Culture Shock- Language!

It never really hit me that I was flying all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, from all my friends and family, to a country where I did not speak the native tongue, until I got there. Wow, that sounds pretty crazy when I put it into words. All I had heard when I would tell people that I was studying abroad in Italy, was that “You will be fine! They speak English in Italy!”, well let me tell you… that is not the case in Torino. I first figured this out when I arrived in the airport, and I was greeted with the hustle and bustle of so many people running into each and not even saying I’m sorry! I ended up eating lunch at the airport, and ordering food for the first time. This experience was interesting because it was a mixture of pointing and smiling, trying to be as a polite as possible.

My non-verbal communication skills were put to the test my first few days in Italia, and I am forever thankful for this. The main example that I have of this is the relationship that I built with the older man that owned a cafe on the street that I was living on. I quickly was becoming a regular at Cafe de Marconi, and one morning a man came up and started speaking Italian to me, and I could understand that he was talking about an older couple had been married for 50 years and still shared their lunch everyday. Mr. Daniele then sat down with me, and I ended up having to tell him that I didn’t speak Italian, and he didn’t speak an English. We still were able to communicate, and he told me all about the city through broken language and of course, Google Translate. He would take my notebook and draw maps of the city of restaurants and gelato places that I needed to try. My favorite part of the morning, was always stopping by to share my adventures with my friend. The day we met was still gives me chills and brings a smile to my face when I think about it. The small moments that you don’t expect to happen are the reason that I fell in love with traveling.

If I were to redo my experience, I would have learned more of the language before I left The States. I should not have expected most people to speak English. When I first arrived, people would point and whisper under their breath, “Americana,” which means American girl because there is not tourism in Torino. By the time I left Italy, people would come up to me and ask for directions because they thought that I was a local, and this was one of the best feelings. I would definitely not study in an English speaking country. Completely immersing myself in a new culture forced me to be completely out of my comfort zone, and made me think quick on my feet. The skills I gained from this experience have changed who I am, and prepared me to take on adulthood and my future career.


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