What Do Europeans Really Think About Americans? youtu.be
I found that being part of the military family gives me more opportunities than the average American, with one big plus being the chance of seeing the world...wait for it...for free. The travel isn't voluntary and we most likely did not choose where we got stationed to, and the location is tied to military orders, but that does not take away from the simple fact: free international travel for all (if married with a family).
With that precious gift of traveling the world comes the realization of the challenges to come, specifically: language barrier.
We don't take into consideration, or we simply forget, that foreign countries speak different languages and not everyone we would encounter in these countries will know English. Maybe it stems from ignorance and the feeling of superiority when we assume citizens in these countries will automatically understand and speak English.
Although there is no official language for America, the main language spoken is English. We know wherever we go in the United States, we will encounter people we can understand without having to pull out our phones and use Google Translator. .
While I was still active duty military, the only other country I visited was Kuwait. Even then, I did not get to experience the culture of the country because we were limited to the base we worked at. I got my second chance to experience Kuwaiti life, from the perspective of a civilian, not too long ago. During my Kuwaiti experience, I saw that the majority of people I encountered outside of base was able to speak to me without difficulty. This made me realize how lazy we are as Americans to learn another language aside from English, after encountering so many people that spoke more than 3 languages. My mind was blown. Along with that bit of knowledge, I also came to accept that although Americans have a lot of advances and opportunities, we are still lacking. We do not try to embrace other cultures, but like a child when throwing a tantrum, we stubbornly dig our heels in and refuse to experience anything different from what we already know. In my own ignorance, I expected my international travels to be similar to that of Kuwait.
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
I recently moved to Italy, and having spent 6 months in this beautiful country, I feel I have experienced so much in such a short time, knowing that in the next 4 years, I will experience a lifetime. In the time spent here already, I also realized how Americanized we have become that we expect the same lifestyle we had in the states to follow us abroad. I admit, I have had those moments where I wonder why Italians do certain things differently, having to tell myself on more than one occasion that I am in their country. These questions have led myself to open my eyes to how ignorant we can be as a whole. We come to a country and expect it to be like what we are accustomed to, forgetting yet again, that we are in fact in an entirely different country, with different customs and ways of doing things.
America and Italy are like night and day.
It is a tough adjustment for anyone, trying to get by without knowing the language, trying new and foreign foods, and realizing that there are no 24/7 fast food restaurants readily available for the random late nights after drinking, where you can soak up all of the alcohol with greasy goodness.
And another thing: siesta. Between the hours of 12 pm and 4 pm, it is difficult to find anything open, aside from the local grocery store. If you are lacking groceries in the home and want to go out to eat, it can be challenging to find a spot open between those times. Not all locations follow those same exact hours during siesta, so you may be the fortunate one to find something. This is the norm for Italy. I have learned to keep a good stock of food in the house, for in that case. And when there is an occasion where I do go out for food, I am on that restaurant's website to ensure I have the correct hours of operation, so we do not show up, only to be bitterly disappointed and drive back home with a grumbling stomach.
Throughout my short time in Italy, I have grown accustomed to the Italian ways, for the most part. I understand that I am living in an entirely different country, whose customs are not the same as America. I have learned to develop an open mind for the unfamiliar and look forward to new experiences while living abroad.