Cultural Differences by Melanie Orama

It has been a couple of weeks since I started living in Florence for my study abroad program. I have witnessed many cultural differences in the brief time I have been here. I have interacted with locals and attempted to go to the outskirts of the town rather than staying in the more tourist areas of Florence. After discovering new areas, I realized there is a drastic difference in central Florence’s food, people, and community. The food outside central Florence is authentic, and restaurants tend to be family owned. Moreover, the people tend not to speak English, so my Spanish speaking skills have served me well since it is similar to Italian. Many Italians are very welcoming and are open to teaching you a few Italian words. They seem to appreciate when you attempt to speak in Italian and will offer corrections and teach you words when you do so. I have learned several basic phrases and words in Italian that help me at restaurants, stores, museums, and the area.

My study abroad class covers child development and cultural differences in family interactions and lifestyles. I have witnessed many Italian children while I roamed the city, and there is a definite difference in the development of autonomy. Many older school-aged children are left to run stores and are out of the house past 10 PM. In the United States, most children are home and in bed at this time, but in Italy, this is typical. We also visited Rome as a class and witnessed many cultural differences between the two cities. In Florence, the streets are cleaned every night, and there are trash bins on many corners so that people do not litter. Conversely, in Rome, the streets are much less clean, and there is a lack of trash bins throughout the city. Moreover, all of Italy recycles and throws away trash much differently than America. Here in Italy, there are bins for organic materials, plastic and glass, undefined, and cardboard. There is an emphasis on saving energy, such as a lack of air conditioning in almost all apartments, and clothes are dried using drying racks and the sun. Although this was a bit difficult to get accustomed to at first, I feel like I have been able to create a routine for myself and immerse myself in authentic Italian culture.

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