Of all of my classes here, Italian definitely is my favorite. Not necessarily the topic, because I am horrendous at learning languages, but for everything else that can make or break a class. My class only has 8 people, including me. I’ve never been in a class that small, but I really like it because I know everyone’s name and we all get along really well. I do feel bad though its all girls except Greg, but he’s a good sport when we go on “girl stuff” tangents. I also love my teacher. She is so funny; she will explain things half in Italian, half in English so we will understand easier and learn different words. Most of the time we get off on tangents about different things, basically making the class a huge discussion and today, that is exactly what happened.
Today we were going over our homework from the night before involving clothing vocabulary. While this was going on, we were also having side conversations about how the weather was so nice. Someone decided to ask if the reason why the Florentines stared at us when we were running was because of our clothes. Our teacher said “Yes, when we see someone wearing shorts in the city we are shocked because it is an inappropriate thing to wear. We think are you going to the beach?” She continued to tell us that Italians do not wear shorts or flip flops in the city or in class because it is viewed as disrespectful. Dresses and skirts are okay, but shorts are not at all.
She also said that the Florentines stare at us while we run is because it is not normal for people to run in the city. In the minds of the Florentines it is inappropriate, as mentioned before, and it is dangerous. In the city there are cars, motorcycles, and bikes to worry about, uneven cobblestone that you can twist your ankle on, and many pedestrians that just get in the way. Florentines run in the parks, but there is one problem with this: the parks are relatively far away. For them it is normal to take a bus or a bike to the park in order to go for a run. Logically to me it would make more sense to just run to and from the park and just save time, but there lies a huge cultural difference between Americans and Italians: we value our time completely different.
My friend Sophie took this conversation a step further and asked if the reason people stare also stemmed from their dislike of Americans. Our teacher began with that most people in Florence don’t dislike Americans, but the stereotype of Americans here in Florence stemmed from study abroad students; young Americans looking to “live it up” in Italy while they are technically underage in the US. They go too far and don’t realize what they are doing and ruin the reputations of all Americans.
Someone decided to take another step farther saying “Do men act this forwardly to Italians too? Or is it just because we are American and have that reputation? Just because we have that reputation doesn’t mean that they should act that way. They should respect our culture.” Personally I couldn’t believe that they said this because we are the visitors in their country. We should be the ones respecting their culture. Americans always get mad at foreigners who don’t respect our culture when they are visiting, why should it be any different? Our teacher also said that most of the men that are forward towards the American women aren’t even Italian. ”Most Italian men don’t care where a girl is from; Italy, France, Germany, America, it doesn’t matter to them. The men that are forward are from Albania, Romania, and other places who just want to have fun then have a whole new set to pick from each semester. Just because they know how to speak Italian doesn’t mean that they are Italian.”
This little anecdote is a warning for all of you future study abroad students. You’re in a new country with new laws, but also new cultural values. Just because you have the ability to go out to the bars doesn’t mean you need to go too far. I know 4 separate girls who were stolen from because they were too drunk to notice. In total they lost 2 cameras, a licence, a Coach clutch, and over 200 euro. While its fun to go out, there is no reason to be that bad. You are only putting yourself at risk and making a bad name for every other American that comes to study in one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Okay I’m done preaching, I promise.