SORRENTO (May 19, 2014) – The first day is always the hardest day but being from China and living in the United States I am used to traveling long periods of time. Our flight left the United States and made a stop in Germany. Since Germany was our first arrival point in Europe we had to go through Immigration Control and Passport Control. The lines were long and our connecting flight to Rome was waiting for us. Cassie, Melissa and Julia all got through the checkpoint but I was stopped for a long period of time as the very strict German Officer asked me repetitive questions about my stay in the United States. This was my first look at communication barriers and I didn’t really know how to handle the situation. I didn’t know how to effectively communicate to him that I was born in China, going to school in Colorado and staying in Italy for a study abroad program. That is a lot to communicate to someone who doesn’t even look at you in your eyes when you try to effectively getting your points across. After a series of questions Julia finally came over and helped us out, I was very thankful for her exceptional international skills, the officer handed my passport back and gave me the go to finally start my two week journey in Italy.
This situation gave me an inside look on just how different every culture can be. German’s are very direct, concise and to the point. In America everyone wants to know your story and where you have been, they are interested. This was a bit of a culture shock but just what I needed to start my European Adventure.
Just like a peach and a coconut, the relationship dimension of China and Italy is a “coconut style” as well Germany. American’s “peach style” is very different and diverse and traveling half way around the world we noticed a lot changes within the cultures. During my experience in the United States and also getting along with my American friends during this trip, they are all very friendly but hard to get close to them(just like the peach), they are more independent. However, in Italy, the people are much more like Chinese people. At the beginning, they do not want to smile to everyone, but after a few times when they get know you, they will try to build trust with you. Just like the little family at the local shops we went to a lot, at first they would not take you seriously, or they would watch over constantly and say one or two words but by the end of our trip, they were friendly and didn’t want us to leave in the end.
In this small town in Italy, there are so many amazing restaurants to try. One of our favorite’s was the “garden restaurant”; we ate there three times on our trip, the food was delicious and the family was so nice! We wanted to show our respect for them by going back one last time for dinner, we ordered two bottles of wine to share between the eight of us but quickly realized they gave us the wrong wine! We all looked at each other and thought, “do we not say anything, keep the ‘bella figure’ attitude going and pay the uncharged wine price?” Or do we tell the sweet lady who served us the wine that it was not what we ordered. We got up the confidence and very, very politely asked her for the house wine, she didn’t understand at first but took the wine away. When she came back she apologized briefly and we all said “grazie mille, grazie mille” and continued on with our big smiling faces. It is a major way to confer honor and respect to another person in some countries, China and Italy. It all worked out in the end, even though we were kind of scared to lose our “face” and ‘bella figura’ status.
VESUVIUS – We went to Mt. Vesuvius which is an active volcano in Italy, but nowadays it is a dormant volcano, the views were breathtaking and our tour guide was very helpful with historical information. As we were going down the mountain, laughing and running from the rain that was about to come, Cassie slipped and fell on her knee. It was a minor scratch but you can never be too careful. As we were going to Ambulance we had a few local Italian’s ask if she was okay and if she needed assistance and even the Paramedics helped her over to their first aid station. This was so surprising to us because in America, every one just looks at you and walks away but in Italy they were so concerned and wanted to make sure that they could do as much as they could to help! Cassie and all of us were very grateful for their help and being able to communicate with us effectively and safely. We sure could learn a thing or two about helping each other out.
NAPLES – Today, we came to Naples. After we read about the article in class about the garbage problem in Naples, it got more interesting in this unique city. Naples or Napoli is a city which has lots of museums and churches, and is made famous by the music, arts, pizza and also the “garbage problem” brought on by the Italian Mafia. The tour guide said even she does not want to talk about it, but the “garbage problem” is truly important in this city. Just like her, Italians like to speak more about the things which make them proud to keep their face. And ironically enough, even though our tour guide, Martina, had a wallet stolen from inside her purse before our lunch, we had no idea because she kept her beautiful italian face and left the table quietly to make a phone call. Napoli is the capital of crime and she was born and raised there and she was just as stunned as we all were. She kept her bella figure up and led us on to the other sites of the city. Even walking through the alleyways of Naples, we experienced the crazy side of Napoleons, they really are proud of who they are and where they come from but this also made me realize how relaxed Italy, or at least, Southern Italy really is. Everyone walks through the streets leisurely and takes time out to stop and admire the churches, lunches are longer and the waiters are not uptight. They build relationships with every customer that walks through the door, again something all of us can really learn from.
POMPEII – Pompeii is a very huge ancient city in Italy, which used to be buried underground. After the earthquake, the city is presented public. And the people who are living in Pompeii, they always want to show they are rich, so they keep their house have nice outside looking. Just like during this day, Italian people’s “Bella Figure” to save their face.
I do have to mention that Italy is a fashionista and romantic kind of country. Walking on the street, the romantic air is around us. Around our trip, wedding was holding in every town in Italy. If you can go to Italy, walking on the street will be the most challenge thing for single people. The reason why I said that is because the couples are everywhere in this country, and they are not shy to express their love in front of everyone. Kissing is like their beauty, they never want to hide their emotion from others. They are showing everyone their love and their solid emotional love. Maybe also because of love, people all want to show their best to everyone, the fashion is the way to lead them to get their perfect outside. Italy is the capital of fashion, even not in Milan, people all dress up like models. Through the shopwindow, the poster is all about fashion brands and luxuries. Not only the travelers are all dress well, but also the locals, even the tour guild for our trip to Naples also pays attention to how to match her clothes and shoes.
About The Author:
I’m Xinhe Yu, and English name maybe easier to remember, June. I am the only person in this semester who is from China. I am a student at the University of Colorado Denverand a student inICB program(a program between International College Beijing and UCD). My major is communication, and art studio minor. Due to my background, through all this travel study I can find lots of beautiful things and intercultural differences between Italy, America and China. Even it makes me face many challenges, but it also gives me lots of different experiences.