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Looking Back

Looking Back

Andrea L. DiCamillo (June 10, 2009)

More reflections on being American in Italy


Walking around. It’s seems simple enough. We Americans, however, like to get around the quickest way possible. So for me, when I was trying to go to a fantastic bar with one of my American friends in the Oltrarno, we both decided to cut a corner and walk straight across the grass to the other side to get to it. Well, when I say “decided upon,” it wasn’t even

something that we agreed upon verbally: our American instincts simply led us directly to cutting the corner. I heard a group of Italians mutter “Look at the Americans.” Another lesson learned: stop cutting corners and use the designated sidewalk paths (even though they’re always too narrow to walk on anyway!). And it seems that every time I come to a corner in Florence where I can easily trample on the grass to get to where I want to go, I always have to force myself to pause, think for a second, and then continue on the sidewalk.

Once I was in the supermarket and forgot to weigh my fruit when I got up to the cashier (I’ve made that huge blunder the very first time I went into an Italian supermarket and didn’t even know how to use it—seriously, why don’t they put up signs for that??). The cashier lady said to me that I forgot to label one of the fruit packages that I bought, so I had to walk all the way to the back of the store to weigh it and come back. Not one customer waiting in line grumbled, mumbled under their breath, or cursed when I “held up the line.” In New York, even if I had to look though my wallet to get exact change for a purchase, people would roll their eyes or sigh to indicate that you were wasting their time. 

Another incident happened in a taxi that I took. I somehow forgot to put cash in my wallet and realized at the end of my ride that I had no money. I was extremely apologetic, but the cab driver kept saying that it was nothing (“Niente, niente”). We drove to the nearest ATM (which was two blocks or so away) and I paid him from there. And then he said to me “Aw, now I don’t get to see you anymore…well, have a good day!” I could only imagine what would’ve happened in New York (with the meter still running, the cab driver would’ve screamed at me, then offer to drive me to the nearest ATM, while still yelling at me).

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