The details make the difference

Again, I realise I have been so carried away with all the crazy things going on that I hadn’t written in a while. However, I have constantly found myself in the last 2 weeks having very reflective thoughts and conversations, thinking about what to write about next. That means that now I have so many little things to write.

These are just some of the observations and small details I have found in the last few weeks that remind me I am really in a very different country that has some very different cultural aspects.

To begin, I was talking to a friend the other day about my level of Italian language skills, or lack thereof, and the difficulty this can pose with communication from time to time. Although I now have a working knowledge adequate enough to be generally understood, I still would not even say that I ‘speak’ Italian. This is strange, seeing as I live her.

I remember at home when foreign students would come, or I would come across people in Australia that didn’t speak English, or only a tiny bit. I could not imagine what would possess somebody to thing it was a good idea to move to a country where they didn’t speak the language. I thought that it was a silly thing to do, frustrating for citizens of the country when they need to interact with these people, and that they should have studied some basics first… And just the other day, I realised I am doing just the same thing to Italians.

Sure, it is slightly different, in deciding to come to Italy I figured my basic knowledge of Spanish should help me understand and pick up the language faster. I also assumed that many people would have some basic English so that I can communicate, whereas I doubt anybody would assume many Australians spoke any other language at all. But still, I could not help but wonder if the Italian shop assistants, public servants, and others who I come into contact with, felt that I was the silly one. How presumptuous and egotistic to assume I could just live in a new country with no knowledge of the language!

… Other observations I have made, that do start to emphasise the cultural differences, relate to the presence of authority figures. The other week when I had to travel across town for one of the many steps in obtaining a residence permit, I was shocked to find that surrounding and throughout this official building were military men with guns. These were real soldiers in full camouflage keeping order. There was a metal detector in the lobby, something I’m sure I only see at the court house. Although all the soldiers were nice, it was surreal to me that such a high level of security was required.

I also wanted to note, for anyone that heard about the floods in Rome, just how confusing that was to me. There was rain for just one morning, and I have seen worse on the Gold Coast for days on end. Somehow though, this caused flash flooding to the extent that all forms of public transport stopped for most of the day. I am sure it rains in Rome and that this can’t be the only time it has rained heavily. Maybe from within my house I didn’t notice just how bad the rain was, but I am still confused as to how things got so crazy so quickly. Never have I seen rain cause so much damage so quickly. I am sure the same storm at home would not have had such a severe impact; it is interesting to see how under-prepared the city seemed to be for what seemed to me a fairly normal event.

Anyway, another thing I have noticed in recent days is just how relaxed Italians are. Particularly with schedules. I have a class scheduled to start at 3:45pm that never begins before 4:20, when I have to walk for 20 minutes from 1 class that finishes at 4pm, in order to attend another that is supposed to start at 4pm, somewhere I only end up being a couple of minutes late. Today, the Professor arrived 1 full hour late, and no acknowledgement of this was even made; it was no big deal at all.

Finally for this post, I must mention the street stalls that seem to be on every corner. They sell bedding, clothing, jewellery, even phone cases. I have found that in Rome, if you decide you would like new shoes for the night on your way home from class, you can just stop for a moment and grab some. More often than not, these stalls also sell things at around half the price you would pay in a store. In some cases, they have the exact same products as well. It is a quaint quality, but also a little dangerous. I often find myself stopping to see if there is a dress I could buy that I do not need, or getting new stockings because there is a pattern that I don’t have yet. Obviously this means I am likely to be bankrupt in a month.

I know that there are many other things that I was wanting to mention, maybe I will write about them at a later time. Generally I guess this ramble was trying to say that this place can be close to home; with living standards, having my regular places to eat and get coffee, going to class and going out with friends. However, there are many other things that make the city comfortable and charming, while also emphasising the different approach to life.

Enough rambling from me. Maybe next time I will write something about my trip to Pompei the other week, or conversations with Italians about their government or how many continents in the world (apparently this is debatable).

Congratulations if you read all of my crazy thought!

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