Since the last post, I have realized the apparent contrasts between the American culture that I know and love, and the Italian one that I’m learning to love.
First off, the whole university/college dynamic is a little bit different. The university I am studying at is Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, or UCSC for short. Since this school is a religious institution, one would find statues and busts of various saints and biblical figures. There is also a chapel right on campus, an accessible way to pray and hear the word of the Lord.
Much like San Diego State, there is an extended campus (SDSU-Imperial Valley Campus) and the main campus. However, the UCSC “extended” campus is across the street instead of two hours away.
This university has traditions I’ve never heard of before. For instance, students are not allowed to walk onto the lush grass that surrounds certain sections of the campus. However, they may do so only on their graduation day. The graduates do so barefoot, all while dressed in the traditional graduation/commencement garments.
The students also take their coffee intake very seriously, I repeat VERY SERIOUSLY. Instead of venti chai tea lattes in hand, the Italian students have a small cup of latte macchiatos and espressos in one hand with a lit cigarette in the other. They down 3 or 4 cups of the caffeinated beverage, more than what I have ever seen on my own campus.
Also, I have noticed some distinct differences in the Italians’ overall behavior.
Whether someone is a man or woman, no matter what age, shape or size, Italians will stare at you. Numerous times I find myself being stared at by men and women in stores, at the subway station, and walking in the city center. The funny thing is that they do not look away when you make eye contact. Instead of looking away or down, they remain in the same position with their eyes fixed on me, studying my face and my stylish clothes. This “quirk” of the Italians only reminds me of the apparent contrast between their culture and the American culture that I have grown accustomed to.
Something that surprised me the most is how much Italians appreciate quality time with friends and family. Basically, cell phones are not glued to their hands at all hours of the day. In the USA, people have their i-Phones out on the table with Instagram or Twitter open while they are sharing a meal with a friend or family member. Here in Milan, it is the opposite. Their cellular phones remain in their purse or pocket and instead, they engage in interactive conversations without looking at their cell phones. The people here talk for hours at restaurants and coffee shops and soak up each other’s company. The reason why I was surprised is because I thought that anyone with a cell phone in the Western world would rely on their phone. Now I know that it is not the case here in Italy.
I am learning from the Italians so that maybe I can integrate certain habits into my life. Maybe I will drink 3-4 latte macchiatos daily and limit my phone usage. No one knows. Anyways, I am looking forward to learning a lot more about the culture as well as interesting quirks Italians may have.
UP NEXT: Venice and Paris, France.
Hector Teran blogs from Milan, Italy in the summer of 2015. The Psychology major chose a writing-focused faculty-led program for his international experience.