forget that I am in a foreign country. Then, I look out across the walls of the city to find hills, infinitely rolling, under a clear blue sky. The people, the food, the language, the sites–they are all, to put it simply, bellisimi!
I will be studying at the Siena Institute of Art for four months. The school has placed each of its students with a homestay family. Here we are fed breakfast and dinner and are given a place to live, shower, and practice our Italian.
I live right in the center of the city with an 83-year-old woman, Louisa, and her cat, Gugu. Louisa speaks no English and has no WiFi. As is the case for other Italians in the city, heat, water, and electricity (with the exception of the television) are very expensive, and I am expected to use them conservatively. While at home, I am also expected to wear slippers around the house, to finish my plate during each course of a meal, and to never leave the house with wet hair.
These rules have little to do with scientific facts, but rather with myths regarding getting sick or letting spirits into the house. They are simply ingrained into the Italian culture. This immersion has been difficult, I must admit, but I already feel myself adapting quickly and learning to love the Italian ways.