On Being An Asian Living In Italy
Start writing a post

On Being An Asian Living In Italy

Outward appearance is something that can’t be changed, and stereotyping is inevitable.

On Being An Asian Living In Italy
my own photo

It’s been almost a month since I came to live in Florence to study abroad, and I can say now that I’ve adjusted to life in Italy. The cars and Vespas that never seem to follow any traffic laws regarding pedestrians, the ridiculously late dinner times, and the aperitivo (sort of an Italian happy hour) have all become routine to me. Aside from all of these nuances and customs that I have adjusted to, there’s just one cultural difference that I absolutely have not gotten used to. I’m a Korean-American in Italy, and there’s nothing that will keep locals from seeing me as a foreigner. No matter how much Italian I learn and no matter how many of the local customs I adopt as my own, my outward appearance as a Korean leads to immediate judgment.

When I walk through the farmers market in the Mercato Centrale to buy groceries or the San Lorenzo market to buy leather goods, the local vendors yell at me in broken Korean to come look at their products. Because of the booming tourism industry in Florence and the millions of people who flock to Florence from Asia each year, the shopkeepers seem to have become accustomed to groups of Asians coming by their shops. I’ve heard the vendors shout phrases in Korean ranging from “hello, pretty lady” to “please try this!” I know they are using these tactics to attract more customers, but to me, they’re pretty offensive -- especially when they shout at me in Chinese or Japanese, another situation that happened to me one too many times. I know that countless numbers of tourists from Asia come to their shops and that there is no way for the shop owners to know if I am one of the tourists or if I live in Florence. More often than not, the Asians that come into their stores are, in fact, tourists, so I do know that the locals cannot help but put me into the same category.

I am currently taking an Italian language class, and to practice my Italian I have been trying to ask shop owners questions about their products in Italian before buying, and I have been trying to order my coffee and meals strictly in Italian. However, despite my efforts to speak to the locals in their tongue, without fail they always respond in English. This has been especially disheartening because it made me realize that despite my greatest efforts to try to blend in, my appearance is an immediate giveaway that I'm a foreigner.

Outward appearance is something that can’t be changed, and stereotyping is inevitable. I know that I stick out like a sore thumb when I go to areas in Florence that aren’t frequented by tourists, and that my elementary Italian isn’t enough for me to truly get by as a local. However, some of the “hospitality” of the Italian locals border on racial ignorance. I experienced even more of a culture shock in these moments of ignorance because I was born and raised in New York City, one of the most racially diverse cities in the worldI know that my situation cannot be changed and that I can try to get the most out of my experience here in Florence by simply ignoring the locals' remarks. One of the perks to this unfortunate phenomenon, I guess, is the look on the locals’ faces when they ask me where I’m from and I reply, “Io abito a Firenze.
Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less
a man and a woman sitting on the beach in front of the sunset

Whether you met your new love interest online, through mutual friends, or another way entirely, you'll definitely want to know what you're getting into. I mean, really, what's the point in entering a relationship with someone if you don't know whether or not you're compatible on a very basic level?

Consider these 21 questions to ask in the talking stage when getting to know that new guy or girl you just started talking to:

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments