5 American Habits Italy Helped Me Beat
My first week studying in Siena flew by in a blur of attending student orientation, getting to know my host family, and exploring the city. I loved everything about this new place and constantly took photos with my DSLR and iPhone. When I finally had the chance to catch my breath, I reached into my pocket to grab my phone and upload some photos to Instagram.
“Unable to connect to WiFi” continued to pop up. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll just wait until I get home.” My host mom Luciana had no idea what WiFi was and offered to let me use the desktop computer instead. “Grazie!” I exclaimed, although that wouldn’t do the trick. So I got ready for bed instead.
Lying in bed in my comfy pajamas, I started to shiver and got up to adjust the heater. It didn’t get any warmer, so I asked my host dad Roberto to fix it. When he finally understood my likely-incoherent Italian, he responded, “Ah! Non funziona alla notte!” (“It doesn’t work at night.”)
As the sound of my chattering teeth lulled me to sleep, I realized that living in Italy would be far different than living in America, even more so than I had expected. Thus, here are the five American habits I was forced to lose while living in Italy.
5 American Habits Italy Helped Me Beat
1. Being quiet and shy
Italians are all about their hugs, kisses, hand gestures, and loud volume. Upon arrival, my host family hugged and kissed me, which I was used to because we have the same type of greeting in Hawaii. But once I was in their home, my host mom started yelling at me in Italian! I assumed she was talking about dinner, but it was my first night and I didn’t know enough Italian to keep up with her rapid speech. My helpful roommate Trushaa assured me that our host mom was just asking if we were hungry and what we wanted to eat for dinner.
I was so relieved, but all I could say was, “Si, grazie.” It took me several weeks to learn that neither my host family nor random strangers were yelling at me. Every Italian I encountered was loud and friendly, and I learned to love this because it made me feel welcome and reminded me of my Hawaiian family and friends back home.
2. Eating eggs and bacon for breakfast
Dessert for breakfast is very popular in Italy. At one point, this was my biggest complaint about living there, although I knew I was being silly. What can I say, I missed protein! Breakfast in Italy consists of things like Nutella, pastries, coffee, and espresso. It was all amazing in the beginning, but then I noticed myself gaining weight and craving eggs and bacon. Once, I asked Luciana for eggs, which she then served for dinner.
3. Driving a car
In Siena, driving wasn’t an option for me, so I learned to love public transportation and caught the city bus to school each day. I walked around Siena during my free time and took the train to different Italian cities every weekend. I can recall being in a car only twice — when my host parents first picked me up, and on my final day in Siena when Roberto saw me waiting at the bus stop and gave me a ride. If you’re ever wondering how Italians stay so fit, it’s because they walk everywhere amid lots of hills.
4. Being attached to social media
I used to obsessively post everything about my life on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This all changed in Italy, mainly because I had no WiFi at my host family’s home, and because the WiFi at my school was too slow. At first, this frustrated me because I wanted to keep in touch with my family and friends back home. However, becoming so unattached to social media reminded me to look up and appreciate the view.
5. Planning every minute of every day
Before living in Italy, I was very organized and needed to plan everything in order to avoid going crazy. I blame this on growing up in fast-paced America. During the first couple of weeks in Siena, I found it difficult to get used to my abundance of free time.
I felt annoyed when professors were late to class. With time, I got used to this. Writing things like “relax” and “take a nap” on my daily to-do lists helped me kick up my feet and enjoy the ride.
Learning to go with the flow also helped me to find the beauty in getting lost. I no longer planned every trip I went on, and sometimes I wouldn’t even use a map! Finding unfamiliar and unplanned gems became more rewarding than sticking to an itinerary.
Have you traveled to Italy? Email us at [email protected] to share your tips and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.