My first week in Siena flew by. I kept busy with student orientation, getting to know my family, and exploring the city. I loved everything about it! I constantly took photos with my DSLR and iPhone, and when I finally had a chance to catch my breath, I reached down into my pocket to grab my phone and opened up Instagram. “Unable to connect to wifi,” continued to pop up. Ok, I’ll just wait til I get home. My host-mom, Luciana, had no idea what wifi was and offered me their desktop computer. “Grazie!” I genuinely exclaimed as I thought to myself, “well, I can’t upload pictures onto Instagram using a desktop computer, so… I’ll go get ready for bed instead.”
Laying in bed in my comfy pajamas, I started to shiver so I got up and tried to adjust the heater. Hm, it’s not getting any warmer… I asked my host-dad, Roberto, to fix it. When he finally understood what I was trying to ask him, my Italian still fresh and most likely incoherent, he responded, “Ah! Non funziona alla notte!” (“It doesn’t work at night,”). WHAT?! I gasped.
As the sound of my teeth chattering slowly rocked me to sleep, it was then, that I realized that living in Italy would be way more different than living in America, way more than I expected. Thus, here are 5 American habits I lost when I moved to Italy.
1) Being quiet and shy
Italians are all about their hugs, kisses, hand gestures, and loudness. Upon arrival, my host-parents hugged and kissed me “hello,” which I was used to because we do the same type of greeting in Hawaii. But once I was in their home, my host-mom started yelling at me in Italian! Something, I don’t know, about dinner I assumed, I had no idea because it was my first night and I didn’t know enough Italian to keep up with her speedy speech. Then my helpful roommate, Trushaa, leaned in to me and said that our host-mom was just asking us if we were hungry and what we wanted to eat for dinner. Whew! What a relief because I was in shock and had no idea what to say! All I could mutter was “si, grazie…” (“Yes, thank you,”). It took me a few weeks to learn that neither my host-parents nor random strangers on the street were yelling at me. Every Italian I encountered was loud and touchy and I learned to love it because it made me feel welcome and reminded me of my Hawaiian-style family and friends back home.
2) Eggs and bacon for breakfast
Italians are all about their desserts for breakfast. There came a time where this was my biggest complaint about living in Italy, then I knew I was acting like a spoiled brat. What can I say? I missed my protein! Breakfast in Italy is all about the Nutella, pastries, coffee, espresso, etc. It was amazing at first, but then I noticed myself growing a distaste for sweets first thing in the morning, gaining weight, and craving eggs and bacon. Once, I asked Luciana for eggs, and she served it for dinner.
3) Needing a car
Now I know that public transportation is pretty huge in America, even though most families own 2-3 cars. While in Siena, I learned to looove public transportation. I caught the city bus to school everyday, walked around the city every free moment of time I had, and rode 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 last day in Siena, Roberto saw me waiting at the bus stop and picked me up. Anyway, if you ever wonder how Italians stay so fit, it’s because they walk everywhere, and there are tons of hills!
4) Being attached to social media
I used to be all about posting everything about my life via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. That all changed mainly because I had no wifi in my home in Italy and the wifi at my school was way too slow. At first, this frustrated me, especially because of the people back home I wanted to keep in touch with, and because I took some pretty great pictures that I wanted to share. I also planned to start my blog then, but my lack of internet kept me from doing so. However, becoming unattached was very relieving and was a big reminder for me to remember to look up and appreciate the view.
5) Planning every minute of everyday
Before moving to Italy, I was very organized and needed to plan everything or else I would go crazy – I blame growing up in fast-paced America. The first couple of weeks in Italy, I had a really hard time getting used to having so much free time and it really annoyed me when professors would be late to class. But, with time, I got used to this. It only took me having to write down things like “relax” and “take a nap,” on my daily to-do lists to realize that I needed to just kick up my feet and enjoy the ride.
Learning to go with the flow also really 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, all because finding unfamiliar and unplanned gems were more rewarding than sticking to a itinerary.