Things I Learned
While Living with an Italian Host Family
- You have to flip a switch for the hot water heater if you don't like taking cold showers.
- Don't you dare eat everything on the same plate. Use at least two plates at every meal.
- Do not eat while standing up. Also do not eat from a disposeable container. Or from a pan, pot, or tupperware. Basically do not eat like you are in college, even if you really are.
- Breakfast does not include eggs, waffles, pancakes, muffins, or bagels. But it does include the best espresso and an immesurable variety of biscotti.
- When learning a language, long awkward pauses are unavoidable. Embrace the awkwardness.
- Hanging out your laundry to dry takes a bit of skill combined with self-confidence: "I will not drop these panties on my neighbor's head below me. I will not drop these panties on my neighbor's head below me."
Things I Learned
While in Italy
- You can get by with ordering food in most bars and restaurants through pointing and saying "questo" or "quello" (this one, or that one) but sometimes it is better if you know how to ask what's in it as well.
- The "neutral" expression does not indicate that a person is unhappy, as in America's eager-to-please consumer society. Don't overuse the smile in public.
- Staring is okay. If you catch someone staring at you, and you quickly divert your glance or smile, chances are they will continue staring as you have revealed your foreign identity. Instead, stare directly back using aforementioned neutral expression.
- If a guy starts speaking to you in Italian and he seems nice and not too pushy, chances are he is not actually Italian but a bus driver from Turkey. And that is why you can understand his overly-enunciated dialect.
- If a girl starts speaking to you in Italian, you should probably get out of her way before she starts yelling at you in Italian instead.
- While the "fast food" options are limited, there is no shortage of pizza or panini. However, that's about all there is for lunch unless you go to sit down somewhere and pay considerably more.
- When asking for directions, don't rely on just one source. Some people may find it entertaining to misdirect you while others may act like they know what you're talking about even though they have no clue. Still other times, they may be pointing you in the right direction for the bridge named Matteoti instead of the street you're looking for - on the other side of town. Getting lost is sometimes inevitable, even with a map and a friend who speaks Italian fluently.
- Don't trust the cab drivers. The less Italian you know, the more likely they are to rip you off. However, there are also some nice cab drivers who tell you about things to do in Rome or talk with you about popular music. And still others who will do this while diverting your route and charging you for the second fare zone.
- "Index cards" or "flash cards" do not seem to exist. Study for midterms and finals using quarter-sheets of printer paper instead.
Things I Still Haven't Figured Out
- Why shopowners let the flower guys into their stores.
- How to properly pronounce "chiacchierare" (chit-chat).
- How to use a phone card to make calls from a public payphone.
- How to make pasta carbonara without it sticking to the pan!
- Why Italians insist on wearing their fur coats and boots in 70 degree weather.
- Why gelato is so much better than regular ice cream. And how skinny Italian women can eat it and still appear anorexically thin.