Cultural Differences Make For Eye Opening Experiences
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Cultural Differences Make For Eye Opening Experiences

Traveling aboard changes your perspective of the world.

Cultural Differences Make For Eye Opening Experiences

Traveling abroad opens your eyes and mind to the world outside the one you've been living your whole life.

I had the extreme fortune of traveling to Italy this summer, and while being there felt like a dream, I made a concentrated effort to learn a great deal about the culture, embracing things that were far different from what I was used to, and appreciating things that weren’t a part of American culture altogether.

One of the most amazing things I realized was the amount of people that spoke English all throughout Italy. The tourist areas were, of course, the ones with the best English speaking workers, but it was impressive nonetheless.

Although it was convenient to not have to worry much about language barriers, it made me realize how different America is in handling language studies. From a young age, the Italian schools make learning English a priority for its students. Whereas in America, it is uncommon for schools to incorporate foreign language studies, until students are about 10 years old.

Our school systems should consider incorporating foreign language into the classroom as early as preschool to ensure that our understanding of the language goes beyond the surface of simple verb conjugation and short catch phrases. It’s no secret that it would help us better communicate with foreigners, alleviating the stress of language barriers in social, political, and economic situations.

Furthermore, perhaps it would prevent the unfair expectation we hold foreigners to. We expect them to know the English language upon coming to America, yet we don’t hold ourselves to those same standards when traveling abroad. If we were better versed in foreign languages, we wouldn’t have to rely only on English as a means of communicating.

The dining experience was another part of my trip that I noted as differing greatly from America. In the states, meals are more often than not consumed on the run, or at least in a hurried manner. Our culture is one that believes in getting things done quickly, whether it’s household chores, workouts, tasks at work, or meals.

Unfortunately, this often means that we don’t take the time to enjoy these parts of our lives. Instead, we are always so concerned with finishing and moving on to the next thing on our to-do list. Sometimes, we even forget to stop and eat because we are so busy with other things that we consider more important.

In Italy, it is very different. Meals are an event. When dining in Italy, don’t ever expect to be finished within an hour, and if you’re in a large group, assume that you’ll be at the table for at least two hours.

The service in Italy is quite different than that in the states. In Italy, the waiters and waitresses don’t linger at your table asking how you’re doing every five minutes. Instead, they allow you to enjoy your meal uninterrupted. Of course, they come over to check on drinks, but they are far more removed from their customers’ dining than American servers are.

In addition, serving is a highly regarded profession in Italy. It isn’t something teenagers do to earn a little pocket change. Restaurant owners are more interested in having older, more mature men and women serving their customers to ensure their experiences are nothing short of extraordinary. That being said, servers are paid an honorable salary and because of this, tipping is not often stressed.

Another big cultural difference in Italy is the existence of entrance fees into bathrooms. You may laugh, but when I was in Milan I had to pay 50 cents to go to the bathroom. This custom isn’t singular to Italy though, rather it is popular all over Europe.

I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this, but I have tried to understand. Consider this logic: So using a restroom could be seen as a public service, just as taking a bus is right? And a bus requires customers to pay in order to help cover the price of maintenance for the service. Therefore, in looking at it this way, paying to use the bathroom could be seen as justified. We expect bathrooms to be clean and so someone must be paid to do the cleaning.

This logic may seem far-fetched to most of you, and I know just as much as you do that it will never be adopted in America, but at the very least we must try to be respectful of the custom when traveling abroad.

If traveling abroad taught me anything, it was to look at differences with intrigue instead of disgust. To appreciate differences instead of deeming them weird without a second thought.

I am so fortunate to have been granted the experience I was. I only hope that my time abroad is just beginning.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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