Reverse Culture Shock

I’ve been in America for a little over a week now, even though it feels like I’ve been back for about two months already, and I’ve noticed some things I never have before and am learning to appreciate things I took for granted without even realizing it. I am missing Italy so much it hurts and laying around my house all day catching up on movies and TV shows can only satisfy me for so long until it gets old. I’m at that point now and am more than ready to go back to Italy.

Leaving the place you’ve lived your whole life opens your eyes and teaches you things, not only about the new place but also about the place you left. You learn to appreciate the people around you, the ease with which you can get anything in America (I quickly realized we are a bit spoiled in America) and the luxuries we have that not many other places have- just to name a few.

Things I’m glad I have back:

1. Garbage disposal

2. Clothes dryer

3. Chipotle

4. Driving

5. Not getting whistled at, cat called or having creepy Italians say creepy things to me in Italian

6. The availability of so many different types of food

Things I miss about Italy:

1. Basically everything else

2. The mindset and attitude of “Il dolce far niente” (The sweetness of doing nothing)

3. The Italian food

4. Gelato

5. Not having to pay for public transportation

6. Speaking Italian

I most definitely had some culture shock upon returning to the homeland. I was surprised by quite a few things that were very different from Europe-

1. How huge the portions of food are

2. How quickly they rush you out of restaurants

3. I constantly convert everything to Euros

4. I forget that I have to tip here

5. How unhealthy America and its people are

6. How sloppy we all look compared to the always-fashionable Europeans.

Getting a taste for foreign places has definitely left me wanting more. The travel bug took a big bite and has left me with a desire to travel the world. With so many exotic places and far away lands we forget that America has so many gorgeous places of its own. Because I’m (extremely) short on money and obviously in debt to my parents (thank you!) some friends and I have decided to save up and travel more domestically this summer. The want to travel doesn’t go away just because I’m not in Rome anymore. I have to feed my need for travel and I am excited to discover what hidden treasures lay around the corner right in my own backyard.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”- Terry Pratchett

“Italy isn’t a Country. It’s an emotion.”

“Italy isn’t a country, it’s an emotion.” Only those who have been to Italy can truly understand and relate to these words. There are many people who have been here longer than my four-month semester, however, it doesn’t take long to realize that that statement holds very true.

To pinpoint exactly what emotion Italy is would be impossible; it isn’t just one, it’s thousands of years of work that have lead up to this point right now, of me sitting on my bed in my Rome apartment procrastinating studying for the two finals I have left. The emotions that Italy is giving me right now are fatigue from studying all night, nostalgia for those first few weeks in Rome when we were clueless and would get lost walking to the Trevi Fountain and contentment, such contentment, in the rare moments of silence, in this exact moment. But Italy has so many more emotions. Last night, at one of the last dinners my friends and I will have in Italy, my emotions were happy, giggly, sad that we had to leave and very very full.

Not every moment spent here is full of such emotions though. If you had asked me my emotions a few days ago I would have said frustration that the public transportation isn’t reliable, annoyance from being cat called and having creepy Italian men say things in Italian that unfortunately I can understand and an aching for America. Italy is so full of so many different emotions and it brings out a wide array in a person. If I had to describe the over all feel that I have gotten from Italy over the past four months I would explain it in a way that I have come to find is truly Italian- if the laid back mammoni (Italian for mama’s boy) married the sassy Italian women who drives too fast on her vespa and then cheated on her with a younger fun-loving 20-something who drinks too much wine during the day but still makes it home for Sunday dinner- I told you it was hard to explain. I have just skimmed the surface of Italy, so of course many more people have a greater perspective on Italy and its emotions, but from a 21-year-old living and studying in Rome, I think I hit the nail on the head.

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved (almost) every moment here, but of course there are those moments when one misses her home country. I am excited to be going home, to see my family, my friends, my dog and my kitty, but I am sad to leave. I am sad to leave the place where 10 minutes late is on time, the place where the people actually stop and take the time to sit and drink wine and eat gelato and celebrate, even if it is only celebrating the four-hour lunch break that every one takes. Italians, and many Europeans, have mastered the art of “dolce far niente,” which translated means the sweetness of doing nothing. In America we work and we work and if we are lucky we have family dinners once a week or take a few days off for vacation. We have it all wrong. Having these four months go by in the blink of an eye has made me realize that Italians do life right. They enjoy the moment and drink too much wine during lunch because every moment is magical, but every moment is fleeting, and if you don’t take the time to cherish these moments, they will be gone all too quickly.

To say goodbye to the place I have called home for the past four months will not be easy. Rachel and I have already decided that we will cry on the plane home and probably in the van on the way to the airport. But I know that Tuesday night, when Rachel, Kate, Jasmine and I drink our last bottles of wine in Italy, it will not be a goodbye, rather, it will be a see you later to Italy, a place that seems like an old friend. You can never say goodbye to something that has left such an impact on your life and that has planted a seed in your soul to explore, meet new people and enjoy the dolce far niente in life. So until next time Italy. Ciao.

“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after a moment or a lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.