Business in Italy, Culture

Reverse Culture Shock

I’ve been absent from blogging for about 2 months because I’ve been vacationing in the US visiting my family. While I’ve been in the States I’ve taken a few photos of things that jump out at me as “only in the USA.” This post is about the shocking things I notice about my country after being gone for a while. My viewpoint is neither upgrading or degrading of my home, just a good dose of comical facts.

1. Food

I’ll just start out talking about food since it’s the most common difference between Italy and America. Perhaps this picture does not capture the USA, but more so the South. I’m from the South, but some things are striking nevertheless. The first item on the menu is…

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Peanut butter (or peanut booter as some Italians like to call it) comes in many varieties! Unfortunately in Ipercoop (the Italian Walmart) there is only 1 version of this protein packed cream. In America you can get it creamy, crunchy, chocolaty, swirled with jelly, or with Reeses. It’s amazing. I have had every version of peanut butter that comes, and now that I live in bella Italia I don’t even buy it, nor do I eat nutella very often.

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When you go to a cafe (or more importantly an Italian cafe in America) you often find Italian Sodas.  This has been confusing to me and to many other people I talk to that have been to Italy. Here is a pic of “Italian” sodas (in Italy I have only seen a handful that are usually drinks for an apperitivo such as their lemon soda or ginger soda). I sent this picture to my Italian husband and told him that no Italian would ever drink 20 oz. of anything in one sitting, especially not soda, and especially not something with cream in it. But, Italian cafes cater to American interests, and therefore we have an adapted version of Italian soda in America that is ever changing.

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I’ve had this argument with my husband over and over again, that America does have its own cuisine. He says that all of the food is just an American adaptation from other countries. I said, tell me where casserole came from, gumbo, all the intricate salads that we put together, fried green tomatoes, corn dogs, grits…don’t get me started. Then, I found this in San Diego, how rewarding. Jessica: 1, Fabio: 0

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2. Obsessed with Italy

We’re probably more obsessed with Italy than any other country in the world. Italy is just what people think of when they dream of getting away to a beautiful land with rolling hills. We’re so in love with Italy that we even put it on a cup.  I would love to see what Italians put on an American cup. It would probably be something like the Grand Canyon with buffalo on the side, a mix of corn or cotton fields in the background, and every race possible in a photo booth sporting the mustache. That sounds cohesive? We just simply aren’t.

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3. The South has a culture

As I was saying, I’m from the South. I’m not from Georgia or Alabama, I’m theoretically from Florida; even so, I went to a restaurant the other day and saw this which I wouldn’t have expected from Florida.

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4. An advanced country

I was at a coffee shop in San Diego while visiting my best friend, and while I was looking for my receipt this popped up on the screen

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I said to myself “wow, we are so advanced. So many options, so convenient.”

Later while in Houston, I went to my sister’s gym. I would consider this a resort, not a gym. Here is a picture of the bathroom, the most noble place in a gym. I was just blown away by the blowdryers at every station, and the granite countertops were above and beyond.

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5. The arrogant ignorant

While in Houston visiting my sister we were on a hunt for the most country stuff we could find. We went line dancing one night, found a boot store one day, and had some good Tex-Mex. The day after I left she sent me this picture and said that I missed it

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A few years ago I probably wouldn’t have thought much about this guy’s shirt, yes it’s annoying sometimes not being able to understand people, but overall it was just another conflict I didn’t care to discuss. Now that I’m going through this myself this shirt means a lot to me. This man just doesn’t know what it’s like for people to consistently humiliate themselves and how much perseverance and gut they have to do that every day. If they take breaks and speak their own language or speak their language to feel like they are home for 5 seconds then go up to them and say hola and maybe you’ll make their day.  If I would have seen this guy I would have said something to his face, and then in Italian I would have said “vaffanculo.” Later while editing this post my dad explained to me the history behind this in the 60s. I do see both sides, especially as I am one of the others now, but my first reaction was vaffanculo.

6. The entitled bunch?

While driving through my mom’s neighborhood I immediately realized that there was a slow down sign.

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This was a little baffling, a street sign to let others know our children are at play. Is this entitlement or a cultural problem that people are not working together as a community anymore to watch for children? When I grew up we all played in the streets, now when you look around children are only in their backyards. In Italy, they are still on the streets and if the mother isn’t watching the grandmother is, the neighbor is too, the store salesman is taking notice…they work together for the same cause.  They are not so consumed in their own lives to take the time and notice. Hence, there are no signs in Italy for children. Needless to say nor are there signs for many streets (again community effort to give directions “turn by the big olive tree and take a right”) Ok maybe I’m being a little harsh 🙂 They direct based on landmarks.

7. Over and Beyond

I just love how businesses go over and beyond. That is the American standard and I love that.  I went to Victoria Secret and in my dressing room I was fully equipped with all things such as a doorbell to call an assistant, an assistant first of all, pink frilly wallpaper with hooks to hang your bras, classical music playing, and disposable panties…

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How lovely, maybe this treatment explains our moving towards the entitlement era, Hah! I figured it out, our cultural expectations have changed because of the business strategy in America.

8. Shopping is affordable and accessible

Shopping in America feels like you’re being lifted into the clouds in comparison to shopping in Italy. In America not only do things cost less, there are amazing discounts often. Everything is easy to see, accessible on the counters for you to grab and take a look.  It makes consuming easy, an enjoyable experience. There is no shopkeeper hovering over you, there is air conditioning, you have your space. Most importantly, there is a well stocked variety. I get this in Italy as well to an extent, but in stores that are not originated in Italy unfortunately such as Coin and Zara.

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This photo was taken at Hobby Lobby. Things are so accessible that they even have Christmas decor out on the aisles in August way ahead of time. The business viewpoint of America is what makes me love my country.

9. Size matters

I went to a chocolate cafe in an Italian town with my husband a few months ago. We always joke because the water they give us there is the bare essential.  Here you can get a good idea of the size of the cup.

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Ouch. This wouldn’t last long in America. This picture is in Italy of course, but I included it here to show the difference in sizing.  On the opposite end, the Value size/Biggy size idea is American. In every country I’ve traveled to I’ve never seen such huge sizes unless it’s beer. Now beer at Hofbrauhaus was the biggest biggy size I’ve ever seen! However, I’m speaking about the average beverage. What is average in America? It can’t be too small, but not too big, it needs to be just right. I feel like Goldilocks at this point, where is my medium?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I’ll get back to posting about Italian food when I make it home in a few weeks. My next plan is to write about lasagna, and a collage of Italian appetizers. P.S. my one year anniversary of blogging is coming up in October

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4 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock”

  1. Yes the “supersize it ” phenomenon is still ailve in the US. But it is changing not by choice but by necessity of the economic times. Soon there will be no need to say ‘small is beautiful”. I watched a program on RAI-TV and I am shocked by the degree that the Italian middle class has been gutted the this economic disaser – and the process continues. You are new in Italy and have been locallized in one place- so it may not be apparent to you yet.

    1. Are you referencing the middle class decline? I’m experiencing it pretty badly unfortunately living in Puglia. Can you expand on why the supersize idea is a necessity due to the economic times? I’ve never thought of it that way, but the contrary.

  2. Hello. Interesting post. I’m confused by the disposable panties. Cleanliness? It seems a bit over the top to those of us who have never had that option. : ). As for the vast selection of good available at eye level and that you can touch and handle before you buy – I agree. It’s quite a culture shock when you can no longer do that and you have to know exactly what you want when you enter the shop so you can ask for it. Sigh! I long for that – especially in fabric stores. I need to touch and feel the fabric and I NEVER know exactly what I want. But I understand why it’s like that here in Italy. Just think of the average size of a local shop. It’s usually tiny! No space to moreover, and very little space to store goods. And price! I’m longing for a good, low priced fabric store, but there just seems to be nothing like that here. Cheers! Enjoy the rest of your stay in the good old USA!

    1. Hi Margie, how are you doing? I’m enjoying myself very much over here, trying to soak it all up. Ya, the thing with the stores was upsetting to me at first because I used to shop for crochet yarn and that is something you’ve got to see, touch, observe, and I couldn’t! So, I always get my crochet stuff in the States now b/c it’s just easier. Hope all is well!

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